Chapter Six:

a. Renewal and tenure packages
If you're like most people, you'll find it somewhat stressful to assemble and submit materials in support of your case for renewal, tenure, or promotion. It's hard on the ego to put out there for everyone to see what you've done - and what you haven't done - and it's even scarier when you think about what's at stake. In this situation it's crucial to get as much information as you can about what's expected of you, and to seek out help and support from people with experience in the process. Colleagues in your department will be the most valuable sources of advice because they know what works in your particular subculture. What follows here are some unofficial tips and suggestions based on my own experience going through tenure and serving on the CAP in my department.

1. Give yourself lots of time to prepare. Early in the academic year prior to "coming up" for renewal or tenure, you should get some clear information from your chair about the procedure - what you need to do, and when. Questions to ask include the following:

  • What materials will I be asked to submit? (possibilities include but are not limited to: CV; published work; unpublished work or evidence of work in progress; TCEs — quantitative and narrative; statement of research, teaching, and service).

  • Who will evaluate my research? (useful to know, because you may need to explain your work and your achievements in ways that are accessible to people far from your own area of specialization).

  • How will my teaching be evaluated? Will colleagues visit my classes? If so, who and when? (in some departments you might be videotaped in the classroom; other departments may rely solely on TCEs).

  • What input if any will I have in the evaluation process? (e.g.: for a tenure case, your department will normally ask you to submit a list of names of possible external reviewers of your work. You should also have an opportunity to provide a list of people you want to exclude as reviewers. These lists are extremely important, and you should prepare them in consultation with trusted colleagues inside and outside of your department. In my case, my PhD supervisor had excellent advice of this matter).

2. Familiarize yourself with the procedures and follow them. I think it's well established that women and members of underrepresented minorities are most likely to lose out when informal networks rather than formal procedures shape outcomes. Fairness, in other words, is in our interest. There's an official guideline describing what goes into Reappointment, Promotion, and Tenure Packets — the last one I saw was a two-page list with that title. If your chair hasn't given you a copy, you might ask for it. It's useful to know which materials will be sent out from your department to the dean and provost. That list also constitutes a kind of informal map of the path your packet will follow: past your departmental CAP, chair, college dean, PAC (Provost's Advisory Committee), provost, and president. Additionally, Carole Mooney in the Provost's Office has prepared 3 "dummy" tenure packages, each showing the same candidate differently. They're very useful in seeing how important presentation can be to the outcome. You should be able to get these. If not, contact WATCH.

Of the twelve items listed on the guidelines, only two are prepared by you: "Form P" (with attachments) and the CV. The P form is quite straightforward; it asks for certain standard information to be included in a particular order. Some things may appear on your CV or in the short statement you are asked to write about your research, teaching, and service. If so, you needn't repeat them on the P form itself, but be sure to present information in the order requested, so that the people who assess your CV know where to find the things they're looking for. In general, follow the instructions as closely as possible and go over everything with your chair before you submit it. If your chair is unhelpful or you don't trust his or her judgment, find someone in your department who has served on the CAP and ask her or him to look at your materials as well. If there's no one in your department who can offer guidance, ask around among your acquaintances and WATCH members to find someone who has served on the PAC or who has experience on appeals boards or other bodies that see files for renewal and tenure cases. Leave yourself enough time to get input from other people; it could save you from some costly or just silly mistakes.

3. Show yourself at your best, even if self-promotion embarrasses you. When I came up for tenure, my chair urged me to leave behind any inhibitions I might have about blowing my own horn so that I could highlight my strengths. That was excellent advice. Like a lot of people - maybe women more than men - I think I needed permission to brag about myself. So give yourself that permission and be sure to find a place on your CV (in your statement about research, teaching, and service; or among your attachments) to point to your achievements and explain their significance. It helps to write your statement in active voice and to use strong verbs that emphasize your initiative and energy (e.g.: "I organized," "I developed," "I initiated," "I produced," and so on).

