VI. EVALUATION, PROMOTION, AND TENURE

Rice reviews the performance of its faculty members annually to determine adjustments in salary and periodically to assess professional development and suitability for promotion and tenure. For details see  Policy 214-03 "Faculty Performance Reviews." In general, these reviews are based on internal evaluations of research, teaching, and service and involve departmental chairs reporting to deans. In contrast, the reviews associated with promotion to the rank of associate or full professor and the awarding of tenure have an external component. An overview of the policy and procedures associated with those evaluations is given below.

fac_at_gradu.jpgA.  Third Year Review of Untenured Assistant Professors and Other Faculty Performance Reviews

Rice reviews the performance of its faculty members annually to determine adjustments in salary and periodically to assess professional development and suitability for promotion and tenure, in accord with  Policy 214-03 "Faculty Performance Reviews."  The reviews of tenured professors and the normal yearly reviews of untenured professors are generally based on internal evaluations of research, teaching, and service and involve departmental chairs' reports to deans. The third year review of untenured assistant professors during their first four-year appointment under Policy 214-03, however, is a more detailed process, since the evaluation serves as a partial basis for the departmental recommendation whether a second four-year appointment should be made. See “Guidelines for Faculty Appointments, Promotion, Tenure and Renewal of Contracts,” §C.1

Untenured assistant professors should receive at least two evaluations by their chair during their first four-year appointment, once in their fourth semester and once at the start of their sixth semester, before being considered for reappointment by the tenured members of their department later during that sixth semester. These two evaluations should be provided in writing to the faculty member under review; if deficiencies are noted, the chair should inform the faculty member. The chair's written evaluation during the sixth semester will become part of the department's dossier concerning reappointment or dismissal, which will be forwarded to the dean and provost.

The department also considers whether to recommend reappointment for a second four-year term later in the sixth semester.  The tenured members of the department (or, in schools without departments, a subset of the tenured members designated according to the rules of that school) have the task in the sixth semester of the initial four-year appointment of reviewing the faculty member's performance in all areas, including research, teaching, and service. They are expressly permitted to consider verbal comments and teaching evaluations. The department's report, with a recommendation for contract extension or non-renewal, then proceeds to the dean and provost.  Although the evidentiary basis for judgment is less than for a tenure decision due to the shorter period of evaluation, the same general standards and principles apply:  namely ,the quality and impact of the work to date and whether the faculty member is making reasonable progress toward tenure.  (“Guidelines for Faculty Appointments, Promotion, Tenure and Renewal of Contracts,” §C.1. )

Non-tenured assistant professors should note that a higher faculty body, such as the Promotions and Tenure Committee, is not involved with this reappointment process. Tenure-track faculty whose appointments are not renewed at the end of their initial four-year appointment, however, may submit a grievance to the Appeals and Grievances Committee of the Faculty Senate if they contend that there were procedural errors that adversely affected their case.

Other than annual salary reviews, tenured associate professors receive a review by their chair every three years; a more detailed review is also carried out in their ninth year at associate status. Tenured full professors are reviewed every five years.

All full or part time non-tenure track teaching faculty on annual appointments are reviewed annually, with student evaluations being considered as part of the review.

B. Evaluation for Promotion and Tenure

For tenure-track faculty, the most important review of their academic career is the review for promotion to the rank of associate professor and the achievement of tenure. The award of tenure is a valuable and unique privilege associated with academic institutions. It offers the individual faculty member a professional career of academic freedom and assured employment, with termination only for cause, in which to teach and pursue her/his individual scholarly interests. The award of tenure represents a major commitment on the part of the university and is a concrete demonstration of its confidence that the individual will be a productive and valuable member of the community throughout her/his working life. Thus, the central question being asked at all levels of the tenure review process is "What does performance to date lead us to predict in terms of lifetime achievement and contribution to the overall goals of Rice University?"

In considering this question, Rice evaluates each candidate's scholarship, teaching, and service. Rice has a deep commitment to excellence in scholarship and thus places a primary emphasis on scholarly achievements as judged both by unbiased expert external reviewers in the appropriate scholarly field and by Rice faculty members with similar scholarly interests. Much of the reputation of the university also rests on the outstanding quality of its undergraduate and graduate instruction, and thus Rice gives teaching performance very serious consideration. Finally, Rice values service and evaluates each candidate's participation in activities such as departmental and university committees, the residential colleges, community outreach programs, and national professional organizations.

Two documents govern promotion and tenure at Rice:  Policy 201"Faculty Appointments and Tenure at Rice University" and " Guidelines for Faculty Appointments, Promotion, Tenure and Renewal of Contracts." Policy 201 underwent a major revision in 1997; these notes reflect the post-1997 versions of the policy, which apply to all untenured assistant professors who began their service on or after September 9, 1997. Earlier versions of both Policy 201 and the "Guidelines" are available on the  University Policies page of the Rice website.

