Daniel C. Feldman, Chair, 1996-1997

The University Committee on Tenure and Promotion (UCTP) has two principal functions: (1) review promotion and tenure files after the Provost and forward its recommendations to the President; and (2) review requests for changes in unit criteria and procedures and approve or provide suggestions for revisions or modifications.

This year UCTP considered approximately 90 decisions on tenure and/or promotion. There is generally a high rate of agreement among the Provost, UCTP, and President on these decisions. The rate of agreement between the units and subsequent evaluators tends to be higher when considering assistant professors coming up for tenure and promotion in their terminal year. The rate of agreement between the units and subsequent evaluators tends to be lower in so-called "early tenure" cases and promotions to full professor, where issues about the consistency and durability of performance since coming to USC or since the tenure decision are more likely to arise.

The rate of agreement among units, chairs, deans, the Provost, UCTP, and the President also depends on the clarity and specificity of the unit criteria themselves. In units where the criteria are clearly stated and the procedures are specifically outlined, the rate of agreement among all assessors of the file is very high. In contrast, in units where the criteria are somewhat unclear and the procedures are vague, the rate of agreement among evaluators at different points in the process is lower.

While there is currently an ad hoc committee established by the President to re-examine the tenure and promotion process at the USC-Columbia campus, from the persepective of this year's UCTP the following issues need to be addressed:

1. Lack of documentation of teaching. UCTP still receives files with no teaching evaluations from students or peer evaluations from colleagues. Even in some of the files which have evaluations included, more than half the courses taught have no evaluations and/or there are no department or college means provided to which faculty evaluations can be compared.

2. Concern over documentation of books. In many units on campus, there is a stated requirement for a book for tenure and/or for promotion. However, the documentation for these books is often sorely lacking. In some cases, there is no book prospectus, no book contract, and/or no sample book chapters included in the file. In other cases, what is presented as a book is not a book but rather a chapter in a book or a self-published collection of teaching notes or an edited anthology published by a vanity press. In some units, it is not clear from the criteria whether the book criterion refers to a work of scholarship or a work of pedagogy and whether the book must be published already to be eligible for the requested personnel action.

3. Unclear criteria and procedures. UCTP continues to graple with cases where the unit criteria and procedures are unclear or unspecified. One problem centers around the tentative way in which some unit criteria are written; the criteria document has multiple conditional words such as "may", "might", or "could" that make understanding the unit standards difficult. A second problem centers around the lack of definitions of key terms in the document. For example, some units use "effective" as one category and "good" as another, and yet is is often difficult to ditinguish these two terms from each other.

4. External review letters. Another major issue centers around the outside letters; in some units, it is not clear whether any letters are sent ot names not suggested by the candidate and which letters are the candidate's suggestions and whicih are the unit's choices. Other problems in the category of outside letters include obtaining letters exclusively from the candidate's co-authors and professors, obtaining letters from professors at lower rank than the candidate, and obtaining letters from departments that are at a significantly lower tier than the candidate's department. Because not all the external review letters recommend the same personnel action or do so with the same conviction, lack of information about the procedures and the credibility of the outside letter writers is problematic.

This year UCTP processed a record number of requests for T & P criteria changes: 18. This represents a 50% increase over last year's UCTP and accounts for over 25% of the units on campus. Of the 18 files which were considered by UCTP this academic year, 10 were accepted. Of the files submitted to UCTP for their initial review after August 16, 1996, when UCTP reconvened, all units which submitted second revisions during the academic year received their response from UCTP within one month. To the extent thee are delays in the system, they come from (a) units submitting their initial requests during the spring semester when UCTP is reviewing T & P files; and (b) slow turnaround of units to revision requests. Six units which received their letters from UCTP by December, 1996, had not yet resubmitted a revision by the end of the academic school year.

The faculty members who have served on this committee have provided yeoman duty; this committee has an unusually heavy time commitment and an important responsibility. The members are to be commended for their diligence and integrity.

This page updated 27 September 1997 by the Office of the Faculty Senate,
and copyright 1997, The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.