Campus News

Improving the process

Task force revises guidelines for promotion, tenure

Last August, Arnett Mace, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost, charged an ad hoc faculty task force to review the university’s promotion and tenure guidelines and make any changes that might improve the process. Revised guidelines have now been sent to University Council and a vote is anticipated at the final Council meeting of the year on April 22, 2004.

Columns talked to Mike Wells, law professor and chair of the Faculty Affairs Committee, and Bonnie Yegidis, associate vice president for academic affairs and associate provost, about the revised guidelines

Columns: What was your particular charge from Dr. Mace?

Yegidis: He asked our group to focus on making the promotion and tenure process clearer and fairer and, in particular, to make the third-year review substantive.

Columns: Who was involved in revising the guidelines?

Yegidis: The task force included faculty who are broadly representative of the university, as well as members of the Faculty Affairs Committee.

Wells: Because I’ve served on the Faculty Affairs Committee for several years, I’ve been involved with previous efforts to revise the promotion and tenure guidelines, so that background helped. This current effort is really the culmination of a long­-term project that began more than three years ago. A number of people on the Faculty Affairs Committee, as well as our current task force, spent a lot of time working on this.

Columns: Can you summarize some of the key points of the revised guidelines?

Yegidis: The guidelines are built on several foundational principles, one of which is the principle of “flow”-which assures that a candidate’s application receives the fullest and fairest review possible. Under this principle, each dossier moves forward to the next level of review regardless of whether the lower-level review was positive or negative. Review committees beyond the promotion and tenure unit may affirm the previous recommendation or may identify substantive or procedural errors that require the recommendation to be reversed or reconsidered.

Columns: What would it take to overturn a decision made at a previous level of review?

Wells: The guidelines emphasize that faculty members within a discipline are in the best position to judge their colleagues’ achievements. So the guidelines require a 60 percent majority to overturn judgments of the promotion and tenure unit or school/college committees.

Columns: What are some other important points?

Yegidis: We recommended a change in structure of the University Appeals Committee so that it is comprised solely of senior faculty selected by the University Council. The committee is chaired by the provost, who is a non-voting member.

What isn’t different is the university-level review, which is conducted by the area review committees, organized according to general discipline. The composition of those committees and their role remains basically the same.

Columns: What are you doing to get feedback on the revised guidelines?

Wells: We presented the revisions to the Faculty Affairs Committee in February and they voted to move the document forward for review by the University Council. The Executive Committee put the new guidelines on the March council agenda as an information item and they’ve also been posted online on the University Council Web site ( Also on the Web site is an outline of the major changes between the current and proposed promotion and tenure guidelines, and my e-mail address ( is listed for feedback.

Bonnie and I will be holding an open forum on April 7, 2004, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. in room 350 of the Student Learning Center. We hope other members of the task force also will be there.

Columns: What happens next if the University Council approves the revised guidelines?

Yegidis: The revised guidelines would go into effect in the spring of 2005 for promotion and tenure considerations during the 2005-2006 academic year.

That’s to give promotion and tenure units several months to write their own unit-specific promotion and tenure criteria in line with the revised guidelines.

Columns: Are you optimistic that the revised guidelines will be approved?

Wells: We’ve had the benefit of comments received on earlier drafts. Our task force this year worked hard to address previously expressed concerns. We think we’ve identified a number of ways the current guidelines, which date back to 1995, could be ­improved and have made those ­improvements.

We hope people will read the revised guidelines and, if they have concerns or questions, raise them with us prior to the April 22, 2004, University Council meeting.