When first appointed, faculty need to familiarize themselves with the tenure review procedures by reading thoroughly Policy 201 "Faculty Appointments, Promotion, and Tenure" and the "Guidelines." Any aspects of the procedures that are not clear should be discussed with the departmental chair. Although departmental chairs will occasionally offer very specific criteria for promotion, candidates should be aware that no chair has control over the ultimate decision on any individual candidate.

For most candidates, active engagement in the tenure review process should begin in the spring of their sixth year at Rice, and the major phase of the candidate's involvement in the evaluation process will culminate in the fall semester of the next academic year. The major roles of the candidate are: (a) to prepare certain aspects of the dossier as detailed in the "Guidelines," (b) to provide names of external reviewers who can assess the candidate's scholarly achievements and of Rice faculty members who can evaluate his or her service, and (c) to suggest the names of members of the Rice faculty who might best serve as internal reviewer to evaluate the candidate's dossier for the department, dean, and the Promotion and Tenure (P&T) Committee. A candidate should also consult closely with the departmental chair on what materials are appropriate for inclusion in the dossier. Clearly, it is in the candidate's best interest to ensure that as much of his/her scholarly work as possible has been published by the end of the sixth year. The candidate must not contact any of the proposed reviewers in connection with their willingness to participate in the review.

After the candidate's dossier has been sent to reviewers, the candidate has no further involvement in the process until at the department level after the department has met to evaluate the letters from the reviewers and to vote on whether to recommend promoting the candidate. Immediately after this meeting, the department chair will inform the candidate of the department's recommendation and, if negative, of the reasons for the decision.

After this evaluation at the departmental level, the dossier is forwarded to the school dean for further review. The dean's task is to evaluate the candidate in the context of the entire cadre of faculty members within the school. It is not uncommon for the dean to solicit additional letters at this stage to help with his/her evaluation.

The next stage of the review process involves the deliberations of the P&T Committee. This committee, chaired by the provost, is composed of six full professors elected by the faculty of the different schools, as well as up to two additional full professors named by the provost. The membership of the P&T Committee should be available to all candidates before the provost forwards the dossier to the P&T Committee. If a candidate believes there is a conflict of interest or asserts an improper bias involving a member of the P&T Committee, he or she must raise the issue prior to deliberations on the case, so that the P&T Committee can evaluate the claim and act appropriately. In addition to examining the candidate's dossier, this committee routinely examines the candidate's teaching record, and may request the Committee on Teaching to review each candidate's teaching performance based on written student teaching evaluations for courses at Rice. In evaluating the candidates, the P&T Committee may also interview the appropriate departmental chairs, deans, and internal reviewer.

This stage of the review process will typically begin early in the spring semester of the candidate's seventh year, that is, many months after the candidate initially assembled the dossier. Given that there can be substantial changes in a candidate's circumstances within this time (a critical paper accepted, a grant awarded, and so on), a candidate may submit important new information, through the departmental chair, both to the dean and to the P&T Committee, after the initial departmental vote. However, the P&T Committee is usually unwilling to accept further information once their deliberations have begun.

The members of the P&T Committee have the weighty task of deciding the future careers of their junior colleagues. They undertake this task with due seriousness and carefully review each dossier. After the P&T Committee has voted on each candidate, it sends its recommendations to the president for a final decision. Traditionally, the members of the P&T Committee do not simply vote "yes" or "no" but rather use a graded scoring system. The committee sends its entire scoring for a given candidate, complete with the average score and the range, to the president. This procedure ensures that the president receives a finely nuanced summary of the committee's view of each candidate.

The president reviews the decisions before sharing them informally with the candidates and presenting recommendations to the Board of Trustees for final approval. 

Policy 201 "Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure" allows candidates to appeal a negative decision to the Appeals and Grievances Committee of the Faculty Senate. It is important for candidates to realize that a decision can be appealed only on procedural grounds. That is, the candidate must demonstrate that correct procedure for presenting her/his case was not followed and further, that procedural error affected the evaluation in some substantive way. Without demonstrating this kind of error, a candidate cannot formally challenge the P&T Committee's assessment of the candidate's performance. More information on the appeals procedure may be found in Section 5.5 of the  Faculty Senate Bylaws and in the  Faculty Senate Rules for Appeals and Grievances.

C. Initial Appointments with Tenure

Faculty may enter Rice on tenured appointments. The P&T Committee reviews all such proposals for tenured appointments to determine whether the university's standards have been met.

D. Promotion to Full Professor

A procedure essentially identical to that used for the review associated with tenure and promotion from assistant to associate professor (discussed in Section VI.A) is used in connection with this promotion. Although this promotion can take place at any time after achieving the rank of associate professor,  Policy 201"Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure" specifies a schedule of formal reviews of all faculty at the rank of associate professor, aimed at determining their worthiness for further promotion. In considering individuals recommended for promotion to professor, the P&T Committee continues to place a primary emphasis on scholarship and teaching, but it looks closely at service since promotion to associate professor with tenure. In general, the faculty expects more service from tenured than untenured colleagues.