Monday, November 15, 2010

File Time : The Question

Through various conversations in the past few months, I have tried to figure something out:

How much time do tenure and promotion committees typically spend on each candidate's file? I am speaking here of the P&T committee that is at the college/school level of a university or the equivalent at a smaller institution (i.e., above the department level).

If you have not (yet) been on such a committee: What is your guess for the range of typical duration of file-gazing/discussing?

If you are tenure-track faculty, do you hope this is a long time or a short time?

If you have been on such a committee: How much time did you spend on a typical file, and/or what is the total range of time, from the easy cases to the difficult cases?

Do you think or know that your experience differs from that of colleagues on similar committees in other parts of your institution or at different institutions?

Today I am posing these questions to see what kind of comments come in. Ideally, there will be comments with guesses from the uncommitteed as well as data from P&T committee members.

For now, I will just say that the results of my informal, statistically meaningless, anecdotal investigations surprised me.

25 comments:

mOOm said...

More time than you thought or less?

Anonymous said...

I've sat on college level committees.

When you say "how long did the committee spend?", presumably you mean *as* a committee -- ie, discussing the case in a meeting, as opposed to outside time reading the file, etc (which can take a lot of time, too).

"Easy" cases were typically reviewed in 45 mins or so. Hard cases took several (long) meetings to resolve.

a physicist said...

Haven't been on the committee yet, but have heard rumors from those who have served. My impression is 1-2 hours in advance reading a file, 1-2 hours discussion at the meeting per file.

Female Genetics Professor said...

I served on my School's APT committee for 4 years. Our meetings were an hour long. We usually reviewed about 3 applications. Easy ones (obviously qualified for promotion and tenure) usually took about 10 minutes. More difficult ones 20-35 minutes.

Anonymous said...

At the university where I teach, there is no college/university-level P&T committee to speak of. The department makes the decision, forwards the documentation to the Dean of the School, and it is either approved or not. As far as I know, there is no committee that assists him or her in this decision-making process.

It is incredibly rare to have a departmental decision overridden. The only reason for the check is to ensure compliance with the Collective Agreement (unionized faculty).

As far as the departmental committee, I've sat on it twice, and both times it was approximately 2 hours reviewing the file individually, and then 1-2 hours per candidate all told in meetings. The easy cases were easy: short discussion, unanimous vote, move on. The hard case took us 5 hours, where someone was up for renewal (3 years Assistant track) and we had to write a letter explaining to him that he was in danger of being denied tenure at the 6-year point due to teaching and student interaction issues. That took a lot of discussion and fine-tuning on the letter.

Anonymous said...

I served on the campus-wide committee. It would take me 3 to 4 hours of careful reading to review each file. The meeting on each candidate would typically take an hour. If I was responsible for writing the letter, that would take another couple of hours. In rare cases there would be follow-up meetings that might take another couple hours...

(FWIW, our campus doesn't use external evaluations)

Namnezia said...

I'm too nervous to even think about this...

Anonymous said...

On a committee. 1-2 hours to read the file, then 2-4 hours of discussion, voting, writing of the committee letter for each. Even routine cases require a lot of time because each one deserves thorough consideration.

Anonymous said...

Our committee writes a document for each aspect of a candidate's job description (research, teaching, and service) as well as a summary letter. Usually, the first draft is tackled by a smaller subcommittee that spends 3-5 hours constructing these documents while everyone on the committee reads the entire file, including up to 12 outside letters which typically takes at least a few hours to get through. Then the entire committee spends at least 3 to 4 hours over several meetings revising these documents and reviewing the file before the final meeting which involves voting. That part is quick for an easy file (e.g. 10 minutes) but can last an hour (or longer) for a tough case.

MathTT said...

I'm with Namnezia. This whole conversation terrifies me. Let's move it along.

gerty-z said...

I'm gonna third the comment from Namnezia. Yikes!

Female Science Professor said...

Maybe I should add "academic sadism" as a tag?

Alex said...

Honestly, I doubt our university-level committee spends much time on it at all. Our system is uniquely screwed up: Instead of a 3 year reappointment, we do reappointment ever freaking year until tenure (except in the first year), which totally clogs up the system. With the untenured faculty submitting 2.5x as many packages as at other schools, I doubt the committee has much time to do more than a perfunctory read.

As insane as this system is, the lifers have all "drunk the kool-aid" and give one of our school's classic speeches when confronted with the insanity: "But, you see, the great thing about our system is..."

They usually follow it up with a reminder that things used to be even more insane, with a reappointment application in year 1, which meant that an assistant professor who had been on campus for all of a month prepared a package on "What I've accomplished this past month and why it's so awesome that I deserve another year." The lesson I take from this is that if you do something really, really, really screwed up, if you then replace it with something that is less insane but still insane, people will worship the new system.

Anonymous said...

