Letter to Deans Concerning Faculty Review Table

Dear Dean [name]:

We are writing to bring to your attention a concern regarding the memo circulated by Provost Liu on January 27, 2021 titled “Important Policy and Process Matters Relating to Non-tenure-track and Pre-tenure Faculty Reviews and Promotion for Tenure.”

The memo requires all tenure files to include the table copied at the bottom of this email. We are concerned about three consequences of using this table in all tenure files.

First, this table does not accurately reflect the standards that are used to assess eligibility for tenure or promotion across the university. The table appears to reflect standards embraced by the hard sciences. These standards are inappropriate when applied to faculty working in the arts, humanities, and many areas of the social sciences. 

Second, this table suggests an effort to standardize review across disciplines, which will benefit some fields and faculty and disadvantage others. It makes no sense to apply the same standards to engineers and English professors, which Provost Liu acknowledged in the open meeting of the University Senate on February 10, 2021. In that meeting, Provost Liu assured faculty that the charts would be more or less important depending on the field. If the university plans to only pay attention to the chart in fields where it is relevant, it is not clear why it must be included in every tenure and promotion file. We are concerned this chart represents an effort to standardize faculty evaluation across the university with an emphasis on standards that privilege grant-generating fields like the hard sciences and harm faculty working in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

Finally, we were concerned to learn from Provost Liu at the February 10 Senate meeting that this chart is being included in tenure files at the request of the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees has an essential role to play in the governance of the university. However, substantive review of whether faculty have achieved the standards recognized in their fields for tenure and promotion is not one of the roles designated for the Board of Trustees, as explained in the 1966 Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities, which was jointly formulated by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Council on Education, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Members of the Board of Trustees are not qualified to assess whether a faculty member is qualified to achieve tenure or promotion. Tenure and promotion decisions are a core area of faculty governance. It is wholly inappropriate for the Board of Trustees to take an active and substantive role in that process. 

The memo also includes some positive changes to faculty review procedures in recognition of the impact of the pandemic on faculty, including the automatic extension of the tenure clock for current faculty (pp. 1-2). We are concerned, however, about the mismatch between this chart and many fields in the university, the effort to standardize review across disparate disciplines, and the substantive involvement of the Board of Trustees in the tenure and promotion process.

We have heard from many of our members about this chart. We encourage you to talk with your faculty about this issue and share the concerns of your faculty with the Provost. We do not believe it is appropriate to include any chart that attempts to compare faculty across disciplines or to encourage substantive involvement from the members of the Board of Trustees in what are core areas of faculty governance.

Finally, though it is our understanding that the below table was a required component of all tenure and promotion files for this academic year, we have heard some indication that Schools and Colleges may be able to adapt this grid to more accurately reflect the core competencies of different disciplines. If so, we hope you will be engaged with your faculty to develop faculty-driven changes to develop review and evaluation procedures that appropriately reflect the diverse research of your faculty and enact sound shared governance. 

We look forward to hearing about steps you are taking to address these concerns, shared by faculty from across the university. 


Members of the Executive Committee of the Syracuse University chapter of AAUP

Matt Huber, Joanna Spitzner, Crystal Bartolovich, Jenny Breen, Kathleen Feyh, M. Gail Hamner, and Jackie Orr

Tenure and/or Promotion Data:

Rank, Department, if applicable, and School and College 
Prior Degrees (where earned; do not include year earned) 
Scholarship and GrantsTOTALS
Number of citations or reviews 
Number of grants (PI, CoPI, PD, CoPD) 
Grant dollars (PI, CoPI, PD, CoPD) 
Peer-Reviewed, Published Works (including journal articles, proceedings, and book chapters) 
Peer-Reviewed, non-published works (includes juried-selections or other peer-reviewed artifacts and works of art; include completed conference papers that were selected through peer-review process and that were not subsequently published in proceedings) 
Book chapters, invited or otherwise not peer-reviewed prior to selection 
Books (author or co-author, only) 
Editorial and curatorial work (including books edited, special issues edited, or exhibitions; do not include conference planning) 
Other (provide number and description) 

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