Institute-Wide Promotion and Tenure Committee

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The IANR Liaison Committee has proposed a revision to the IANR Bylaws to include an Institute-wide Promotion and Tenure Committee.

Other proposed changes to the bylaws are editorial (not substantive) and are proposed to increase clarity.

The Liaison Committee expects to bring the proposal before the IANR faculty for vote on September 30, 2019. Voting will occur over at least two weeks through Qualtrics. IANR faculty members will receive an email with a link to the ballot.

The proposed changes to the bylaws can be accessed here.

Purpose of the Institute-wide Promotion & Tenure Committee

  • provide recommendations for tenure and promotion decisions for IANR faculty (excluding Extension Educators, Foresters, and Geoscientists);
  • ensure alignment in tenure and promotion processes, guidelines and standards across IANR departments and schools and between these and IANR; and
  • work with the Office of the IANR Vice Chancellor to regularly evaluate the IANR promotion and tenure guidelines and standards.

Open Forums

The IANR Liaison Committee, with Richard Bischoff, Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Academic Leader Success, will host open forums to discuss the proposal. These have been scheduled for:

Supporting Documents

The following is a draft of the Institute-wide Promotion and Tenure Committee Operational Guidelines document. While IANR faculty members will not be voting on the content of this document, it provides a description of how the committee will operate.

Institute-Wide Committee
Operational Guidelines

Download

Tentative Timeline

September 30, 2019 Proposal for IANR Bylaws revisions are brought for faculty vote
October 14, 2019 Ballot closes
No later than October 21st Votes tallied and decision announced
October 29, 2019 If the proposal passes, it will be presented to the Senate Executive Committee
November 5, 2019 The proposal will be presented to the Faculty Senate
December 3, 2019 The proposal will be brought before the Faculty Senate for ratification
January 2020 Begin request for nominations for committee membership
2020-2021 academic year Committee will begin functioning

Frequently Asked Questions

A proposal to change the IANR Bylaws to include an Institute-wide P&T Committee has already gone before the faculty, and it did not pass with 2/3 majority. Why are we doing this again?

The IANR Bylaws require a 2/3 majority vote of those responding to the ballot in order for a Bylaws revision to occur. In the February 2019, 63.9% of the faculty members (341) voted in favor of the proposal. This was a mere 10 votes shy of achieving the 2/3 majority needed for the vote to pass. The IANR Liaison Committee reasoned that because the majority of voting IANR faculty members indicated that they were in favor of the proposal that it was prudent to look at the proposal again, make changes that would address concerns, and bring it to the faculty for another vote.

What changes were made to the original proposal? How is this proposal different than the one that the faculty previously voted on?

Two of the most frequently cited concerns about the previous proposal were a) lack of representation by non-tenure line faculty members on the committee, and b) the requirement that committee members representing an area of work responsibility have a minimum of 20% apportionment in that area of work responsibility. To address these concerns, the requirements are now that a minimum of 6 of the 9 members be tenured at the full professorial rank, and the minimum apportionment is 40%.

In the current proposal, 3 of the 9 committee members could be in a non-tenure leading line and/or at the rank of Associate Professor. This opens the possibility of having non-tenure line and Associate Professor rank faculty on the committee. Committee members must still be at the rank of Associate or Full Professor in order to qualify to serve on the committee, and committee members must be tenured in order to vote on tenure recommendations. A committee member on a non-tenure line will be able to vote on recommendations for promotion (as long as they are at or above the rank being considered) but not on tenure.

While the increase in the minimum apportionment from 20% to 40% will decrease the pool of eligible committee members, it will ensure that there is sufficient experience and expertise with the work responsibility to understand what is expected of all candidates.

Why do we need this?

Shared governance. One of the most important contributions faculty members can make to shared governance is through participation in the tenure and promotion process. At present, the only place where faculty members are able to weigh in on the promotion and tenure decision is at the unit P&T level. This puts shared governance with regard to this important decision solely in the hands of disciplinary peers, and denies the opportunity for non-disciplinary peers to participate in shared governance. Introducing the Institute-wide committee would provide another touch point for faculty decision making.

