Suggestions for Conducting Departmental Evalutions and Preparing Chair's Letters

The Rank and Tenure Committee has prepared this sheet to support chairs and program directors in preparing departmental reviews of probationary candidates who are undergoing interim reviews or reviews for promotion and/or tenure.

These reviews are governed by Faculty Handbook Sections and, so please review those sections carefully before you begin to plan for your reviews.

The Committee consulted widely in preparing these suggestions.  They reflect the judgments of committee members past and present, as well as chairs and directors who have considerable experience in conducting departmental reviews.

1.    Lessons Learned about the Overall Process:

  • As chair, meet early with the candidate to discuss the R & T process and assist him/her to develop a strategy for successfully completing the process.
  • If appropriate, have a mentor assigned to the candidate - either within or outside the department - to help him/her with the R & T process.
  • Ensure that the candidate’s classrooms are regularly visited by peers for evaluation of teaching and feedback.
  • Consistently review student evaluations with the faculty member to identify areas of strength, as well as areas for improvement.
  • Review the candidate's Form A, offering guidance and feedback on the self-study.
  • Identify what categories of faculty the department wishes to consult regarding the review, e.g., ranked faculty only, ranked faculty plus lecturers, etc.  Be clear in the departmental letter about who was consulted, and if votes were taken, who participated in the vote and the result of the vote.  Be sure to represent as accurately as possible the range of views of all faculty members consulted.
  • Follow up with the candidate after a Rank and Tenure review is completed and the Committee’s letter is in hand.  Review the letter with the candidate and discuss next steps.

2.    Problems Identified with Chairs' Letters:

  • Insufficient attention to deficiencies that are apparent in the file.
  • Similarly, letters, which overlook the formative nature of the R & T process by focusing almost exclusively on strengths.
  • The letter primarily reiterates what the candidate has written in the Form A without additional insight or comment.
  • The letter offers numerous conclusions and general observations but lacks supportive information (evidence) and documentation.
  • Failure to assist the R&T Committee by providing appropriate judgments of the merit and quality of the candidate's scholarly work.
  • Failure to distinguish between the department's evaluation of the candidate and the chair’s individual evaluation if disagreement appears to be present.

3.    Other Characteristics of Effective Letters:

  • The letter covers all the Faculty Handbook standards thoroughly, including the special criteria that are associated with tenure and promotion.
  • The letter makes clear that a variety of materials such as student evaluations, self-assessment, peer evaluation, syllabi, and scholarly products have informed the evaluation.
  • The letter is balanced and even-handed, addressing both the candidate's strengths and areas for improvement with equal care and attention.  Concerns raised in earlier reviews are not neglected.
  • Available comparative data is used, especially that which is related to teaching, to support the letter’s conclusions.