I am currently up for tenure, so I look forward to hearing the responses.

My guess would be that, with the exception of the chair, the departmental committee members spend an hour at most reviewing the file. The chair probably has to spend several hours longer to review and organize the materials.

At the university-level committee, I would guess that very little time is spent on clear cases in which all the previous votes have agreed and the faculty member is bringing in what the school sees as a good amount of grant money. Beyond that, I'm not sure.

GMP said...

I haven't been on the university T&P committee yet, but have talked to several people who were on it. At my university, the university T&P committee actually delegates each tenure case to a subcommittee of 3, who go through the dossier with a fine-tooth comb, talk to the department chair and so on (all this obviously takes many hours and I hear they are very meticulous). The subcommittee presents the case to the rest of the committee. This presentation plus the discussion and voting that follow likely don't take longer than 20-30 min for straightforward cases, but can go for 2+ hours for problematic/borderline ones.

STP said...

I am pre-tenure, so haven't served on such a committee yet. At my SLAC, committee members claim to spend a lot of time looking at files, but I'm not convinced they are very careful about it. In my last feedback letter, ALL of the committee members had somehow overlooked my most recent publication. I hope they are more careful this year reviewing my tenure portfolio.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

We have many levels of review:
department committee
department whole faculty
dean
ad hoc committee (new one for each promotion)
campus-wide committee
Chancellor

Each level can have a different recommendation, though the department committee recommendation and the ad hoc committee recommendation are not part of the permanent record.

I've served on department committees (generally about 3 hours to read the file, an hour to discuss it, and 2-3 hours individually to draft department letter), on the department faculty (generally about an hour to review the committee letter and tweak things), and the ad hoc committee (generally about 2 hours to read the file and 30 minutes to an hour for the meeting). I don't think that the other levels spend near as much time, as they need to process many more people.

Anonymous said...

I'm currently on TT, so no prior experience with this topic. My guess for the campus-level committee is 10 minutes for easy cases and maybe an hour or so for difficult cases? I know that the campus-level committee at my school looks at several packets in one of their monthly meetings, so they can't be spending too much time on it.

Ann said...

I am on the college council which advices on tenure promotion cases. One member typically prepares a presentation, and reads the submitted materials such preparation can take 2-4 hours, and reading the materials can take days. the other committee members read the tenure file but not the research materials. The committee listens to the presentation and discusses a strong straightforward case for about 15 minutes, or a complicated case may take several meetings, consultations with the chair etc.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was just tenured last year, I still vividly remember the stomach-dropping panic this kind of post induces in Namnezia et al. But now it makes me want to giggle and skip through a field of daisies. La la la la la....

Alex, my university reappoints in the first year, which means two months after you arrive.

Anonymous said...

I served for 4 years. There was an initial review by a 3-person subcommittee and then a review by the full committee. As a subcommittee member, I would read virtually every word of the file - probably a 1-2 hour task. If needed, I would do supplemental reading to gain perspective on the importance of the candidate's contributions. Writing the subcommittee's report took another 0.5 - 1 hours. If I were not on the subcommittee, I would read the CV and letters of recommendation in detail and would typically skim the rest looking for red (or green) flags but did not feel compelled to read every word - probably a 0.3 - 1 hour task and usually closer to 0.3 hrs. At full committee meeting, straightforward promotions would take as little as 10 minutes. Difficult cases would take what seemed like an hour, but in reality was typically probably 30-40 minutes.

Alex said...

Alex, my university reappoints in the first year, which means two months after you arrive.

That's insane. I guess there are people who have it worse than me.

Although, from what the old-timers tell me, back when they did first-year reappointments the deadline was so early that the typical reappointment packet was even worse than yours. "Dear committee members, I showed up 4 weeks ago, spent a few days in orientation, spent two weeks setting into my office and prepping classes, gave two lectures, and then started preparing this packet. On the basis of that work, would you reappoint me?"

Lynne said...

I've served on T&P Committees at the Department, College and University levels and across three research institutions. I agree with the above comments stating that clear cases only take about 10 minutes. I urge all my junior colleagues to be that kind of "slam dunk" case. In general, the more talk time a case gets, the worse the case -- especially at research-driven "R-1" universities.

gasstationwithoutpumps said...

"In general, the more talk time a case gets, the worse the case -- especially at research-driven "R-1" universities."

I disagree---the longest discussions come for the very top cases, where the department is pushing for an extreme acceleration. Every bit of evidence in the file needs to be found and polished, since the administration pushes back hard---they want to keep salaries down to the lowest levels they can get away with.

YoungSeniorProf said...

1-2 hours reading files, 1-2 hours discussing with committee members, 3-5 hours writing the committee's report (when serving as the committee's chair). Most of the work is the kind of work that I find rewarding and part of our responsibilities. Writing the report, on the other hand, is just plain work (I hate writing).