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                                                                                                           November 12, 2020   

Dear Colleagues,

In my October 22 email, I shared a series of initiatives and decisions to support faculty affected by the unprecedented disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, I mentioned that additional measures were under consideration. After further consultation with the Deans and the Faculty Affairs Committee, I would like to share the following decisions. 

Tenure Clock Extension

In my March 31 update to faculty, I announced that probationary faculty could request a tenure clock extension from the Provost, citing the extenuating circumstances of the pandemic with its disruptions to research and conference travel, school closures, and caregiving responsibilities. Those disruptions continue, and may for the remainder of this academic year. Therefore, we extend the invitation to request a tenure clock extension to probationary tenure stream faculty who joined us in 2020-21. 

We would also like to remind probationary faculty who did not request an extension in the spring that they may do so this quarter. There is no harm in requesting the extension now; you can always choose to apply for tenure on your original timetable. Applications for tenure clock extensions on the grounds of pandemic disruptions will not be granted retroactively in future years, as we anticipate returning to a predictable probationary schedule consistent with Faculty Handbook 3.4.1. 

If a faculty member has elected to extend their tenure clock by one year and the request has been approved by the Provost, mid-probationary reviews will typically be conducted during the fourth year of an eight-year probationary period. The discretionary tenure clock extension is an existing provision of Faculty Handbook 

University Procedures for Mid-Probationary Review 2020-21, and the Tenure Clock Extension Form, are available in the Evaluation and Promotion section of the Provost Office website. 

Use of SETs this academic year

On the recommendation of the Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC), and with the support of the Deans, we will continue to administer the Student Evaluation of Teaching (SET) in each term this academic year and to use the results in faculty evaluation and promotion.

Guidance for the Evaluation of Teaching

Given the inherent limitations of SETs and our allowance for faculty to choose whether to include Winter, Spring and Summer 2020 SETs in current and future evaluation and promotion portfolios, some departments will need to expand the measures of teaching performance used in faculty evaluation. This effort, long advocated by lecturer groups on campus, will bring us into line with best practices at other universities.

In my October 22 email, I wrote that the Faculty Development program would provide a resource to assist faculty and evaluation committees as they review Faculty Activities Reports and promotion portfolios that encompass the disrupted quarters. These Guidelines for Evaluation of Teaching in 2019-20, reviewed by the Faculty Affairs Committee, Deans, and Department Chairs, are now available. 

How the faculty in your department decide to apply these guidelines to faculty evaluation this year and in future years is a choice each department will have to make. We encourage departments to include all faculty subject to evaluation in the decision-making process. We further encourage departments to publish their clarifications of the teaching criterion, as you have for scholarship standards, so that the evaluation process is as transparent as possible (Faculty Handbook 3.4.2). To that end, the deans and the Provost will oversee and approve department statements on the evaluation of teaching, to assure the ongoing use of the adapted framework for faculty evaluation, as recommended by FAC. 

Sample Questions for Evaluation of Online Courses

Recognizing that our current student evaluations are not tailored to online course delivery, the Faculty Development Program offers a few sample questions that your department might adapt and include in narrative student evaluations, if your department uses such an instrument. 

  1. What helped you learn in this course?
  2. What changes would improve your learning?

I am profoundly impressed by the tremendous efforts of faculty to meet the array of obstacles we face this year. The Fall 2020 Mid-quarter Survey Results for Undergraduate Students reveals that students are seeing and appreciating the hard work you have all been putting in. I hope that the decisions announced today provide some relief to our newest tenure-stream colleagues, and signal our commitment to fair evaluation practices that maintain our academic excellence in a spirit of compassionate accommodation.


Lisa A. Kloppenberg                                                                                                       Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Kitty Murphy                                                                                                                   Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs