Skip to content Skip to main navigation Report an accessibility issue

External Letters of Assessment

The following information can be found in the Faculty Handbook (version: January 2021) on pages 33 – 34, section F.

The department head manages the process of obtaining required letters of assessment from external evaluators. The head may designate responsibility for obtaining the letters to another tenured member of the department, such as the chair of a departmental tenure and promotion committee. External evaluators are charged with assessing the candidate’s research/scholarship/creative activity only;

  1. Qualifications of external evaluators. External evaluators should be distinguished individuals in the candidate’s field who are in a position to provide an authoritative and objective assessment of the candidate’s research record and to comment on its significance in the discipline. Whenever possible, letters should be solicited from individuals at peer or aspirational institutions. If individuals at non-peer institutions are solicited for letters, the department head must explain the reasons for the choice of these individuals (including, without limitation, evidence of the reviewer’s exemplary experience and standing in the candidate’s field). Evaluators will normally hold the rank of professor and must have attained at least the rank to which the candidate aspires. Evaluators may not be former advisors, post-doctoral supervisors, close personal friends of the candidate, or others whose relationship with the candidate could reduce objectivity. If the evaluator has had a collaborative scholarly or research relationship with the candidate, the nature of that collaboration and the relative contributions of the candidate must be clearly described by the evaluator. Questions concerning the eligibility of potential evaluators should be referred to the office of the dean and, where appropriate (e.g., where the department is a college or where the dean is uncertain about how to resolve the matter), the chief academic officer well in advance of making a request to the individuals in question. Each evaluator will be asked to state expressly in his or her review letter the nature of any association with the candidate.
  2. Solicitation of the letters. The head or designate initiates the process of obtaining external letters of assessment far enough in advance of the review process that letters are in the dossier and available to peer review committees and administrators at all levels of review. In no case should the candidate directly solicit the external letters of assessment or contact prospective or actual external evaluators. The following process may be followed:
    1. The department head or designate, in consultation with departmental faculty, assembles a list of potential external evaluators;
    2. The department head or designate requests the names of potential evaluators from the candidate;
    3. The department head or designate also requests names of individuals the candidate wants excluded and the reasons for the exclusions; The University of Tennessee, Knoxville – Faculty Handbook Provost – Faculty Affairs – January 1, 2020 34
    4. The department head or designate will normally solicit 8-10 letters. No more than half of the letters solicited may come from the list suggested by the candidate;
    5. The department head or designate will send to the external evaluators information and documentation for use in preparing the external assessment including the candidate’s curriculum vitae, appropriate supporting materials concerning the candidate’s research or creative activity, and the departmental and collegiate statements of criteria for promotion and/or tenure;
    6. The dossier will include a log documenting all requests for letters from external evaluators. The log documents the dates on which each external letter was requested and entered into the dossier. The log will also indicate which evaluators come from the candidate’s list and which are from the list of the department head or designate. All requests should be entered regardless of whether a response was obtained;
    7. The dossier will typically include no fewer than five letters from external evaluators. In the event that a dossier has fewer than five letters from external evaluators, the department head must discuss the reasons with the dean and/or chief academic officer. The dean or the chief academic officer may ask the department head to solicit additional letters in order to meet the typical required minimum number of external assessments;
    8. All letters solicited and received must be included in the dossier unless the chief academic officer approves their removal from the review process.
  3. Form for submission of letters. Letters from external evaluators must be submitted on institutional letterhead and carry the evaluator’s signature. These letters, or their images, may be submitted via regular mail, e-mail, or facsimile. If multiple versions of a letter are received, then all versions should be retained in the candidate’s dossier.
  4. Brief biography of evaluators. The department head or designate is responsible for providing and including in the candidate’s dossier a brief biographical statement about the credentials and qualifications of each external evaluator; special attention should be given to documenting the evaluator’s standing in his or her discipline as part of the biographical statement.
  5. Right of the Faculty Member to Review External Letters: External letters of assessment will be made available to the candidate upon the candidate’s written request to the department head.