Checks and balances. The Institute-wide committee will be able to determine if the process has been followed as it should have been, and that the candidate has been treated fairly. This doesn’t mean that this committee is just a rubber stamp on a recommendation that has already been made. The expectation is that committee members will counsel together and vote to make an independent recommendation after considering all the available evidence, including candidate materials, external letters, annual evaluations by both the peer review committee and head, and other documentation.

Alignment across units. The Institute-wide committee will allow greater transparency to occur across units because they will be aware of the P&T guidelines in each unit. Knowing what is done in other units will improve the process in each unit.

Committee of peers outside the candidate’s department or school. The current model is one in which everyone involved in the process produces a subjective evaluation, one that is informed by previous experience with the candidate and by disciplinary expertise. The Institute-wide committee will be composed of disinterested peers: individuals who, for the most part, can be more objective in their evaluation because they do not know the discipline or work directly with the candidate. This will allow them to look at the evidence, including the external letters and documentation of teaching or extension excellence, differently than those at the unit level.

Inclusive excellence. While there are many inclusive excellence strategies that can be and are employed at the unit level, having an Institute-wide P&T with the membership configuration and operational procedures being proposed will be one additional guard against implicit bias to ensure that all faculty are treated fairly. Having a group of non-disciplinary peers evaluate candidate materials is important to ensuring that candidates are being evaluated on the merits of their contributions and not on other criteria informed by bias.

Our current way of doing things overemphasizes administrative recommendations for tenure and/or promotion, and one dean’s recommendation is represented in two levels of review. Currently, after materials receive a recommendation from the unit P&T committee, a candidate’s file progresses through four levels of administrator reviews, without ever being seen again by faculty members without administrative appointment. Also, after being evaluated by a lead dean, the candidate’s materials are evaluated by all the IANR deans acting together to make a recommendation. This means that the lead dean has two opportunities to weigh in on the recommendation that is forwarded to the Vice Chancellor. The Institute-wide P&T Committee will replace the lead dean’s review.

Our current way of doing things is not in line with how things are done in the rest of the university or among our peer universities. It is standard practice to have a second level of peer review, and common practice at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to do so. Having an Institute-wide P&T Committee is consistent with the University’s Guidelines for the Evaluation of Faculty. Some have said that there is no reason why we should have to do things the way that others do them just to conform. Agreed. However, to not have similar processes as our peers across the university can affect our reputation and how people think of the quality of our science, teaching, and engagement/Extension.

Why are we adding another layer of review?

This is not another layer of review. The faculty committee will replace the review by the lead dean.

How will someone from another unit be able to evaluate the quality of work of someone in my unit?

Ensuring that there are committee members who understand the work responsibility of candidates helps address this concern. In some cases, the Institute-wide P&T Committee will be the only time when someone with a similar work responsibility will evaluate a candidate file (as there may not be someone in the person’s unit who has that work responsibility). It is the responsibility of the unit P&T committee to evaluate the quality of outcomes and impacts according to disciplinary standards. The Institute-wide committee will ask the following: a) has the candidate been treated fairly (e.g., process was followed, all evidence was considered)?; b) given all the available evidence, does it appear that those who know the discipline think that the candidate is producing the impact that is expected of someone at this stage of their career at the University of Nebraska?; and c) is their sufficient evidence to suggest that the candidate is demonstrating excellence in fulfilling their job responsibilities?

Why don’t we have representation on the committee from each department/school?

Representation from each unit is one way of populating the committees similar to the one being proposed. The argument for doing it this way often includes a declaration of the importance of having someone on the committee who understands each candidate’s discipline, and/or who can advocate for the candidate’s discipline or for the candidate. However, even within our departments/schools there is great disciplinary diversity. There is no guarantee that a candidate will have someone on the committee who understands their discipline. Also, the person from the candidate’s discipline is not there to advocate for the candidate or the discipline. They are there to evaluate candidate materials objectively. It is the responsibility of the candidate to make the case for tenure and/or promotion.

