Two Senate panels looking at faculty evaluations


Standardizing the annual faculty evaluation process across the University is the next aim of the Senate’s Faculty Affairs Committee.

Teaming with the Tenure and Academic Freedom Committee, Faculty Affairs members are trying to devise new, more specific guidelines for the evaluation process, which has not been fully revamped since 1999.

Standardization may be tough, members noted at their Feb. 18 meeting: Not all faculty are evaluated on all three traditional faculty roles — teaching, research and service — and each role is not valued in the same manner or proportion. Laurie Kirsch, vice provost for Faculty Affairs, Development and Diversity, acknowledged discussions between the provost’s office and individual deans through the years have created shifts in the evaluation process.

Tenure committee suggestions for evaluation guidelines included:

  • Every faculty member should receive information about how the annual review process works.

  • Tenure-stream faculty reviews should be conducted in all three performance areas: teaching, scholarship and service.

  • All faculty reviews should contain “concrete recommendations” for steps needed toward promotion and, where applicable, toward tenure.

  • Reviews should encompass faculty achievements and, where applicable, any improvements required, including remedial steps, with a timeline for their accomplishment.

  • Reviews should note specific goals for the coming year and any changes in job duties.

  • Reviews should contain a general recommendation for any salary changes.

  • Faculty should have the chance to meet with deans or other evaluators to discuss the review.

Committee co-chair Irene Frieze, of the Dietrich School's psychology department, said a call for the inclusion of salary information in the review letter would not work, since “the raises come at a different time — it’s a totally different system” from the evaluation process.

Committee member Pat Loughlin of the Swanson School’s bioengineering program added that professors may receive an above-average performance review and, for reasons outside their supervisor’s control, still get an average raise.

Mandating exactly whether, and how, teaching, research and service are evaluated each year is probably untenable, members agreed. For one, evaluations may simply note that research, for instance, is not expected of certain professors. 

For another, the percentage of emphasis among these three areas may not be clear to the individual instructor: “You’re doing things and you aren’t sure how they’re counted,” said committee secretary Suzanna Gribble of the Dietrich School’s biological sciences department.

On his Greensburg campus, said member Frank Wilson, former Senate president, faculty may receive oral instructions about what emphasis their supervisor puts on all three faculty roles, “but there is nothing in writing” — and the evaluation may end up weighting each role differently anyway.

Committee members also were concerned about asking evaluations to lay out concrete recommendations for promotion.

While Frieze hoped for “honest feedback” from evaluators, Loughlin wanted to know what “concrete recommendations” would entail — how concrete? how specific? — while committee co-chair Lorraine Denman felt it might be “dangerous” to list specific things needed to attain promotion.

At the end of the meeting, the committee decided to work on its own revision of the guideline language, directed by Denman and Loughlin.

In other committee news:

Denman and Frieze reported that University officials who had attended the last Faculty Affairs Committee meeting to discuss the nondiscrimination, equal opportunity, and affirmative action policy — which is so contentious it has so far been kept from faculty consideration — have responded to only one of the committee’s concerns, to date.

Once all the committee’s concerns are dealt with, “we would get another chance to look at this (policy), I assume?” asked committee member Tom Songer of the Graduate School of Public Health.

“Who knows?” said Frieze, noting that the same group of University administrators had not yet discussed the policy with the Tenure committee, as intended.

Aren’t there still many objections from other faculty, she asked.

“I hear the objections from Chris (Bonneau, Senate president),” responded Wilson. “He is not hiding his feelings. I think he’s speaking for the rest of us.”

Marty Levine is a staff writer for the University Times. Reach him at or 412-758-4859.


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