6.3.Guidelines for Selecting Reviewers and Reviewing External Evaluation Letters

Governing Policies

Section 8, Faculty Handbook – Promotion and Tenure

Procedure

As per the Faculty Handbook, Department Heads are required to solicit evaluations letters from external reviewers for inclusion in promotion and tenure application packages of tenure/tenure-track faculty. External evaluators should be provided, for their review, the promotion and tenure package provided to the Department Head by the candidate excluding sections: 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9 as defined in section 6.2 of this Procedures Manual.

External reviewers are asked to evaluate a candidate’s promotion and tenure package, and then provide recommendations addressing the following considerations:

  • the quality, importance, impact, and quantity of the scholarly work produced by the candidate,
  • how the overall accomplishments of the candidate compare to the accomplishments of other scholars in the discipline at the same point in their careers,
  •  an overall evaluation of the candidate’s scholarly strengths and weaknesses, and
  • if the reviewer is employed in higher education, whether or not the candidate should be tenured and/or promotion at Mines, as well as at the reviewer’s home institution.

Considerations in soliciting reviews from strong external reviewers should include:

  • reviewer academic achievements: seek out reviewers who are highly regarded in the candidate’s field, have exceptional scholarship records, and if in academic employment are at the full professor level;
  • reviewers should be from peer or aspirant peer programs and institutions;
  • reviewers should not have a close relationship to the candidate (i.e., advisors, collaborators, etc.), the greater the “distance” between the reviewer and the candidate, the stronger the recommendation.

Candidates and the Departmental Promotion and Tenure Committee shall each supply the Department Head with 5 to 6 names of external reviewers. The candidate may also request that certain individuals not be contacted for reviews; this request should be honored unless the Department Head and Departmental Promotion and Tenure Committee determine there are good reasons not to do so. In consultation with the Chair of the Departmental Promotion and Tenure Committee, the Department Head will then request external letters. The candidate dossier should ultimately contain 5 to 7 letters of recommendation from external reviewers, with a balance between names suggested by the candidate, the Department Head, and the Promotion and Tenure Committee, and the file shall include a notation indicating which reviewers were selected by whom. At least 1/3 of the requested letters should be from reviewers recommended by the candidate. External reviewers should be independent of the candidate and Ph.D. advisors should be avoided. Reviewers should primarily be Professors affiliated with peer and aspirational peer programs. Associate Professors and/or reviewers from other institutions may be acceptable when it is clear that they are nationally recognized, possess pertinent expertise, and understand promotion and tenure norms at peer and aspirational peer institutions. In his/her request for letters of recommendation, the Department Head must make the University and Department expectations clear to the external letter writers. An example request letter is available in the Academic Affairs Procedures Manual. Candidates should not discuss the review with potential reviewers, lest this be viewed as attempting to influence their independence of judgment. Likewise, neither the Department Head nor the Departmental Promotion and Tenure Committee should reveal their views or assessments about the candidate (including annual evaluations) in communicating with letter writers. The Department Head collects the external review letters, and inserts them into the candidate’s dossier. The dossier should be forwarded to the Departmental Promotion and Tenure Committee when at least half of the requested letters have been received. The committee must review each letter from all external reviewers before making a final assessment.

National data show that implicit bias may be an issue in evaluating candidates with respect to race and gender.  For example, letters of recommendation for men often are longer and refer more to a candidate’s publications, research or other career achievements, while letters for women may make reference to their personalities, personal lives or other irrelevant data, and contain fewer descriptors about the quality of their work.  Similarly, scholars from other countries may have different cultural expectations for the length and style of letters, which may be shorter than American letters with fewer effusive adjectives. Likewise, research suggests that minorities are often evaluated lower, even for the exact same resume, and that supposedly neutral, quantitative data may be evaluated by reviewers differently for majority and minority candidates. Promotion and Tenure Committees should consider these elements when looking at internal and external letters of recommendation for faculty.

Two sample letters of invitation to external reviewers are provided below.

Dear Professor XXXX,

I am grateful to you for agreeing to evaluate XXXX credentials for tenure and promotion to associate professor in the Department of XXXXX during this academic year.

At the Colorado School of Mines (Mines), advancement is based on the individual’s established professional record, indications that the individual will continue to grow professionally, and evidence that the individual will continue to be an asset to the institution. Mines expects members of the faculty to become leaders in their disciplines with strong records of scholarship, demonstrated service to their fields, and dedication to high quality teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels.  The decision regarding tenure is based on the individual’s academic accomplishments and on an assessment of the potential (or likelihood) for continued growth in accomplishments and professional reputation.

We would very much appreciate your assistance in evaluating the merits of Dr. XXXXX record of scholarship and professional service.  Evaluation of the candidate’s teaching is conducted internally, but if you have information about the quality of Dr. XXXXX contributions to pedagogy, we welcome comments on that aspect of the candidate’s case as well.

