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From the Provost
February 24, 2009, Volume 55, No. 23

On Annual Faculty Reviews

In recent years the University has reiterated and deepened its commitment to faculty development in a variety of ways. In partnership with the Faculty Senate and the schools, we have promulgated new “family friendly” policies relating to work-life balance (Almanac February 28, 2006), issued new mentoring guidelines for junior faculty (Almanac May 23, 2006), and worked with the schools and the Penn Association for Senior and Emeritus Faculty  (PASEF) to help ensure that faculty members are able to remain productively engaged with the Penn academic community in retirement. 

In the same spirit, in consultation with the Deans and the Tri-Chairs, we have devoted renewed attention to the ways in which faculty members receive feedback annually, generally in connection with the determination of merit-based salary increases. We are concerned that faculty members may often receive little if any information about the considerations of their work that enter into these annual evaluations, and they may not receive much useful feedback about their continued professional progress.

We believe that this process can be strengthened. 

Despite the many forms annual faculty reviews may take, they should share some common goals: to clarify performance expectations for individual members of the faculty; to ground annual salary recommendations in judgments of merit that are as fair and informed as possible; to foster open communication of faculty members’ career development plans; and to provide, where appropriate, a sound and fairly established basis for further mentorship, consultation, or adjustments to teaching or service activities. 

As with our earlier Mentoring Guidelines for Junior Faculty, the goal is to preserve the autonomy and diversity of school practices, while ensuring that those practices are fully disclosed to the faculty, standardized within each school, and applied evenly to all standing faculty members. While we encourage a diversity of practices and frank and spirited discussion of best practices for each school, school-based practices should have some commonality. We thus request:

• That each of the schools develop a written statement of annual faculty review procedures

• That this statement be adopted in keeping with the customary practices of each school faculty

• That these procedures be periodically reviewed to gauge their efficacy

• That all members of a school’s standing faculty be informed of these procedures.

With respect to the substance of the procedures, we expect a variety of models, each adapted to the particular needs of the school. Adopted procedures should, however, provide for the following:

• That the review, whether undertaken by a dean, department chair, or faculty group acting on their behalf, take into careful consideration a faculty member’s scholarship, teaching, and service activities

• That the review should solicit appropriate information about scholarship, teaching, and service activities without placing undue burdens on faculty members; and that, in any event, each faculty member should have the opportunity to submit a written report covering scholarship, teaching, and service in conjunction with a review

• That each faculty member receive, in either oral or written form, some substantive feedback following review. While the form of this feedback will likely vary by discipline, it should enable the faculty member to understand how his or her scholarship, teaching, and service have been assessed over the past academic year, and the way in which this assessment has informed the determination of any salary increase.

—Ronald Daniels, Provost

Almanac - February 24, 2009, Volume 55, No. 23