The "Collective Wisdom" website was developed as an accessible, internal resource to provide practical, informal guidance and answers to frequently asked questions for college faculty navigating the process to promotion and/or the award of tenure or continuing status. Candidates, mentors, and unit heads should refer to the most recent provost's Guide to the Promotion Process and CALS Guidelines and Criteria for specific requirements and recent changes.

"Collective Wisdom"

Part III: The Evaluation Process for Promotion and Tenure/Continuing Status

Faculty Appointments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Although the tenure and continuing tracks have substantially similar status at The University of Arizona, they are covered under separate sections of the University Handbook for Appointed Personnel (UHAP Chapters 3 and 4, respectively). The provost issues specific instructions for preparing each type of dossier and separate peer committees (P&T and CS&P) are appointed at each level to evaluate candidates for promotion and/or the award of tenure or continuing status.

Employees in both categories are members of the general faculty. They have teaching, research, and service responsibilities and are provided professional and intellectual freedom. The tenure-track titles of assistant, associate, and full professor reflect a focus on classroom teaching on campus. Faculty in the continuing track in CALS are professionals in Cooperative Extension (assistant, associate, and full agents and specialists) or research professionals (assistant, associate and full research scientists). Faculty with extension appointments are expected to perform scholarly activities that include nonformal, off-campus teaching and applied research.

Since CALS has many more continuing-track faculty than are found in other colleges, separate peer committees for P&T and CS&P are appointed at the college level. If there are at least three continuing status faculty in a unit, the unit should have a separate CS&P committee as well. Small departments may need to add outside faculty to a P&T or CS&P committee to provide the relevant expertise or representation; all additions to committees from outside the unit must be approved by the dean.

Clock Dates and Delays

The clock date for tenure- or continuing-eligible faculty is set as July 1 of the calendar year in which the person is hired. For example, someone who was hired November 1, 2012 would have a clock date of July 1, 2012 while someone hired January 1, 2013 would have a clock date of July 1, 2013.

Tenure- or continuing-eligible faculty hired by the university after July 1, 2003 will be scheduled for formal 3- and 6-year reviews during the fiscal year ending with that elapsed time from the clock date. Faculty will receive a comprehensive formalized review during their third year. In addition to the 3-year review, a special component of each annual review for probationary faculty will provide written feedback regarding progress toward tenure or continuing status. The mandatory review for tenure or continuing status will occur during the sixth year. Thus for someone with a clock date of July 1, 2012, the 3-year review would occur in FY 2014-15 (dossier due to the dean by December 1, 2014) and the 6-year review would occur in FY 2017-18 (dossier due to the Dean's Office by November 1, 2017). Fall deadlines in the colleges allow for complete college and university committee review in the sixth year and in the third year in cases where non-retention is recommended.

When candidates are hired with substantial prior experience, an earlier mandatory review year may be established in the letter of offer. This situation comes up less frequently since the university policy now allows candidates who are particularly strong to go up early for tenure or continuing status. If the decision at the time of the early review is negative, candidates may reapply in their normal mandatory year without prejudice.

Clock delays may be approved by the provost prior to the mandatory review year if there is a valid reason such as parental leave, illness, or other serious circumstances that had a major impact on the candidate's work. Candidates should not hesitate to request a delay whenever there are appropriate circumstances. They will be evaluated on whether they meet the same written guidelines and criteria as other candidates and will not be held to a higher standard because they had an extra year. Requests related to adverse professional circumstances or prestigious external commitments must be approved by the unit head and are then submitted through the dean to the provost for final approval. Requests related to parental leave or other personal reasons can be submitted by faculty directly to the provost. Once the mandatory review year is reached, i.e., July 1, 2014 if the 6-year review must take place no later than FY 2014-15, the only way to stop the process is to resign and waive review.

Annual Reviews for Tenure- or Continuing-eligible Faculty

All tenure- and continuing-eligible faculty should receive a special component of their annual review that provides feedback regarding progress toward tenure or continuing status. CALS has an approved Common Elements Statement concerning college-level procedures for the 3-, 6-year review model.

Three-Year Review (Required) for Tenure- or Continuing-eligible Faculty

For the formal 3-year review, candidates prepare a full dossier following the provost's Guide to the Promotion Process and Templates for Promotion and Tenure or Promotion and Continuing Status. The 3-year review dossier must include all elements of the 6-year dossier except the letters from outside evaluators. (Additional CALS guidance and information about how to prepare a strong dossier is also available online.) Mark the action requested as "3rd Year Retention Review." The dossier will be reviewed by the unit peer committee, unit head, and dean. If there are concerns with progress, an additional formalized review prior to the 6-year mandatory review can be requested by the unit head. Three-year reviews must be completed during the fall semester of the required fiscal year in order to allow sufficient time to complete the full review at all levels that is required in cases when there is a recommendation for non retention.

