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Personnel Cases FAQs
The following are answers to questions frequently asked about the academic review process at UCSB and the role of the Academic Senate Committee on Academic Personnel (CAP). Questions and responses are grouped into three sections: A: About CAP; B: Personnel Case Standards and Criteria; C: Information for Departments and Candidates.
Please note that the Red Binder and Academic Personnel Manual are the official documents of record for the policies and procedures that CAP follows. The following responses are not meant as a substitute for those official documents, but rather as an explanation of CAP practices in its commitment to implementing APM and RB policies and procedures equitably across the campus and with scrupulous attention to each case.
CAP is a faculty committee of the Academic Senate of UCSB. It participates in shared governance by making recommendations to the administration regarding academic personnel actions such as appointments, promotions, and non-routine merit advancements.
CAP consists of 15 faculty members (2023-24) drawn from the general campus and appointed by the Senate's Committee on Committees. Each member typically serves a three-year term with roughly one-third of the members cycling off and one-third joining the committee each year. This structure and membership flow provide continuity from year to year, and allow the committee to maintain a significant number of experienced members while simultaneously renewing the committee with new members.
Members have the interests of the campus faculty as a whole as their responsibility; they do not represent their respective units in terms of advocacy for a department, discipline, school, division or college. Members are representative of their general areas primarily with respect to their expertise and their experience with a particular academic culture. To avoid conflict of interest, however, members are expressly recused from all discussions regarding personnel actions originating from their home department(s) and other cases in which there is a conflict of interest.
No. CAP forwards recommendations to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel (AVC), the administrative officer chiefly responsible for academic personnel matters. Final decisions are made by the AVC, Executive Vice Chancellor, or Chancellor. Final decisions reflect the input of various independent reviewing agencies, including the department, dean, external referees, and CAP.
Announcements regarding the campus response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a discussion of COVID-19 and Merit and Promotion Reviews, can be found here.
Academic Personnel (AP) Standards and Criteria
The University of California Academic Personnel Manual (APM) and UCSB's Red Binder (RB) form the basis of CAP's procedures and guide CAP recommendations. The committee is charged with evaluating the accomplishments of candidates in the following areas as described in Red Binder I-75.V:
"The criteria for promotion and advancement in the professorial series are: (l) Teaching (2) Research and other Professional Creative Work (3) Professional Competence, Activity, and Recognition (4) University and Public Service. … Superior intellectual attainment, as evidenced both in teaching and in research or other creative achievements, is an indispensable qualification for appointment or promotion to tenure positions in the professorial series."
"The criteria for promotion and advancement in the Lecturer SOE series are: (l) Teaching (2) Professional and/or Scholarly Achievement and Activity (3) University and Public Service. … Clear evidence and documentation of consistent and sustained excellence in teaching is an indispensable qualification for appointment or promotion to security of employment positions in the lecturer SOE series."
In applying these criteria, CAP is guided by university and campus policy, and employs the collective experience of its members in striving for sound, fair, and equitable judgments.
CAP evaluates teaching and mentoring based on all available evidence. This includes student comments in course evaluations, ESCI scores, development of new courses, evidence of pedagogical innovation, peer review, self-assessments, and other relevant information.
CAP is tasked with independently verifying that the expected teaching load has been met. The Department letter and the biobib should state clearly what the normative departmental teaching load is and how the candidate has met that load, including exceptions such as course releases. In the case of teaching overloads or shortfalls, the Department letter should explain whether these will be calculated into the assigned teaching load in the future. Templates to aid departments in accounting for the teaching load are available in RB-I-35-2-B.
Effective teaching is essential for any advancement and can be a deciding factor in cases of acceleration. In the professorial series, supervision of undergraduate and graduate students and other forms of mentorship also represent important teaching activities. In the LSOE series, teaching is primary. Poor teaching can compromise an otherwise excellent case for a merit increase. At the same time, effective teaching cannot be the sole basis for advancement, especially in the professorial series.
Not on its own. Receipt of a grant can be a sign of scholarly achievement or a promise of future productivity, but the scholarly work itself is the basis for advancement. For assistant professors, receipt of grants may be one indication that the candidate is establishing or has established research independence, if the candidate is the Principal Investigator.