Please begin with a statement of whether you know the candidate and his work. In this context, address any circumstances that might raise issues of impartiality as they relate to your assessment of the candidate. We would like you to critique the quality, importance, impact, and quantity of the candidate’s scholarly contributions and compare to the work of others in your discipline at comparable stages in their careers. We would particularly appreciate your evaluation of the contribution that the candidate’s work has made to the field, viewing each published work separately or in combination as seems appropriate. We are interested in your judgment of the quality of the journals and the importance of the conferences through which Dr. XXXXX has communicated this work. Finally, we ask that you provide your opinion of how Dr. XXXXX's application would be viewed if the case were being considered at your home institution.

The enclosed electronic package includes:

  1. Dr. XXXXX’s curriculum vitae,
  2. his/her personal statement,
  3. a series of explanatory narratives, and
  4. pertinent materials concerning the criteria for tenure and promotion. Our process requires that we receive your letter by _____________, so that it can be included in the materials that are examined internally.  If you have any questions about Dr. XXXXX’s materials or experience, please contact me directly. In accordance with our procedures, we must ask you not to communicate with either the candidate whose work you are reviewing or other members of the department or college concerning your evaluation or the review process.

Every effort will be made to maintain the confidentiality of your report. Neither the names of the referees nor the full contents of their letters are shared with the candidate. Your letter of evaluation will be made available to the Promotion and Tenure Committee in our department, and will become part of the candidate’s file reviewed by appropriate committees and administrators at the college and university levels. I should add that in light of a Supreme Court decision (EEOC vs. University of Pennsylvania), such reports may be subject to involuntary disclosure in legal proceedings.

Would you please also send me a brief biographical statement when you send your letter?  As mentioned above, our departmental faculty as well as the campus committee and administrators would find your biographical sketch helpful when considering your letter.

Thank you very much for taking the time to convey your professional evaluation. On behalf of my colleagues, I offer our gratitude and appreciation for your thoughtful comments and perspectives.

Sincerely,

XXX

Dear Professor YYYYY,

Thank you for agreeing via our email correspondence to provide an external evaluation of Associate Professor XXXXXX, who is being considered for promotion to the rank Professor in the Department of ZZZZZ at Colorado School of Mines (Mines). 

At our institution promotion to the rank of Professor is based upon the individual’s established record.  Mines expects an individual with this rank to be an established leader in their discipline with a strong record of scholarship, demonstrated service to their field, a dedication to high-quality teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level and to have demonstrated the likelihood of continued growth in accomplishments and professional reputation nationally and internationally.

From an external reviewer, we are primarily interested in your assessment of the merits of Dr. XXXXXX’s record of scholarship and professional service.  Evaluation of the candidate’s teaching is conducted internally, but if you have information about the quality of Dr. XXXXXX’s contributions to pedagogy, we welcome comments on that aspect of the candidate’s case. In particular, I would appreciate:

  1. A statement of how you know the candidate and his/her work. In this context, please address any circumstances that might raise issues of impartiality as they related to your assessment of the candidate.
  2. A critique the quality, importance, impact, and quantity of the candidate’s work in comparison to the work of others in this discipline at comparable stages in their careers. We would particularly appreciate your evaluation of the contribution that the candidate’s work has made to the field, viewing each published work separately or in combination as seems appropriate. We would also be interested in your judgment of the quality of the journals and the importance of the conferences through which Dr. XXXXXX has communicated this work.
  3. Any other insights you might have about Dr. XXXXXX’s scholarly accomplishments.
  4. Your opinion of how Dr. XXXXXX's application would be viewed if the case were being considered at your home institution (if applicable).
  5. A brief biographical statement (one page or less is fine!).  Although our departmental faculty know you and your work, the campus committee and administrators would find your biographical sketch helpful when considering your letter

Please recall that ideally we need your letter by October XX, 20YY.

I have enclosed a copy of the Dr. XXXXXX’s materials, including Dr. XXXXXX’s curriculum vita, his personal statement, some recent publications, summaries of graduate students, teaching accomplishments, and research funding, and pertinent materials concerning the criteria for tenure and promotion at CSM. You may also access this material electronically by following the instructions sent in an earlier email.

If you have any questions about Dr. XXXXXX’s materials or experience, please contact me directly. In accordance with our procedures, we must ask you not to communicate with either the candidate whose work you are reviewing or other members of the department or college concerning your evaluation or the review process. Also note that every effort will be made to maintain the confidentiality of your report. Neither the names of the referees nor the full contents of their letters are shared with the candidate. Your letter of evaluation will be made available to the Promotion and Tenure Committee in our department, and will become part of the candidate’s file reviewed by appropriate committees and administrators at the college and university levels.

Thank you very much for taking the time to convey your professional evaluation. On behalf of my colleagues, I offer our gratitude and appreciation for your thoughtful comments and perspectives.

Sincerely,

XXX

Last Revision:

July 19, 2016