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External Letters of Assessment

Revised July, 2007; to be incorporated into the Faculty Evaluation Manual.

1. Process

The department head or designate (e.g., chair of a departmental tenure and promotion committee) is responsible for the process of obtaining letters from external evaluators. The head, or designate, should initiate 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. Candidates for tenure and promotion should not contact prospective or actual external evaluators under any circumstances.

2. Qualifications of External Evaluators

External evaluators should be distinguished individuals in the candidate’s field who are in a position to provide an authoritative 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 institutions or aspirational peer institutions, in particular, from faculty employed at AAU 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 must be able to furnish an objective evaluation of the candidate’s work and 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. A reviewer’s appearance on an academic panel or roundtable with the candidate or attendance at a symposium or conference with a candidate, taken alone, does not constitute a relationship with the candidate that could reduce objectivity. 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 Office of the Provost well in advance of making a request from 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.

3. Method for Obtaining External Assessments

  • The department head or designate, in consultation with departmental faculty, assembles a list of potential external evaluators.
  • The department head or designate requests the names of potential evaluators from the candidate.
  • The department head or designate also requests names of individuals the candidate wants excluded and the reasons for the exclusions.
  • The department head or designate will solicit eight to ten letters. No more than half of the letters solicited should come from the list suggested by the candidate.
  • The dossier will normally include no fewer than five letters from external evaluators.
  • All letters solicited and received must be included in the dossier unless the Office of Academic Affairs approves their removal from the review process.
  • The dossier will include a log documenting all requests for letters from external evaluators. The log documents the date on which each external letter was requested by the department head or designate and the date on which the letter was received. All requests should be entered, regardless of whether a response was obtained. 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.
  • 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.

4. Submission

Letters from external evaluators must be submitted by regular mail on institutional letterhead and carry the evaluator’s signature. Letters submitted via e-mail or facsimile are acceptable in cases of critical timing, but they should be followed by a mailed original. The mailed original then should be cross-checked against the e-mailed or facsimiled copy, and when it has been established that there have been no changes, the mailed original should be included in the candidate’s dossier.

5. Dossier

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.