  • Where possible include evidence that people outside Notre Dame recognize your accomplishments. In a tenure case, the letters from external reviewers will do much of that work for you, but there is still room in your statements to quote briefly from someone who has praised you — often a word or phrase is all you need. This kind of thing is also a good idea if you're up for renewal when no external reports are included. Likewise a few well-chosen quotations from students' evaluations of your teaching often serve to illustrate claims you make about your own effectiveness in the classroom.

  • All this being said, keep your statement concise; your chair should tell you what length is appropriate. Sometimes less is more. In our department, statements of around 3-4 pages are common, with about half of that devoted to research and the rest to teaching and service. Going on too long or in too fulsome a fashion can make you sound desperate rather than confident; here too, an experienced set of eyes is essential.

    Unlike the statements, the CV can be as long as it has to be to include everything you've done. At least in the humanities, people are impressed by long CVs. When I came up for renewal (at a different university), I made my CV as brief as possible, thinking that the people reviewing my case would become impatient from too much detail. A senior colleague who checked it over told me to redo it completely and include everything — independent studies I had supervised, languages I spoke and read, conferences I had attended, courses taught, presses for which I had reviewed manuscripts, talks I'd given in the local community — all of the "little things" I had assumed were unimpressive and insignificant. She also urged me to leave more space between sections — both to make the CV easier to read and to extend its length. Instead of two cramped, cryptic pages, I ended up with an eight-page CV that gave a clear idea of what I'd been doing for the previous three years.

4. Be honest. In the desire to put one's best foot forward, it can be tempting to go too far — to misrepresent things or try to make them appear to be more than they are. Keep in mind that a lot of smart people with experience evaluating academics will be assessing your materials. They are likely to see through any efforts to pull the wool over their eyes. Attempts to gild the lily can end up harming your credibility, so check with your chair and experienced colleagues to make sure that you've presented yourself accurately. Once a case came before the CAP in our department that involved a junior colleague who had listed all of his publications under the heading "articles." In fact, the list included things that couldn't really be counted as articles: book reviews, pieces that appeared in newspapers, commentaries for internet discussion lists. By the colleague's count, there were more than ten articles, but the member of the CAP that evaluated the case concluded that in fact only two of those items qualified as refereed publications. As you can imagine, the departmental evaluator viewed the entire file more critically as a result of what was probably an honest mistake on the part of a colleague eager to make a strong case.

  • My suggestion would be to use as many subheadings as you need on your CV to indicate what the particular items really are. Instead of a heading called "Articles" you might need a large heading called "Publications" with subheadings below such as "Articles in refereed journals"; "Papers published in conference proceedings"; "Book reviews"; "Electronic publications," and so on. Get copies of colleagues' CVS to use as models and when in doubt, ask!

5. Keep things neat and organized. Some people are geniuses at putting things in binders and files and labeling them so that things are easy to find. Others struggle to be orderly. If you're in the second category, ask one of your neat friends to help you organize your materials. This may seem too obvious even to bother mentioning, but it does make a difference. If you pull your materials together at the last minute and hand them in to your departmental CAP stuffed into file folders, chances are they won't make a good first impression. And after one or two CAP members look at them, they're going to be in even worse shape. If you take the time to organize your materials into a binder or something where you can separate items with tabs and include a table of contents, things are unlikely to get mixed up or lost.

  • An orderly set-up will also help you weed out extraneous materials. In one renewal packet that I saw, the candidate had thrown in what seemed to be every email and note of praise s/he ever received. Instead of strengthening the case, those materials raised questions in the minds of CAP members. Why in a case of renewal, when external reports are not required, was the candidate so anxious to demonstrate outside approval — and in ways that appeared somewhat unprofessional? (After all, those emails were not sent with the view that they would be circulated). It would have done the colleague in question more good to integrate some of those words of praise into the statement of research and just submit the supporting materials requested.

6. Think hard about the messages you want your packet to send about you and make sure that the final product communicates what you intend. Be especially careful when submitting unpublished work or work in progress. There is a fine line here. On the one hand, you want to show that you're productive and demonstrate that you have an active, long-term research agenda. On the other hand, you want to present yourself as thorough and careful in your work — and unfinished projects aren't necessarily the best way to do so. Of course one can be too cautious: according to some studies, women tend to be more reluctant than men to put things out there that aren't quite ready. You don't want to hold back too much just because things aren't perfect. All I can do here is urge you to talk to your chair and to colleagues you trust as you decide exactly what to include.