All 3-year reviews must be submitted to the college by December 1 for review by the dean. If there is a recommendation for non-retention, the dossier should be ready for the college-level committee by November 1, since cases involving possible non-retention must be reviewed by the college committee before going to the dean and must then be further reviewed by the university committee and the provost. Complete instructions for handling a recommendation for non-retention are included in the provost's Guide to the Promotion Process each year. If the provost supports a recommendation for non-retention, the candidate will receive a terminal-year appointment.

Early Consideration for Tenure/Continuing Status

Under special circumstances, candidates may be considered for promotion and tenure or continuing status prior to their sixth year if they meet all stated criteria. However, no candidate should submit a dossier early unless he or she has ample evidence of accomplishment and is clearly supported by the unit head. In spring 2000, the provost announced that if the outcome of the early review is a recommendation to deny tenure or continuing status, the candidate would not receive a terminal-year appointment (as had been done in the past) and could reapply during the mandatory review year of tenure- or continuing-eligible service.

The potential for a negative recommendation exists at all levels under the following conditions:

  • A focused program or career path is not evident from material presented.

  • Dossier is not clear and concise or does not follow guidelines.

  • The impact of the candidate's work is inadequately conveyed to higher level reviewers or those who are less familiar with the specific field.

  • Candidate appears out of norm for the discipline and there is no compelling explanation.

  • Departmental or college guidelines and criteria are not followed.

Six-year (Mandatory) Review for Promotion and Tenure/Continuing Status

Most people submit a dossier for promotion and tenure or promotion and continuing status in the sixth year. The decision to promote to the associate level cannot be separated from the tenure or continuing status decision unless the person was hired at the associate level. Unit heads must notify the candidate of their decisions when the packet goes to the college level.

Role of Teaching, Research, Extension, and Service

Over the last decade, there has been a major change of emphasis on the importance of good teaching in the evaluation for promotion and tenure. A research superstar who is a poor teacher will not get tenure. The reverse is true as well; an excellent teacher must demonstrate research accomplishments to be promoted or awarded tenure. The relative weights in the candidate's summary of workload assignment will be taken into account when performance in these areas is evaluated. The Office of Instruction and Assessment can provide a great deal of assistance in presenting the results of student evaluations as well as improving performance in weak areas. Units should provide peer evaluation of teaching as well.

Extension specialists and agents also have two areas of focus: a specialized focus on applied research and outreach teaching activities directed to clientele in the state and region. Extension specialists often have a split appointment between extension and research which is uncommon outside the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The actual split of the formal appointment among teaching, research, and extension should be stated in the Summary of Candidate's Workload Assignment (Section 2). Extension candidates should emphasize the creative methods of technology transfer used for educational outreach and identify activities in relation to the crucial role Cooperative Extension plays in the overall university continuum of teaching, research, and service. As they develop programs, they should identify ways to measure change or assess results so they will be able to show the impact of their work in the continuing status review.

The position description provides the context for evaluating each candidate against the guidelines and criteria. Position descriptions signed by the candidate, unit head, and dean should be established when a candidate is hired. During annual evaluations, the position description can be discussed with the unit head and should be modified if responsibilities have changed significantly. While CALS uses the format in UA Vitae for annual performance reviews, the Provost's Office now requires that all candidates complete the new Summary of Candidate's Workload Assignment (Section 2) for the purposes of promotion and tenure/continuing status review.

By the sixth year, the focus of a candidate's research program should be clear. Coherent and recognizable research direction is important; simply attracting many research grants with no discernable focus is not adequate. Grants and publications should be in line with the stated direction in the Candidate Statement (Section 5). Continuous grant renewals and a steady rate of approval show evidence of successful productivity.

Achieving a specific number of publications is not the overriding factor for success. The quantity and type of publications should be appropriate to the field, type of research and position description. Special awards, fellowships or other indicators of external recognition also show evidence of scholarly effort. In general, publications listed in earlier reviews will reflect previous work (e.g., graduate, post-doc), but by the sixth year there should be evidence of independent activities undertaken at this institution.

Professional standing and reputation are important criteria for tenure or continuing status but are especially important for promotion from associate to full rank. For promotion to full professor, a candidate should have an international reputation. A national reputation is needed for promotion to full agent or specialist. Evidence of a strong reputation can include professional committee activities or editorships, papers presented and invited participation at conferences, publication in journals viewed as high quality in the discipline, and joint projects with faculty from other institutions. Early in their careers, faculty should begin to make contacts at national meetings or share articles with important people in the field so that they build recognition among those who may later be asked to serve as outside evaluators.

In an academic culture, it is easier for others to evaluate research than teaching and it is also easier to assess formal teaching than work in extension. Extension specialists and agents should make a special effort to explain their activities, since many at the university level are still unfamiliar with the mission and responsibilities of Cooperative Extension.

