Upon assuming the Office of the Executive-Vice President and Provost last summer, I set as one of the strategic priorities for my Office to lead UNLV’s academic programs and faculty to renew our commitment to measurable excellence. In pursuit of that priority, I set as one of the top objectives for my office that we review our faculty evaluation processes, including annual evaluation and promotion and tenure.
Annually, the Faculty Senate Promotion and Tenure committee makes suggestions to the Provost’s office on how to improve the P&T process. This year, as part of our new team’s review of all existing processes, we have devoted particular attention to these recommendations, and I have asked my staff in the Office of Faculty, Policy and Research to begin to study national best practices on faculty performance evaluations and P&T processes. We have also initiated an on-going dialogue with faculty leadership and administrators, including the Senate executive and P&T committees, the president, our deans, and our chairs and directors, on how improve the quality and efficiency of the P&T and annual evaluation process.
While these conversations include some longer-term objectives by which academic units would update and specify their standards for faculty evaluation and promotion/tenure decisions, the clear focus for the short term has been on improving the convenience and usability of the forms themselves. These forms, originally mandated by the Board of Regents, have been the property of UNLV for years, but they have not been revised in quite some time, although the nature and activity level of our faculty have evolved considerably.
Moreover, it is clear that the time has come for UNLV to ensure secure and reliable document and information management in its faculty evaluation process – including beginning a transition to a fully electronic workflow, which would reduce paperwork demands on support staff across the university and allow faculty and supervisors to store securely and retrieve as necessary their work reports and evaluations.
Because improving these important processes raises complex issues that must be vetted before implementation, I am announcing today my intention to create a working group of faculty and administrators to explore these issues, which have been raised by the Senate leadership, and to advise Vice Provost Gregory Brown on a deliberate, consultative and effective implementation over the next few years. Today, I am asking Deans and the Senate executive committee to nominate faculty and administrators with extensive experience in the evaluation and P&T processes (such as current or former personnel committee and department chairs) who would be willing to serve on a work group to advise on form re-design for the annual work report, annual evaluation and P&T forms. This group will ensure that we update our forms in ways that serve the needs of our entire faculty -- including those faculty members whose work is creative or clinical as well as scholarly and those faculty members whose work is collaborative and multi-authored.
If you wish to nominate a colleague, or yourself, to participate on this work group, please forward nominations to your Dean or to Faculty Senate leaders this week.
To be clear, we will not be making any substantive changes this cycle to the materials or information that P&T candidates are asked to submit. However, we do anticipate reformatting the current application into an easier-to-use form for this cycle, and we hope to implement a clearer and more secure process for routing documents electronically next year for both P&T and annual evaluation. I have also asked my office to update the instructions and templates for supporting materials (such as external letters) for this fall’s P&T cycle.
To ensure that correct information and forms are available to candidates seeking promotion and/or tenure in 2014 from the first steps of next year’s process, I am asking Deans’ offices to submit the names of such candidates this spring, so that we will be able to contact them directly. We will also discuss, and welcome feedback, on this process at the annual promotion & tenure forum, hosted jointly by the Provost and Faculty Senate, which will take place this spring on Monday, April 22, at 10am in Student Union 205.
UNLV’s faculty has made clear to me in this first year as Provost that in our quest to achieve national prominence as a research university, we are ready to challenge ourselves, to improve ourselves, and to better serve our students and our community. I am confident that an on-going initiative to study, clarify and improve our evaluation processes and standards is a challenge that our faculty and academic leadership will embrace as an opportunity in both the short and longer-term.
John Valery White
Executive Vice President and Provost