2012 UCRT Memo

MEMO FROM THE UNIVERSITY COMMITTEE ON RANK AND TENURE ON
PREPARING TENURE AND PROMOTION CASES SPRING 2012

The University Committee on Rank and Tenure requests all departmental, program, divisional, and school committees (hereafter, “units”) responsible for preparing cases for promotion and/or tenure on Georgetown’s three campuses to observe the following principles:

OBTAINING LETTERS FROM EXTERNAL EVALUATORS:

The Faculty Handbook states that the scholarship of a candidate seeking promotion and/or tenure should be evaluated by at least three scholars, two of whom must be objective and at arm’s length. However, in the interest of fairness to candidates, the UCRT strongly recommends that units preparing cases procure a minimum of five or six letters, a majority of which should be unambiguously at arm’s length.

FACTORS THAT UCRT TAKES INTO CONSIDERATION WHEN EVALUATING THE USEFULNESS OF EXTERNAL LETTERS:

The Faculty Handbook discusses letters in terms of scholarly “objectivity,” which it defines narrowly and by means of exclusion: an objective evaluator should not be

  • A member of Georgetown’s faculty
  • The candidate’s former teacher
  • The candidate’s former co-worker
  • The candidate’s former student

Members of the UCRT concur with this view. In practice, however, the UCRT takes additional factors into consideration when weighing the merits of external evaluations. UCRT believes that evaluations whose content might reasonably have been predicted in advance should be avoided. Relationships between the candidate and the evaluator that might lead units to predict the content of letters include, among others:

  • A close editor/author relationship
  • A co-author
  • A close, personal friend
  • A relative
  • Having written a recommendation for the candidate at the time of his/her hiring
  • Having endorsed the candidate’s book
  • Having already supplied a letter for an earlier promotion

Moreover, UCRT expects units to procure letters that represent a broad and unbiased sampling of scholarly opinion regarding the merits of the candidate’s work.

UCRT recognizes that it is not always possible to determine in advance the degree of objectivity an evaluator will bring to his/her task. In the interests of procuring the most objective letters possible, UCRT advises that:

  • Candidates, when submitting their list of suggested external evaluators, should state in writing the details of their relationship with each of the evaluators they propose. This letter should be included in the file.
  • Letters to external evaluators should contain an explicit request that the evaluator explain his/her relationship to the candidate. (Main Campus dossier preparers should use the letter provided by the Provost’s office and referenced below.)
  • The candidate’s research statement may be sent to evaluators at the unit’s discretion. Regardless of whether a unit chooses to send the research statement, it should not send other statements to external evaluators, including teaching and service statements.
  • The preparer of each dossier should include a letter disclosing any conflict of interest or prior scholarly relationship between the candidate and his/her evaluators.

The Faculty Handbook and the UCRT recognize that there will be rare instances when satisfying the objectivity requirement is not possible. When, for example, a field is so small that it would be impossible to obtain the requisite number of objective evaluations, this should be justified in a letter, to be included in the file, setting out the efforts made to find objective evaluations and why obtaining them was deemed not feasible.

ASSEMBLING THE DOSSIER

The file submitted to the UCRT should include all materials that were available to the voting faculty members of the appropriate unit; any material that became available after the votes in the unit should be included in the file to the UCRT, with an indication that it was not available at the time of the vote. Main Campus units should assemble dossiers in accordance with the guidelines available at https://provost.georgetown.edu/dossierprep. Other campuses are advised to consult this site as an example of what UCRT considers to be best practice. Dossiers should contain the following materials, preferably in the order listed:

  • A cover page that identifies the candidate by name, date of initial appointment, and present position; the action sought; the votes of each voting unit; and the names of the external evaluators (a cover page template is available at: http://www.georgetown.edu/about/governance/rank-and-tenure-committee/index.html)
  • A table of contents, listing all applicable items contained in the file, with the page numbers of each. Sequential page numbering should begin immediately after the table of contents, and should include all documents in the file.
  • Documents reflecting the actions taken by the appropriate units, such as minutes of meetings at which the candidacy was discussed, and/or letters from appropriate deans, chairs, and/or committees evaluating the candidate’s record of teaching, scholarship and service. Minutes should provide a balanced account of all views expressed at the meeting. In cases where a unit’s vote does not reflect the discussion at the meeting, this should be noted in the minutes.
  • The candidate’s curriculum vitae
  • The candidate’s research, teaching and service statements
  • Annual faculty evaluations of the candidate for tenure, if applicable
  • Materials demonstrating the applicant’s teaching record. Information should be provided for each course, each year, taught by the candidate. Where compiled student evaluation data are available, units should provide the numerical summary. In this case, please do not include individual students’ sheets. However, if it is not possible to compile data, then all of the individual students’ narrative evaluations must be included. If these, too, are not available, the file should contain a letter explaining the absence of student evaluations. The file should also contain, if they exist, written faculty evaluations of the candidate’s teaching, including reports of class visits. At the unit’s discretion, sample syllabi and other relevant material may also be provided.
  • Copies of the following materials pertaining to the selection of and communication with external evaluators: (a) a list of the evaluators proposed by the candidate, together with the candidate’s description of his/her relationship to each proposed evaluator; (b) a description of how external evaluators were selected, including a list of the evaluators proposed by the academic unit or appropriate faculty committee; (c) a letter by the person preparing the file identifying which of the external evaluators who submitted evaluations are believed to be objective; (d) if it was impossible to find objective and neutral evaluators, a letter justifying that; (e) a brief statement describing the qualifications of the external evaluators. [Note: items (b) through (e) can be combined in a single letter]; (f) one copy of the letter sent to outside evaluators, inviting them to submit evaluations (For Main Campus cases, units should use the letter provided at: https://provost.georgetown.edu/dossierprep/overview). Please note that applicants for promotion and/or tenure must never be informed of the list of evaluators decided on by the unit, nor should applicants be allowed to veto evaluators selected by the unit. An applicant may, however, inform the unit in advance of reasons why a particular scholar might not be a suitable evaluator.
  • All letters from external evaluators assessing the quality of the applicant’s scholarship (Letters solicited when a faculty member came up for promotion to Associate Professor should not be included in the file when the faculty member comes up for promotion to Full Professor. However, if a candidate comes up a second time for tenure or for promotion to a particular rank, all letters received in connection with the first application should be included in the file, even if the faculty member decided not to complete the application process that year.)
  • External evaluators’ CVs (abbreviated CVs or NIH-style biosketches are sufficient)
  • Any other relevant materials, for example: (a) if a faculty member has applied for tenure or promotion to a particular rank before, any summaries of the results of the deliberations in a unit that were submitted to the UCRT before should be included here. The relevant unit should explain why its decision has changed, if it has, or why the deliberations were tainted, if they were; (b) all other materials that were in the file distributed to the faculty members who voted on the candidacy at the unit level; (c) any relevant material that was not available at the time the file was distributed to the faculty members who voted on the candidacy at the unit level; (d) letters from major co-authors describing the candidate’s contributions to joint publications
  • Under separate cover, two copies of no more than six of the candidate’s major scholarly publications completed since appointment or the last promotion