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Notes on the Academic Review Process

Guidelines for the preparation of Academic Dossiers for evaluation, promotion and tenure are outlined on the Provost website under Faculty Affairs Guide (under Faculty Appointments) and are described in detail on the websites of each School and College. Departments and academic units should adhere to these guidelines in the assembly and construction of such files. The following notes and recommendations are offered to help in preparing review files that are clearly argued, well-documented, and persuasive. They are also provided to give insight into the ways in which review files are evaluated and assessed in the Provost’s Office.

Annual Review of Faculty: Chairs (or their designated committee consisting of senior faculty) are expected to evaluate faculty in annual review meetings to discuss anticipated timelines for promotion. This includes Assistant Professors (for promotion to Associate Professor with Tenure), Associate Professors (for consideration of promotion to Full Professor), and Full Professors (for consideration of promotion to Distinguished Professor). The outcomes of these reviews should be discussed with the relevant Deans.

Mentoring: Clear and consistent communication and feedback to faculty regarding the expectations for promotion and tenure should be provided, as well as specific mentoring on how best to build a strong and compelling dossier for successful academic review. Engaged learning, and constructive mentoring activities should be recognized and rewarded in the department and by the Dean.

Review for Promotion and Tenure: According to the SUNY Board of Trustees Policies, Assistant Professors are to be assessed by the end of their 6th year for tenure and promotion to Associate Professor. Promotion to Full and Distinguished Professor is based on meritorious accomplishments, with 5-7 years at the rank of Associate Professor being most common for the next promotional step.

Commentary on research/scholarship/creative activity: Evaluative criteria include that the candidate supervises an independent, productive creative program, or demonstrates a pattern of scholarship or art-making that addresses major and significant problems or topics; the candidate has produced a solid record of original and important publications in top peer-reviewed journals in the candidate’s field, or first or senior author publications in books, monographs, or other recognized intellectual and artistic products that can be objectively evaluated on a retrospective basis; there must be evidence of a strong national reputation (and/or international reputation for Full Professors) and respect among peers documented through invited lectures, citation or use of published work, performance or presentation of art in significant venues and exhibitions, attracting students and fellows, as well as serving as a Principal Investigator of competitively reviewed grants or as lead investigator in a significant study, or equivalent, such as an independent, essential contribution to highly collaborative research or art-making.

For tenure-track and research-intensive faculty, commentary on the significance of the candidate's research or creative activity, the independence of his/her contributions to their field, the likelihood that the research or creative activity will have an impact on the field and move it forward, the prospects for the continued vitality and productivity of the candidate's research or creative activity, the anticipated visibility of his/her on-going research or creative trajectory, and the synergies of the work with the mission and strategic goals of the candidate's academic unit and/or School should be provided. Multi-Author Publications: As research and scholarship are becoming increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary, articles and other publications include multiple authors. When needed, the dossier should describe the specific role of the candidate in such collaborative endeavors and/or multi-author publications. Appropriate attention should be paid to contributions to collaborative and transdisciplinary research efforts (such as multi-investigator grants and publications and/or dynamic research teams). When relevant, a detailed discussion of non-traditional publications (online) and research outlets (networks) should be included. Publication/Performance/ Exhibition Venues: The significance of the publication and/or performance/exhibition venues of a candidate's work and contributions should be explained when it is not immediately apparent. It is especially important that the quality and significance of foreign language publications be fully explained and documented (along with a clear indication of the extent to which they have been rigorously peer-reviewed).

Recommendations for appointments of new faculty with tenure should report the vote of faculty at the appropriate rank.

Teaching evaluation: Effectiveness as an educator and other mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students and postdocs should be analyzed and discussed. Demonstration of strength in teaching need not be solely based on student response to instruction and may also include discussion of how the candidate has broadened educational opportunities for students (e.g., by developing new courses, degree programs, or curriculum materials); has contributed to the teaching mission of the University (e.g., by teaching across several subfields or contributing to high-demand or high-enrollment courses), or has shown innovation in teaching (e.g., by exploring new teaching technologies and modes of instruction). Faculty are not expected to address all of the above areas in order to demonstrate strength in teaching. These are merely provided as examples of different ways that faculty can demonstrate strength in teaching.

Institutional and Professional Service: It is expected that all faculty on the tenure track will provide departmental, institutional and professional service. Senior faculty and Deans should work with junior faculty to ensure that research or creative activity, teaching, and service are appropriately balanced. At the same time, it is vitally important for junior faculty to develop a sense of their obligations as members of the University community and to be represented in School and University committees and activities.

Time-to-tenure evaluation: As described in the Faculty Affairs Guide, tenure clock extensions may be considered for both personal and professional reasons. Requests for early tenure reviews are highly unusual and normally reserved for truly extraordinary achievement and/or matters of retention in the face of competitive outside offers. If a tenure review is unsuccessful, the candidate is entitled to one additional year of appointment.

External Referees: It is important that letters from external referees soliciting their evaluation of the candidate clearly outline the specific elements of critical assessment that we require for our evaluative process. The referees could compare the candidate with peers in the field, and may comment on whether the faculty member under review would be tenurable/promotable in the referee’s institution. External letter writers should never include, nor gesture toward the presumption of a particular review outcome. It is important that Departments and Schools/Colleges indicate why particular external referees are chosen for faculty file review. Where possible external referees, ideally at the Full Professor rank, should be selected from member schools of the Association of American Universities, and/or research-intensive schools and programs with high reputation and ranking. If units/ departments/ schools/ promotion and tenure committees have difficulty identifying appropriate external referees, they should request assistance from their Dean’s office, and the Provost’s Office. As a courtesy gesture, external referees should be notified about the outcome of the review for which they have provided an evaluation.

Votes: Split votes and abstentions at either the academic unit and/or School review committee-level should be explained in the dossier, preferably in the cover letters provided by the Department Chair and the Dean and/or the review committee chair. Both sides of split votes should be thoroughly explained (while preserving anonymity). Recusal for conflict of interest should be noted.

Reporting Results: The Dean's letter should discuss the pros and cons of each case thoroughly, identifying strengths as well as weaknesses in the dossier.

Reconsideration: If a candidate, who has not had a successful promotion/tenure review, requests reconsideration, and provides a new set of materials/publications/scholarly activity for consideration during the terminal year of appointment, additional external referees are to be selected to conduct a fresh evaluation of the promotional package. The letters to the new external referees requesting evaluation of the file should not signal a failed prior review. The file that is forwarded for reconsideration, however, should include all information (including the first set of letters from external referees).