Written by Thomas Dowd, Professor of Chemistry, Faculty Senate Past President
The promotion processes for full-time faculty to earn early promotion to the rank of assistant or associate professor as well as promotion to full professor have undergone some changes over the years to make them more interactive. The criteria for promotion eligibility was collectively bargained for and has been part of the faculty contract, while the new system for promotions was negotiated between the faculty and administration in 2008. The impetus for revising the process was to solve several problems that existed in the old system. The difficulties were the type of materials delivered to the committee for evaluation, the composition of the committee, and the lack of interaction with the applicants.
Faculty can earn contractual promotion to assistant or associate professor after seven years, but they are eligible to apply for early promotion to assistant or associate professor after four years in a rank. After five years as associate professor, faculty may apply to become a full professor. In the previous system, the application materials were delivered to the committee in “portfolio” form. Throughout the years, the portfolios increased in size and frequently included material that the committee found to be ancillary to their evaluation. Some would say that the portfolios resembled art projects; while interesting to look at, the evaluation of the portfolio was time consuming and there was no interaction between the applicant and the committee. In addition to the work of the committee, the applicant had to put many hours into creating, collecting, and categorizing the portfolio contents. Some portfolios would be as large as three binders full of material; at one point, the portfolios were stored in the library and committee members would take hours over winter break to read through the many pages of content. The process was burdensome for both the committee and applicant. In the new process, the portfolio has been replaced by a vita, in which faculty members list work in the areas of professional service, institutional and community service, and professional development. The length of the vita is limited to two pages per section for each category for assistant and associate professor and three pages per section for full professor; therefore, the applicant must decide on what work and related accomplishments they want to highlight.
In the old system, the committee consisted of one faculty member from each division. The committee’s evaluation was forwarded to the Academic Vice President or the Vice President for Student Affairs who then forwarded their recommendation and the committee’s to the college president. The college president then forwarded their recommendation and the committee’s recommendation to the board for approval. As there was no meaningful interaction between the administration and faculty throughout the process, the committee’s recommendation was given little weight by the board. To solve this problem, a promotions recommending body was formed. The recommending body now consists of one faculty member from each division, the applicant’s dean, and the provost. Using a rubric, the faculty award up to 70 points, the dean 20 points, and the provost 10 points. To earn promotion, an applicant needs to score a minimum of 80 points.
Additionally, a 15-30 minute interview process was initiated so that the recommending body could interact with the applicant, typically getting specifics about a given project and the impact of that work on themselves and others. The applicant would also have an opportunity to highlight and expand on material that has significance to them. For applicants for full professor, a 15-30 minute presentation prior to the interview was added to allow faculty to showcase their accomplishments in more detail. This system is more time efficient for the applicant and the recommending body, but, more importantly, it brings to light the significant contributions the applicant has produced through a meaningful dialogue with the recommending body; an applicant who is recommend needs to have support from both their peers and the administration. The recommending body forwards its recommendation to the college president. If the president has questions about the recommendation the president meets with the recommending body to discuss the issue. The president then forwards a recommendation to the board for approval.
Now to the question of how it was decided what gets evaluated and why. What do we expect and want from our full time faculty? First and foremost, we want our full time faculty to be excellent in the classroom or library or counseling environment depending on the faculty member’s role. Therefore, the category of professional service is given the most weight. We also expect our faculty to be active participants in the college community and the community at large. This can be demonstrated through a wide range of activities. Finally, we expect our faculty to be involved in professional development activities. These changes have resulted in a promotions system that is a much more collaborative process between the applicant, their peers, and the administration; therefore, the board receives the best recommendation possible.
Throughout the process, the applicant has the opportunity to give input and receive feedback. As a result, the significant work of each applicant is discussed in an open transparent process and is appropriately evaluated. The Provost, Dr. Judy Marwick, has supported this process since her arrival and has participated in every interview session over the last 9 years. The new process has been more equitable to all involved. If you are interested in observing a presentation for full professor, they will take place on Fridays beginning in January or early February and extend into March. Presentations will be announced and are open to guests, but the interviews that follow are restricted to the committee.