Role of Committees and Administrators

Department/School/Cooperative Extension,
and University

Department Head/School Director/County Extension Director,
Cooperative Extension Director,
and Provost

Many reviewers are involved in evaluating a candidate for promotion and/or the award of tenure or continuing status. At each level, a committee and administrator make recommendations and the administrator notifies the candidate of his/her decision.

In addition, the dean and provost seek advice from their colleagues (associate deans and vice presidents). Once the review moves beyond the home unit, the dossier needs to speak for the candidate. It should be neat, clarify any special points that are different from the norm, and contain all the required information in the places the reader expects to find that information. The pages of the template serves as a checklist and must be included in the dossier as section dividers.

The makeup of the unit committee is specified in UHAP (3.11 or 4.10). If a unit has three or more rank superior faculty of the same status (tenure or continuing) as the candidate they should form a separate peer committee. If a department, college, or other administrative unit has less than the required number of faculty to perform the review, peers from other units may be invited to participate. In CALS, both tenured and continuing faculty may serve on unit-level peer committees if necessary but the majority should be those of the same track as the candidate.

In utilizing standing P&T or CS&P committees, you must consider potential conflicts of interest with regard to candidates coming forward for review. A committee member who has co-authored substantial or ongoing publications or grants with a candidate during the past five years must be recused from the committee to avoid raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest. Only three members are required to make up a department-level committee. Concerns about conflicts of interest may hurt a candidate by raising questions about the credibility of evaluations, and such concerns will result in dossiers being sent back to departments and colleges for re-review if the independence of the committee's evaluation is questioned. (Individuals who have ongoing close collaborations with a candidate may provide separate letters of recommendation for use in the Letters from Collaborators portion of the dossier.)

The unit head should contact the dean for approval when non-unit members will be added to the unit committee. The rationale for the variation in committee makeup should be stated in the unit head's letter. If a unit head or committee chair has collaborated significantly with the candidate, the unit head or committee chair cannot select outside reviewers or solicit letters for external review. This process must be completed by a committee member or surrogate unit head. If a surrogate unit head is needed, the unit head should ask the dean to appoint an individual to oversee all aspects of the evaluation process. The unit head may contribute details about the collaboration in a separate collaborator letter for the dossier.

Committees should base their decisions on written guidelines. The letters presenting results of each level of committee review provide important information and guidance for subsequent committee reviews. When there is a split vote, the minority report is especially important. Reviewers at the next level need to be able to understand the pros and cons weighed in making the earlier decision. All committee members MUST SIGN the committee letter and provide a minority opinion if there is a split vote.

The departmental or unit committee is closest to understanding the norms of the discipline and activities of the candidate. This committee should provide the strictest review and should use the evaluation letter to discuss how the candidate meets criteria in teaching, research, and service and clarify any unique circumstances surrounding the candidate.

The unit committee and unit head are in a better position to assess teaching than other committees or reviewers. The unit head should add relevant information as to how the candidate's accomplishments are integrated with the unit's mission, especially when the candidate is involved in team efforts. Since unit heads are familiar with the discipline, they can identify the most significant journals or other appropriate publications and clarify expectations and norms for the research field. The Cooperative Extension peer committee and county extension director are also in a better position to assess extension activities and publications than other committees or reviewers. Because the unit head letter is considered especially important in the evaluation process, the university recommends that new heads consult an experienced head for advice on preparing this letter.

The college committee generally understands the discipline, but in less detail and is seen as more independent and impartial than the departmental or unit committee. The university committee will have less knowledge of norms in the field and how the candidate compares - hence the importance of clearly written letters and a well-organized dossier.

Unit heads and deans should not simply repeat statements from outside evaluators or committee letters, but should offer substantive comments. Any negative statements contained in outside letters should be addressed. If something happened to make the candidate's career progress atypical, this should be explained. Special qualities of the candidate that may not be obvious in reading a large dossier should also be highlighted. Because applied research in CALS is not as easily understood as basic research by university academic committees, additional clarification by the unit head and dean can be very helpful.

Unit heads and deans are required to advise candidates in writing of their recommendations at the time these recommendations are forwarded to the next level of review.

Candidates who already have tenure or continuing status and are requesting promotion only or candidates requesting early consideration for tenure or continuing status have the option to withdraw the packet and resubmit in a future year. Candidates in the mandatory review year for tenure or continuing status cannot withdraw unless they choose to resign the tenure- or continuing-eligible appointment.

Appeals to the President

The provost usually issues final decisions sometime in late April or early May each year. In cases where the provost has denied a request for promotion and/or the award of tenure or continuing status, the faculty member may appeal the denial to the president. Appeals must be made in writing within 30 days after the notice of denial by the provost (UHAP 3.12.08). Candidates recommended for non-retention following a 3-year review may also appeal this decision to the president within 30 days following official notification by the Office of the Provost.

Candidates who appeal can request access to their file through the Office of the Provost after the file is redacted (all identification removed). The file can be read in the Office of the Provost as often as desired but cannot be removed or copied.