UCSB Academic Senate

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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 faculty senate Committee on Academic Personnel (CAP). Questions and responses are grouped into three sections: A. About CAP; B. Academic Personnel Standards and Criteria; C. Information for Departments and Candidates.

About CAP

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 13 faculty members drawn from the general campus and appointed by the Senate’s Committee on Committees. Each member typically serves a three-year term with one-third of the members cycling through 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 as a whole as their responsibility; they do not represent their respective unit in terms of advocacy for a school or a department. Members are representative of their general areas primarily with respect to their expertise and their experience with a particular academic culture. But, to avoid any perception of conflict of interest, members are expressly recused from all discussions regarding personnel actions originating from their home department(s).

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 reviewing agencies, including the department, dean, external referees, and CAP.

Announcements regarding campus response to the COVID-19 pandemic are here and include a discussion of COVID-19 and Merit and Promotion Reviews.

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 judging candidates by the following criteria (Red Binder I-75):

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 and fair judgments.

Effective teaching is essential for any advancement and can be a deciding factor in cases of acceleration. In the professorial series, supervision of graduate students and other forms of mentorship also represent important teaching activities. Poor teaching can compromise an otherwise adequate 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. Awarding of a grant can be a secondary sign of scholarly achievement or a promise of future productivity. But the scholarly work itself is the basis for advancement. For assistant professors, awarding of grants is one indication of 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. Like 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 low; most departments, fittingly, assign them 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 senate-level campus service than department service and more to department service than public service.

Service as administrator can partially compensate for reduced achievement in other areas (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, faculty who engage in such activities while meeting the standards of excellence in their field or discipline should be recognized and rewarded. Diversity efforts, when substantive, should be summarized in the appropriate section of a candidate’s bio-bibliography and described in the self-assessment.

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 weighed nominally equally in actions that do not involve a barrier step. As such, extraordinary accomplishments in service are rewarded in the same way as extraordinary accomplishments in research. 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 productivity across successive review cycles in the course of assessing accomplishment at the current rank and step.

General Information

Start with Red Binder I-75: Appointments and Advancement. This publication was prepared by CAP in consultation with the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel. It is intended to provide an overview of the policies and procedures governing appointment and advancement from CAP’s perspective. 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.

An accelerated action is one that exceeds a normative advance 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. Although this type of acceleration is allowed by policy, CAP recommends against it. It can be very hard to calibrate the proper levels of service and teaching for a shortened review period, and it is often in the candidate’s own interest to wait for a regular review and be considered for a more significant acceleration. 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” a whole step. Accelerations of this type must be supported by superlative teaching and/or service, and in the professorial series require 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 extraordinary accomplishments in two or more of the areas under review.

Acceleration requires achievement in two or more review areas that goes beyond the level of excellence expected at the relevant rank and step. Proposed accelerations should be explicitly justified by specific accomplishments. Typically, an increment of ¼ step of acceleration might be reasonably requested for outstanding accomplishment in one area. In rare cases, an argument can be made for a ½ step of acceleration for truly exceptional accomplishments in one area.

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 all other advancements, CAP focuses almost entirely on work accomplished 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. 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

External letters for promotion to Associate Professor or Professor, and advancement to Professor Step VI or Above Scale should come predominantly from full professors who are independent of the candidate, i.e., individuals who have not had a recent collaboration, co-authored publication, or joint grant with the candidate, nor are former mentors. It is especially important to receive evaluations from experts with sufficient professorial experience within the UC system to evaluate appropriate placement of the candidate on the UC step scale, or when the action involves knowledge of the UC step system, e.g., advancement to Professor Step VI or Professor Above Scale.

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 videotaping, commentary on course syllabi, reading assignments, and examinations. Such letters may not be substituted for the UC familiar letters, which are expected to be external to UCSB

In relatively small fields or subdisciplines, it may be difficult not to call upon collaborators for a letter. Nevertheless, there is likely to be a perception of bias if a letter writer contributed significantly to scholarship on which the departmental recommendation is based. When a department feels it is necessary to include a letter from the candidate’s collaborator, coauthor or mentor, the department letter should be clear about the nature of the association. Similarly, when department-nominated letters are solicited from individuals at a rank below full professor, this should be noted and explained in the qualifications section of the form identifying external referees.

In small fields or subdisciplines, it may also be difficult to find appropriate UC-familiar referees. The problem may become acute if a candidate has undergone previous barrier-step advancements for which qualified UC-familiar referees have been used to write letters for the same candidate in the past. In these cases, the department should provide a brief explanation of why a previous letter writer has been selected or why UC-familiar reviewers are not feasible.

Providing context: CAP finds the single greatest deficiency in department letters is the lack of substantive context for judging the important items in a bio-bibliography. Simply enumerating items is not helpful. If the candidate has received an award, the department should explain the nature of the award, its selectivity, and its significance. Regarding university and professional 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 effectiveness as mentor rather than simply providing a list of mentees. This can be manifested in student awards, placement of graduate students, active participation of students in conferences, among others. 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.

Addressing problems: Obvious shortcomings or problematic comments in outside letters should be dealt with straightforwardly; they are rarely fatal, and thoughtful analysis provides credibility to the department’ s analysis.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 means that CAP itself must undertake this, potentially resulting IN skepticism about the department’s judgment.

