Year T5 - T6
Preparation of the Tenure Case
Preparation of the tenure case should start no later than beginning of Spring term in the year before the year in which the university review would take place. Typically the papers are prepared by the Executive Officer, but in some cases the Executive Officer can appoint an alternate paper preparer in accordance with departmental bylaws. If the Executive Officer has a conflict of interest an alternate paper preparer must be appointed.
By early spring the Executive Officer or paper preparer should select and approach potential external reviewers to line up the required 5-8 letters from external evaluators. Referees should be full professors from major research institutions with scholarly accomplishment in the candidate’s field. Deviation from these requirements should occur only when absolutely necessary, and the reasons for such deviation should be fully explained and justified in the biosketch section associated with that letter in the forms. The candidate may provide a non-binding list of individuals who are, in his or her opinion, not suitable reviewers. The candidate cannot provide a list of potential reviewers, and the names of those solicited and those who write letters should be treated with the strictest confidentiality.
It is important to request reviews early, and in most cases it is prudent to approach more reviewers than are required on the assumption that some will be unable to provide a letter. This is a bit of a balancing act, since in the end you want no more than 8 letters. Should you get “yes” answers from more than 8 external reviewers all of the letters received must be included in the dossier.
In the case of joint appointments the two units/departments should work together to settle on a list of external reviewers. After this point, however, the further steps of review for this candidate should be undertaken independently by each of the units.
The solicitation of letters is a two-step process. It is very important that before sending any materials you ascertain the willingness of the referee to supply a letter and determine whether there is a conflict of interest which would make the potential referee inappropriate. Obvious conflicts of interest include a close personal relationship, serving as the candidate’s mentor or trainee, or substantial collaboration. Other cases can be trickier. When in doubt about whether a disclosed relationship constitutes a conflict of interest you should feel free to consult the college. A sample letter for the solicitation of a review can be found in the campus guidelines (Sample A in Part III, Section 7B). All correspondence with the potential referees must be included in the dossier, so it is crucial to hold on to all of the letters or emails involved in the solicitation process.
After an external reviewer has agreed to provide a letter, the candidate’s materials should be supplied as quickly as possible. These should include a CV, current research statement, and a sample of recent publications and other scholarly works, as well a copy of the unit/department norms and standards. It is very important for the EO or paper preparer to look over the materials that are being sent to make sure that they are complete and accurate. More than once missing or misleading items sent to reviewers have complicated and/or compromised a tenure case. A sample letter to accompany materials can be found in the campus guidelines (Sample B in Part II, Section 7B).
If the candidate has substantial collaborations, it is of the utmost importance to solicit collaborator letters. The purpose of these letters is to inform subsequent review committees of the nature and quantity of the contribution the candidate made to the collaborative enterprise. These are not additional letters of recommendation, and if they are written as such college and campus committees with be left with unanswered questions about the research profile of the candidate. You should therefore do your best to impress upon collaborators that their letters should speak directly and only to the question of the candidate’s role in the collaboration. We recommend you use the following letter to solicit these letters (paste link). If you are in doubt about whether a collaborator letter is required feel free to contact the college.
Department Review and Vote
In Fall term of the year during which the university review will take place the candidate must be reviewed by a promotion and tenure committee selected according to departmental bylaws from some or all of the tenured faculty in the unit. The committee must have at least 3 members eligible to vote by campus, college, and departmental bylaws. The Executive Officer is not eligible to vote and faculty with conflicts of interest in the case should recuse themselves. In units that do not have 3 eligible voters the EO should inform the college and the Dean will work with the unit to form a committee including members from other UIC units with the relevant expertise. After review of the case the committee should vote on whether to promote the candidate and grant indefinite tenure. It is very important that the discussion and vote be scheduled in such a way that all, or at least most, eligible voters can attend. Committees do not always know how to read a large number of “absent” votes, and this can complicate review. The votes of the review committee must be communicated promptly and in writing to the candidate.
Executive Officer Statement
After the departmental vote the EO must prepare a recommendation for or against promotion with tenure, along with a justification for the decision. The forms for this statement are found in the P&T packet, and it is important to follow the format laid out there. This statement is one of the most crucial elements of the packet, and it is considered very carefully by subsequent review committees, who depend upon this statement to help them interpret the information provided. It is therefore crucial to provide a statement that makes a clear case for the recommendation, explaining in detail how the result was reached. In particular, it is necessary to speak directly to features of the packet that are likely to raise questions. Split votes by the departmental committee must be addressed in this statement, and significant numbers of absences or abstentions should also be explained. If there are statements in the letters that suggest a different assessment (i.e. negative statements in the letters if the EO recommendation is for promotion and positive statements if the EO recommendation is against), the statement should explain why those statements do not provide sufficient reason to alter the recommendation. If there are problematic teaching evaluations, the EO statement should explain how they are to be interpreted and what steps are being taken to improve teaching. More generally, the statement should make clear and explicit reference to the benchmarks for teaching, research and service found in the department norms and in the profession and should make the case in each domain that the candidate has or has not met those benchmarks. Where appropriate, reference to the midprobationary report should also be included (e.g., if the candidate has been successfully following recommendations made there or, alternatively, has failed to follow such recommendations).
It is customary in these statements to refer or quote from external review letters. The campus has recently instituted a policy that when this is done the names and institutions of the referees should not be included. This is to protect the confidentiality of their identities. Since the letters are numbered, a convenient alternative is to use these numbers should you wish to refer to the content of the letters.
In the case of joint appointments the EO of each unit should write a statement and these should be sent to the home department for inclusion in the packet.
If the EO recommends in a way that disagrees with the majority vote of the promotion and tenure committee, the departmental committee should provide a separate letter explaining the basis of its vote to be included in the packet along with the EO statement.
The candidate must be informed promptly in writing of the EO recommendation, but should not be shown the statement.
LAS Executive Committee Review
During finals week of Fall term the College Executive Committee meets to review and vote on all of the promotion and tenure cases in LAS. The exact dates will be provided at the beginning of the academic year. EO’s will be asked to give a presentation of their cases, and must arrange to be available during these days. The EO presentation is frequently a central part of the case. In preparing for the presentation you can take for granted that the Executive Committee will have read the packet carefully. If questions arise as they are reading those will be sent to the EO to be answered in advance. Your initial presentation should therefore be very brief (5 minutes or so). You do not need to present all of the information in the packet, but only give the highlights of the case for or against. The committee will then have the opportunity to ask questions. Often these are very detailed, so as EO you should be thoroughly familiar with the details of the case and prepared to answer questions. Adequate preparation for this event can make the difference in a decision.
After the EO presentations for all of the cases in LAS have been heard the committee will vote on whether to recommend promotion and tenure and the Dean, advised by the vote, will provide a recommendation and supporting statement. The candidate will be informed promptly in writing of the Executive Committee vote and the Dean’s recommendation. The packet containing the vote and recommendation will then be forwarded to the campus for the next stage of review.