A lack of funding in a discipline that typically requires grant support for doing research can raise questions about the ongoing viability of the research enterprise. Such concerns should be addressed in the departmental letter.
Not on their own. As with success in garnering grants, receipt of awards and prizes can be a sign of achievement and recognition.
The expected amount and balance of service activities varies with rank. For assistant professors and lecturers PSOE, the service expectation is modest and usually takes the form of departmental service; most departments, fittingly, assign a light service load. At higher ranks there is an expectation of increasing service to the campus and university. Although policy documents do not indicate which activities are more important than others, CAP’s practice has been to assign greater significance to campus-wide service than department service, especially for senior faculty, and more to department service than public service. However, CAP practice also recognizes significant service at every institutional level and encourages departments to contextualize service contributions in the case letter.
The Academic Senate provides this useful list of campus-wide service opportunities: https://ap.ucsb.edu/resources.for.academic.employees/service.opportunities.pdf
Service as administrator can partially compensate for reduced achievement in other areas (see RB I-67).
Faculty are encouraged to engage in activities that promote diversity and equal opportunity. Although diversity contributions are not required for advancement or promotion, DEI contributions by faculty who engage in such activities while meeting the standards of excellence in their field or discipline are assessed for recognition and reward. Diversity efforts, when substantive, should be noted in the appropriate section of a candidate’s bio-bibliography and described in the self-assessment. For more information, see the Winter 2022 AP Newsletter: Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Faculty Merit Reviews.
University and campus policy recognize teaching and research as crucial criteria in the professorial series, and teaching as the primary criterion in the lecturer SOE series. The weight given to the additional review areas depends to some extent on the nature of the personnel action. In the professorial series, the four areas are generally weighed equally by CAP in actions that do not involve a barrier step. As such, extraordinary accomplishments in service are typically rewarded in the same way as extraordinary accomplishments in research. However, while research as a sole category of above-excellent achievement can be rewarded in the review process within the professorial series, and teaching within the LSOE series, above-excellent accomplishments in another review area alone cannot. In career reviews (promotion to Associate Professor or Professor, and advancement to Professor Step VI or Above Scale), the criterion of “superior intellectual attainment” in both teaching and research is considered essential, with the added expectation of excellence in the other review areas.
Expectations in all review areas increase at higher ranks and steps. CAP typically compares the individual candidate's productivity across successive review cycles in the course of assessing accomplishment at the current rank and step.
Start with Red Binder I-75: Appointment and Advancement. The Red Binder is maintained by Academic Personnel in consultation with the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel, and changes are subject to campus review. RB I-75 is intended to provide an overview of the policies and procedures governing appointment and advancement by which CAP abides. It covers in a concise manner the nature of Senate faculty ranks and steps, normal periods of service within steps, materials required for personnel actions, the nature of the review process, procedural matters, and confidentiality and personnel safeguards. RB I-36, which discusses accelerations, and RB I-4, which addresses eligibility, case deferrals and mandatory reviews, are also helpful to read.
The bio-bibliography is the document of record. All items discussed in the candidate’s self-assessment, the departmental letter and the dean’s letter should appear in the bio-bibliography. CAP can only credit items that are appropriately included in the bio-bibliography.
An accelerated action is one that exceeds a normative advance (usually understood as a one-step advancement without additional off-scale supplement) in an on-time review (i.e. after 2, 3, or 4 years, depending on rank). Three specific forms of acceleration may occur.
The first is an off-cycle review: one that is put forward before the normal time at step has been completed. According to RB 1-4.III, "Early advancements abbreviating normative time of review are only permitted at the rank of Assistant Professor/LPSOE in cases of promotion … as well as at the special steps of Assistant Professor/LPSOE V and Association Professor/LSOE IV." Although this type of acceleration is currently allowed by policy, CAP takes cognizance of the fact that when the review period is shorter than usual, the amount of teaching and service is likely to be quantitatively and temporally less. It may be in the candidate's own interest to wait for a regular review. For any proposed off-cycle review, departments should make very clear the special justification for such an action.
The second type of acceleration comes at the time of a normally-scheduled review and involves "skipping" one or more steps. Accelerations of this type must be supported by superlative teaching, professional activities, and/or service, and in the professorial series typically requires extraordinary research productivity.