Department vote: Departments should report only one vote and recommend only one action, regardless of internal deliberations that may have involved more than one possible recommendation. Presenting more than one proposed action and more than one vote places unnecessary burden on other reviewing agencies, including CAP, in discerning the department’s intended recommendation.

Defining period of review: 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. 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 thus 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. Suggesting that a journal is top-tier, when it is not, is not helpful to the candidate.

Collaborative work: When candidates participate in large collaborations, the department should include a discussion of the candidate’s contributions. 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, 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 accomplishments are much less helpful than a brief account of how or why they are important. Lengthy narratives will tire the patience of reviewers, and will therefore not be in the candidate’s best interest.

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 2 or 3 pages. (See recommendations here) Longer narratives will tire the patience of reviewers, and will therefore be less effective.

The responsibility for the bio-bibliography lies with the candidate. 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, 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 been subject to peer review, they generally do not form the basis for promotions or career advancements. However, they can be useful in formal appraisals, and at regular merits when the preparation of a major work, such as a book, takes longer than a single review cycle. Such items can also be useful in establishing that the candidate has a trajectory of continued productivity. The candidate’s department should present and analyze work in progress if it seems appropriate in a particular case.

CAP is broadly aware of the different selectivity and impact of various media and venues of publication in different fields. In some areas, highly-selective refereed conference proceedings are regarded as having the same academic impact as first-rate journal publications. In such circumstances, the department should document the selectivity of the conference and the archival nature of the proceedings. Without such documentation, assertions that “these publications are in highly selective conferences” add little to CAP’s deliberations. Short (1–2 page) articles associated with conference presentations that constitute extended abstracts should be designated as such.

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 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 case under review so that CAP can credit authorship appropriately.

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 indicate the stature in the field of the journals or publishing venues.

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-bib. The items are grouped according to the most relevant sections of the bio-bib. With few exceptions, items should be listed only once.

  • URLs or direct links to items being considered in current review period. (Not mandatory, but highly recommended.)
Undergraduate Projects
  • Mentoring students in EUREKA (Early Undergraduate Research and Knowledge Acquisition). List here or under Other Teaching Contributions, but not both.
  • Mentoring students in UC Leads (University of California Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees). List here or under Other Teaching Contributions, but not both.
  • Mentoring students funded by the Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP) or the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (UCRA). List here or under Other Teaching Contributions, but not both.
  • Mentoring design teams and team projects. List here or under Other Teaching Contributions, but not both.
MA or MS Committee, PhD Committees
  • Membership on graduate student committees at other universities.
  • Fellowships or other funding secured independently by students you mentored. Provide details in “Optional Info” column.
  • Awards won by students you mentored. Provide details in “Optional Info” column.
Other Teaching Contributions
  • Mentoring students from high school or community college.
  • Mentoring teachers from high school or community college.
  • Mentoring students in INSET (Internships in Nanosystems Science, Engineering and Technology).
  • Awards won by teams you mentored.
  • Hosting graduate students or postdoctoral scholars visiting from other institutions. List here or create a new field entitled Other Scholars Supervised.
  • Delivering education-based talks, e.g. GRIT (Ground-Breaking Innovative Technology).
  • Talks given to your own department or to other departments or institutes on campus.
  • Mentoring students in EUREKA (Early Undergraduate Research and Knowledge Acquisition). List here or under Undergraduate Projects, but not both.
  • Mentoring students in UC Leads (University of California Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees). List here or under Undergraduate Projects, but not both.
  • Mentoring students funded by the Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP) or the Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (UCRA). List here or under Undergraduate Projects, but not both.
  • Mentoring design teams and team projects. List here or under Undergraduate Projects, but not both.
Lectures Presented
  • Talks given at conferences held at UCSB
  • Talks given at local public venues, e.g. Natural History Museum, Art Museum. List here or under Public Service, but not both.
  • Talks given to government agencies (excludes membership on panels, which belongs under Other Professional Contributions).
Awards & Honors
  • Named seminars or prestigious talks at conferences, e.g. plenaries and keynotes. List the named seminar or award here and the lecture under Lectures Presented.
Reviewing & Refereeing Activity
  • Membership on review panels for NSF, NIH, or other funding agencies. Indicate nature of the activity and dates.
Special Appointments
  • Elected positions in professional societies.
  • Leadership positions (e.g. Director) in campus institutes. List here or under University Service, but not both.
Other Professional Contributions
  • Organizing conferences or workshops.
  • Providing expert opinion as a panelist or discussant for a government agency.
  • Providing media interviews or appearances.
  • Media citations (work cited without interviews).
  • Reprints of previously published (and credited) material. (Do not list these under Research and Creative Activities.)
University Service
  • Activities involving development or promotion of the University or student recruitment
  • Leadership positions (e.g. Director) in campus institutes. List here or under Special Appointments, but not both.
Public Service
  • Activities involving outreach to high schools and community colleges.
  • Talks given at local public venues, e.g. Natural History Museum, Art Museum. List here or under Lectures Presented, but not both.
What Should NOT be Included?
  • Oral or poster presentations made by students, postdoctoral scholars, or collaborators at conferences and workshops.
  • Attendance at conferences or workshops. (Exceptions are for candidates in the LSOE series who attend for the purpose of expanding their pedagogical skills or their expertise in their respective field of study.)
  • Service as session chair at conferences.

Created in collaboration with Shawnee Oren (Senior Analyst, MLPS Division, College of Letters and Science)

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