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b. Tenure and renewal appeals
The University Appeals Committee was established as a faculty body, independent of the Provost's office and the university administration, to consider appeals from faculty who have been denied tenure or contract renewal. The committee consists of five full professors, one from each college of the university and the Law School, each elected by faculty in that college. When one of the members has prior involvement with a case, directly or indirectly, that member must recuse himself or herself and a replacement is elected.

Note: A description of the University Appeals Committee appears in the Faculty Handbook under "Academic Articles, Article III, Section 4, Subsection f."

How does the committee work?
The Appeals Committee cannot consider questions about the quality of an appellant's work or whether an reappointment or promotion should have been made; indeed, the committee is prohibited from doing so. The committee can only decide whether one or more of three errors has been made during the tenure or renewal process: procedural error, personal bias, or violation of academic freedom. These are the only grounds for appeal to this committee. If a faculty member alleges that one or more of these errors has occurred, he or she notifies the Appeals Committee in writing (with a copy to the Provost) by October 1 of the year of the decision.

The University Appeals Committee reviews all documents provided by the appellant. The Academic Articles specify that the appellant must establish a prima facie case, "one which has sufficient evidence to establish a violation of academic freedom, personal bias, or procedural error, were such evidence not contradicted and overcome by other evidence." The University Appeals Committee, in this initial reading of the document, will not make the final determination about whether such a violation has occurred, but will rather determine whether the appeal convincingly shows that the violation has likely occurred. The University Appeals Committee votes on whether such a case has been made.

If the majority vote that a prima facie case has been established, the appeals process continues. The committee notifies the provost, who in turn notifies the dean of the respective college. An election is conducted by the appellant's college council to choose three members of the Collegiate Appeals Committee. This is the committee that will actually investigate the evidence offered by the appellant that a violation has occurred. Its members must be tenured, and they may not come from the appellant's department, nor may they have any prior involvement in the case. Though they are elected by their college council, they do not have to be sitting members of that council. One member of the University Appeals Committee is selected to advise the Collegiate Appeals Committee on the case.

The Collegiate Appeals Committee reviews the appeals document and investigates its charges. It may interview witnesses (all members of the committee must be present for such interviews). It is likely, for instance, that the Collegiate Appeals Committee will interview the appellant, the chair of the department, and members of the Committee on Appointment and Promotions. It is possible that other members of the department, or other witnesses suggested by the appellant, will be interviewed. The Committee may even call outside witnesses; e.g., faculty at other universities who provided reviews of the appellant's research. At the conclusion of its investigation, the Collegiate Appeals Committee reports its findings to the University Appeals Committee.

The University Appeals Committee, after reviewing the Collegiate Appeals Committee's report, votes on whether a violation has occurred. If the majority votes yes, the entire reappointment or tenure case begins again. The University Committee notifies the Provost in writing, and the Provost appoints a monitor (who may have served on the Collegiate Committee). The monitor is given access to a full copy of the Collegiate Committee's report and tracks the case throughout its rehearing, attending the meetings of the CAP as it deliberates the case again.

How long does the process take?
The University Appeals Committee is asked to come to a conclusion regarding a violation by December 31 of the year in which the appeal is made. If the case is sent back to the appellant's department, it will follow the usual route through the CAP, the department chair, the dean, the Provost's Advisory Committee, the Provost, and the President. The candidate will be informed of a final decision before the end of the spring semester.

How many appeals have resulted in an overturning of the original decision?
In the five years the University Appeals Committee has been in existence, it has only heard a handful of cases. In two of those cases, the Committee voted that a violation occurred and the cases were returned to their departments to be reconsidered. In one of the cases, the faculty member accepted appointment to another university before the review was completed. In the other, the appellant was informed that a negative decision by the CAP of the department was made in the rehearing of the case.