The proposed composition of the committee (i.e., 9 members, 3 of whom have work responsibilities in Extension, 3 in ARD research, and 3 in CASNR teaching) is an inclusive excellence strategy. Assume, if you will, that there is an expectation that someone from the candidate’s department or school is on the committee to advocate for the candidate or the candidate’s discipline, or to provide insight into what constitutes excellence in the discipline. This introduces variability and bias into how committee members view and evaluate candidates’ materials. For example, one candidate may have someone from their academic unit who is their champion while another candidate, equally qualified, may not have such a champion from their unit, either because they are not too keen on their tenure and/or promotion or because it isn’t in their nature to speak up as a champion (or other reasons as well). This situation advantages one candidate and doesn’t advantage the other candidate. Or, one candidate may have someone from their unit who understands their discipline well while the committee member from another candidate’s unit does not. If the success of a candidate is dependent on who from their academic unit sits on this committee, we are doing an injustice and not demonstrating inclusive excellence.

It seems like a lot of work for those on the committee. How will the workload be managed?

There will be primary and secondary reviewers for each candidate file. Primary reviewers will be responsible for the deep dive on the candidate file. Secondary reviewers will be expected to be familiar with each file sufficient that they can contribute to the discussion and make an informed vote. So, not every member of the committee will be doing a deep dive on each candidate file. Each file will have a minimum of two primary reviewers. In cases in which a candidate has work responsibilities in two or more areas, a primary reviewer will be appointed for each area of the person’s work responsibility: teaching, extension, or research. In cases in which a candidate has work responsibilities in a single area, two primary reviewers will be selected who also have work responsibilities in that area. The remaining committee members will be secondary reviewers on the file. The Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty and Academic Leader Success will assign primary and secondary reviewers based on their experience with the work responsibility of the candidate and the committee member’s workload on the committee.

How does the review at the Institute-wide level differ from that at the academic unit level?

The unit level P&T committee is composed of disciplinary peers. These individuals know the candidate’s discipline and know what constitutes quality and promise of continued contribution. Their evaluation is informed by this expertise. The Institute-wide P&T Committee is composed of individuals from other IANR departments and schools who may not know the discipline like those at the department or school level. However, they know the area of work responsibility of the candidate, and what should be expected to fulfill that area of work responsibility with excellence. While the quality of the research, teaching, extension, and/or community-engagement/service/outreach; contributions to teams; quantity of outputs; and impact/contribution to the field is evaluated by this committee, it will be done by synthesizing the assessment of disciplinary colleagues rather than imposing standards related to committee members’ own disciplines. In evaluating quality and impact, it is expected that the members of this committee will look to the assessments provided by the external peer reviewers, the unit’s P&T committee, the unit leader, and others providing assessments on the quality of the persons contributions. This committee is tasked with determining:

  • Whether the established process was followed. This includes both the university/IANR processes and the published unit processes.
  • Whether the candidate has been treated fairly?
  • Whether all the available evidence been taken into consideration and weighted appropriately?
  • Whether those who know the discipline think that the candidate is producing the impact that is expected of someone at this stage of their career at Nebraska? They will ask: Does the evidence, including external review letters; annual evaluations; peer reviews; P&T and unit leader letters, support that the person meets the standards of excellence identified by the unit, IANR, and the university.
Why are Extension Educators, Foresters and Geoscientists voting on this proposal when their promotion materials will not be reviewed by the Institute-wide P&T Committee?

Any change to the IANR Bylaws requires the vote of the entire IANR faculty. Any amendment of the Bylaws requires a two-thirds majority vote of those responding to the ballot.

Extension is considering a state-wide committee similar to this one that would provide recommendations on promotion decisions for Extension Educators. Would the state-wide committee also need to be voted on by the entire IANR faculty?

Yes. Any change to the IANR Bylaws requires the vote of the entire IANR faculty.

Questions/Comments?

If you have questions or comments about this proposal, please send an email to ianrliaison@unl.edu.

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