The third type involves advancement to the next normal step at the time of a normally-scheduled review, but with an increase in off-scale supplement. Accelerations of this type must also be supported by specific superlative accomplishments in two or more of the areas under review, with the exception that an acceleration can result from superlative achievements in research/creative activities alone for the professorial series and for teaching/mentoring in the LSOE series.
Red Binder I-36 sets out the policy on accelerations. CAP adheres to this policy and encourages departments and candidates to give it close attention. For work in any of the four areas that is above normative, CAP recommends either a ¼-step acceleration or, in the case of truly exceptional accomplishment, a ½-step acceleration. Such accelerations can come in the form of additional off-scale supplement, or, in some cases by "skipping" a step. Proposed accelerations should be explicitly justified by specific accomplishments. In the LSOE series, where there are three areas of review (teaching, professional and/or scholarly achievement and activity, and service), the recommended acceleration for outstanding or exceptional merit in teaching is doubled by CAP. Please see RB I-36 for campus policy on accelerations.
This varies with the type of personnel action. At the time of a career review – promotion to Associate and Full Professor or Lecturer/Sr. Lecturer SOE, and advancement to Step VI and Above Scale – CAP evaluates the candidate’s full academic career. For advancement to the "special" or "overlapping" steps, CAP may consider "evidence of work that is likely to lead to promotion in the near future when completed" (RB I-37). For "formal appraisals" CAP may make "preliminary assessments of the prospects of candidates for eventual promotion to tenure rank" (AMP 220-83). For all other advancements, CAP focuses on work accomplished and recognition received during the review period. However, CAP may take into consideration preceding personnel actions in order to identify recurring issues or provide context for apparent weaknesses that may arise in a single review period.
CAP relies largely on a department's presentation of a candidate's work and on commentary offered by the dean, as well as the expertise of its members from across the campus. For career reviews CAP also depends on the reports of external referees. CAP is not permitted to collect or seek information about the candidate’s work from other sources. CAP’s primary task is to ensure: (i) that evidence in the file supports the action proposed by the department, (ii) that treatment of faculty across all areas of the campus is equitable, and (iii) that the high academic standards articulated in the Red Binder are maintained.
Information for Departments
See RB I-46 for guidelines for letters of evaluation. External letters for promotion to Associate Professor with tenure, promotion to Professor, and advancement to Professor Above Scale should come predominantly from full professors who are independent of, and not closely associated with, the candidate.
In the Lecturer SOE series letters of evaluation may come from UCSB Senate faculty, external to the department, who have conducted a peer review of the candidate’s teaching. Peer evaluation may include classroom visits or review of recorded classes, commentary on course syllabi, reading assignments, and examinations. Red Binder I-46 offers details on the criteria for external letters in LSOE cases.
In relatively small fields or subdisciplines, it may be difficult not to call upon previous external reviewers or collaborators for a letter. When a department deems it necessary to include such a reviewer, the department should provide information in the coded list of reviewers about the need and nature of the association as well as a justification for choosing the evaluator. Such explanations and justifications are also necessary when letters are solicited from individuals at a rank below full professor. This type of information and deviations from policy should be noted and explained in the qualifications section of the document identifying external referees (RB I-48) and will form part of the case assessment.
Per Red Binder, I-46-IV: “The letters solicited, whether selected from the department’s recommendations or the candidate’s recommendations, should be non-conflicted. Although other relationships may also constitute a conflict, some examples include: advisors/mentors at any level; substantive collaboration in the last 4 years including co-authorship, grant collaboration, co-teaching, or co-editorial work on publications; student/advisee; close personal or family relationship; direct financial relationship; current UCSB employment (except as appropriate in LSOE cases). On the other hand, non-conflicted relationships might include members of the candidate’s graduate school, service as department colleagues at a previous institution, serving together on an editorial board or committee. A minimum of six analytic letters is required.”
Thus, external referees should be sufficiently distanced from the candidate, in order to provide an objective appraisal of the candidate's work.
The following would NOT be considered non-conflicted reviewers:
- the candidate’s family member
- a personal friend of the candidate
- the candidate’s research or creative activity collaborator within the past four (4) years, including but not limited to a co-author on publications
- has a current grant or a pending grant application with the candidate, or is currently writing a grant proposal with the candidate;
- has a current or past PhD or postdoc mentoring relationship with the candidate
- individuals whose impartiality may be questioned due to the circumstances surrounding the case. In these cases, the department should determine whether a reasonable person with the relevant facts of the case would question the referee’s impartiality.