Is it worth it, then, to file this kind of appeal?
The decision to appeal is, obviously, one only the candidate can make. It is a time-consuming and potentially draining undertaking, and it takes place in a year when the candidate may already feel under tremendous stress. It is difficult to prove that an error has been made. For many appellants, however, filing an appeal is also a chance to right a perceived wrong. A case which is returned to a department for rehearing signals flaws in the tenure or renewal process, and an appellant may feel that educating colleagues about these flaws is an important goal. A candidate for tenure or renewal who feels that a violation has occurred may also opt to seek legal counsel, outside the university appeals system.

Are there other appeals avenues within the university?
A member of the Regular Faculty who feels that a decision against reappointment or promotion is the product of sex discrimination may follow the appeals procedure for sex discrimination (described in Appendix A of the Academic Articles and explained in Best Practices in Appendix 15j, Sex Discrimination Suits Against Notre Dame. A faculty member who alleges sex discrimination may file both appeals simultaneously. In the appeal to the University Appeals Committee, the charge of sex discrimination would fall under the "personal bias" grounds for an appeal.

How do you prepare an appeals document?
The first step in preparing an appeals document may be interviewing the chair of the department, the dean, and the provost, about the process by which you were denied renewal or tenure. (If you are filing a Frese appeal alleging sex discrimination, this step is mandated.) Get as much information as you can. Every department has different procedures; get a copy of your department's procedures, if you don't already have one. Ask questions. Take notes.

Make a list of all the evidence you can think of under the categories of bias, procedural error, and academic freedom. Colleagues who have served on the University Appeals Committee or an on a Collegiate Appeals Committee may be willing to review drafts of your appeal. These colleagues cannot tell you about past cases - that information is strictly confidential — but they can give you some sense about whether they find your arguments convincing. You may also be able to locate a colleague who will be willing to serve as your sounding board throughout this process (WATCH members may be able to help you locate such a colleague).

Your appeals document can be as short or as long as you need it to be. It should contain a strong argument in plain English demonstrating that an error has been made in one of the three categories. Sometimes — in the case of procedural error and personal bias, for instance — it may be hard to sort out which error has occurred. If that is the case, say so plainly in the document. If you allege, for instance, that one of your internal or external reviewers is biased against you, the appointment of a reviewer known to be biased may also constitute a procedural error on your department's part.

In the case of procedural error, your department's written procedures will be the basic guide, but these procedures may be sketchy or general. Is there a procedure the department should have followed, whether or not it is written down? Were you given adequate time to prepare your tenure or renewal materials? Were there any special circumstances?

If you are alleging personal bias (which may include, but is not limited to, ethnic or gender bias), do you have any written or e-mailed evidence to show a pattern? You may be able to summarize conversations or encounters which convince you of the bias. Describe these encounters fully and dispassionately. If there are witnesses to the conversations or encounters, let the Appeals Committee know. If colleagues are willing to endorse your version of events, it is completely appropriate to include their letters of support. Remember, the Collegiate Appeals Committee will likely interview colleagues named by you in your appeal.

What should you include with your argument?
Include any evidence (including correspondence, e-mails, teaching reports, and so forth) that is relevant to your argument. Appellants have a tough job here - unlike the members of the CAP and the Appeals Committee, they don't have access to their tenure files. They don't know, for example, who has reviewed the research or what conclusions have been drawn about the teaching, and they do not have access to the very documents that might support their appeals. Appellants may feel they are shooting at moving targets in the dark. If you have a strong hunch, lay it out clearly in writing and support it as fully as you can; the tenure file itself may contain some evidence to back your claim. Remember that the Appeals Committee cannot make a judgment about the quality of your research or teaching, but can only decide whether one of the three errors that are grounds for an appeal has been made.

Are there any other ways you can affect the appeals process?
All faculty members can strengthen the appeals process by running for the University Appeals Committee. We can also urge fair, even-handed colleagues to let members of their college councils know that they are available for nomination to the Collegiate Appeals Committee. The work of the collegiate committees is intense but usually accomplished in a month's time. The University Appeals Committee generally meets throughout the fall semester. All faculty members, but especially tenured faculty, should be actively engaged in their departments' conversations about the tenure process itself.

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8/30/02 12:08 AM
2007 University of Notre Dame