Providing context: CAP finds the single most common deficiency in department letters is the lack of substantive context for judging the importance of items in the bio-bibliography. Simply enumerating items does not add information above and beyond the bio-bibliography, which is the document of record. For example, if the candidate has received an award, the department should explain the nature of the award, its selectivity, and its significance. Regarding university and departmental service, the department should describe the effort, effectiveness, and impact of such service. On teaching, the department should provide context for the ESCI scores and students’ comments with respect to the nature and size of courses taught and any extenuating circumstances that may have affected the outcomes. On mentoring, the department should indicate the candidate’s opportunity to mentor relative to graduate student numbers and areas and the candidate’s effectiveness as mentor rather than simply providing a list of mentees. Mentoring effectiveness can be manifested in student awards, job placement of graduate students, active participation of students in conferences, and so forth. Regarding diversity, chairs are strongly encouraged to highlight contributions to diversity and equal opportunity, and to evaluate both the effort made and the effectiveness of the activity. For more information, see the Winter 2022 AP Newsletter: Contributions to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Faculty Merit Reviews.
Addressing problems: Obvious shortcomings or problematic comments in outside letters should be dealt with straightforwardly; thoughtful evaluation and discussion provides credibility to the department’s analysis, including when departmental findings may differ from an external review that mentions shortcomings. The department should also describe actions undertaken by the candidate to remedy any weaknesses raised in previous reviews. One-sided advocacy and a lack of analysis of the evidence undermines the credibility of the department’s letter.
Department vote: Departments should report only one (i.e. the final) vote and recommend only one action, regardless of internal deliberations that may have involved more than one possible recommendation.
Defining period of review for newly hired faculty: The start date of the review period for a new faculty member in their first personnel review is the date of the CV in the candidate’s appointment case; it is not the effective start date of the appointment itself. In this way, the candidate is given appropriate credit for accomplishments (publications, grants, awards, etc.) that have occurred in the time period between applying for the position and the start of employment.
Use of external letters: CAP carefully reads external referee letters; there is no need for them to be quoted at length in department letters. Of course, select quotations in the context of the department’s analysis are appropriate.
Publishing venues: The department should provide an honest assessment and supporting evidence of the quality of publishing venues.
Collaborative work: When candidates participate in collaborative research or creative activities, the department should include a discussion of the candidate’s contributions, as well as standards concerning authorship in the discipline. This is especially important for publications with numerous authors and when the contributions from the candidate cannot be readily discerned from author order or by other means. Establishing the intellectual contributions and independence of assistant professors is particularly crucial in promotion cases.
Counting publications: When reporting on publications within the review period, the department should take care to include only those that were formally accepted for publication during the review period (“in press”), and those that were published during the review period but had not been in press at the time of the preceding review. This reporting protocol ensures that all items are appropriately credited and that none are counted twice.
Length: The department letter should be analytical and succinct, typically just a few pages. Detailed descriptions of publications and other accomplishments are much less helpful than a brief account of how or why they are important.
Information for Candidates
This is a matter best judged by the candidate and department, and departments and divisions vary in what self-assessments they require. Research self-assessments can help reviewers understand the nature of research that is outside their area of expertise. Teaching self-assessments might address concerns that have been raised by students, and can be effective if they contextualize the candidate’s teaching philosophy and describe actions taken to mitigate any obvious weaknesses in the teaching record. Candidates may also avail themselves of the opportunity to describe the nature of service and diversity activities that are customarily only briefly summarized, if at all, in the bio-bibliography. A self-assessment may also be useful in addressing concerns that arose in previous reviews. But self-assessments should be succinct and analytical, typically 5 pages or fewer. Longer self-assessments are often less effective.
The responsibility for the bio-bibliography lies with the candidate. The candidate certifies, when signing their safeguard statement, that their bio-bibliography is “complete, accurate, up to date, and prepared in accord with Red Binder I-27 Instructions for Completion of the Bio-Bibliography.” In its preparation of the case memo, the department must ensure that its analysis is fully consistent with the content of the bio-bibliography. (As a rule, if an item is not documented in the bio-bibliography with appropriate detail, it has no place in the department letter.) It is therefore incumbent on the department to work with the candidate to ensure that all aspects of the bio-bibliography are complete and accurate before the case leaves the department.
Provided the items were formally accepted for publication during the period under review, and documentation of their acceptance is included in the dossier, these items are counted towards the current review. Any items that were listed as “in press” and thus counted in the preceding review are not considered new items in the current review (where they will normally have been moved to published items).
Not usually. Because these items have not yet been subject to peer review, they generally do not form the basis for promotions or career advancements. However, they can be useful when it is necessary to establish that the candidate has a trajectory of future productivity: in formal appraisals; at regular merits when the preparation of a major work, such as a book, takes longer than a single review cycle; and in recommendations for advancement to a special step. In such cases, the candidate’s department may discuss a work in progress as evidence of continued and future productivity, but should generally refrain from detailed analysis since the item cannot be credited until published or moved to press.
CAP is broadly aware that the venues for research publication and creative activity vary across fields. For example, in some fields, highly-selective refereed conference proceedings may be regarded as having academic impact comparable to that of first-rate journal publications. In such circumstances, departments should document the selectivity of the conference and the archival nature of the proceedings, and designate short (1–2 page) articles or extended abstracts as such. In other fields, online creative-archival works or museum exhibitions may be considered as having weighty academic impact. In such circumstances, departments should provide evidence of the selectivity of the venue and of peer review, which can take various forms in this context.
The department should, with the help of the candidate and other collaborators, explain the nature of collaborative work including the proportion of the candidate's individual contribution. For major actions such as promotion to tenure, it is essential to document independent scholarly contributions and intellectual leadership of the candidate. The greater the number of authors on collaborative research, the greater the need for the candidate and department to spell out the candidate’s specific contribution.
CAP recognizes that the customs of author order differ among disciplines and even sub-disciplines in a field. In some disciplines, the last author on a multi-authored article is the senior and/or corresponding author, while the first author is the student who performed most of the work. In other disciplines, authors are listed in descending order of their contributions to the article. In yet others, authors are listed alphabetically. The department should state the convention used in the publications under review so that CAP can credit authorship appropriately. An explanation of the significance of the order of authorship (for example first, last, lead or alphabetical) can be very helpful and should be included in the departmental letter.
Yes. Publication of articles in broadly respected journals and publication of books with academic presses suggest peer approval and high likelihood of professional impact. It is important that the department’s letter indicates the stature in the field of the journals or publishing venues.
CAP memos are written to convey the outcome of the committee’s deliberations on a candidate’s accomplishment in each of the four areas and therefore establish a transparent basis for its overall recommendation concerning advancement. For practical reasons, CAP memos must be brief. As a result, CAP notes the accomplishments of the candidate but does not usually describe them in detail. Look for CAP’s recognition of accomplishments in the appraisal assigned to each of the four areas. The committee’s final recommendation for advancement in rank, step and/or off-scale supplement is summarized in the final paragraph. CAP memos occasionally note areas in need of improvement, and research and creative activities that cannot yet be credited, with a phrase such as: “CAP looks forward to … in the next review.”
All candidates are entitled to receive copies of reviewing agency reports after the conclusion of a review. The request for reports can be made by checking the appropriate box at the bottom of the procedural safeguard statement that is submitted with each case. The request can also be made at a future date. CAP recommends that candidates request and review these reports. The reports can provide context for the outcome of a review. They can also be useful in preparation for future personnel actions.
Departments do not automatically receive reviewing agency reports after conclusion of a review; candidates must explicitly release the reports to the department. Although the decision to share the reports with the department is a personal one, most departments find the reports useful in preparing letters for future personnel actions.
The following is a list of frequently misplaced items and their appropriate placement within a bio-bibliography. The items are grouped according to the section of the bio-bibliography where they would most likely be placed. With few exceptions, items should be listed only once.
PART I. RESEARCH AND CREATIVE ACTIVITIES
PART II. TEACHING
MA or MS Committee, PhD Committees
Other Teaching Contributions
PART III. PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES
Awards & Honors
Reviewing & Refereeing Activity
Other Professional Contributions
PART IV. SERVICE
What Should NOT be Included?
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