External Letters of Evaluation

The unit head is the individual responsible for identifying and recruiting external reviewers to write letters of evaluation during the spring and summer terms of the year preceding the year that the review will be conducted. A minimum of five external letters is required for each case, making it advisable to arrange for at least six or seven.  

The unit must compile a list of possible external reviewers. The candidate may also provide a list, which should be compiled without knowledge of the unit’s list. If the candidate suggests a reviewer who also appears on the unit’s list, that reviewer may be considered an independent unit selection rather than one proposed by the candidate. 

There is no obligation to include reviewers suggested by the candidate, but it is advisable to do so unless the candidate has provided only names of individuals who appear to be inappropriate. 

Appropriate Reviewers 

All external evaluation letters should be solicited from disciplinary and professional leaders with no more than a professional knowledge of or relationship to the candidate. An absolute majority must also come from reviewers selected independently by the unit rather than suggested by the candidate.

  • Reviewers should be at or above the rank being sought, ideally at the rank of full professor, though an associate professor can serve as a reviewer, if that reviewer clearly represents an essential voice in the critical evaluation of the candidate’s scholarship/creative practice. 
  • Identify reviewers at comparable institutions.  
  • Reviewers should be leaders and respected colleagues in the disciplinary or professional field. 
  • Avoid reviewers with close relationships to the candidate. Relationships such as dissertation advisor, research collaborator within the past five years, or co-author within the past five years should be viewed as disqualifying, just as they are under federal conflict of interest guidelines. Close personal relationships are also problematic. Many other relationships are generally acceptable, but prospective reviewers who express concern about their ability to present an unbiased evaluation or are uncomfortable playing the role of an evaluator should be excused. 

Initial Solicitation of External Reviewers 

Once the list of prospective reviewers has been constructed, draw from this list to recruit reviewers. Unit heads alone are responsible for communicating with external reviewers throughout the promotion and tenure process. 

Typically, there will be three communications with those selected to serve as an external reviewer: an inquiry regarding availability to serve, a formal request for evaluation, an acknowledgment of receipt of letter. Templates for each are available below under Resources.  

While these templates may be customized, do not make statements such as: “We are trying to promote Professor X.” Please ensure that all reviewers are sent the same communications, the same set of materials to review, and each one is asked to address any personal or professional relationships with the candidate. One example of each communication should be placed in the dossier.  

Each external reviewer should receive: 

  • The candidate’s statement (signed and dated) 
  • The candidate’s CV (signed and dated) 
  • The candidate’s scholarship portfolio 
    • A comprehensive portfolio of scholarship, research, and/or creative practice, and appropriate evidence of national or international recognition or impact 
    • Depending on unit norms, the portfolio may include all or a selected set of publications 
    • The portfolio should include only materials that appeared during the period under review 
    • The portfolio may include examples of work in progress 
  • The unit promotion and tenure criteria document 
  • Acknowledgment of receipt of the letter of evaluation 

Declinations 

If a prospective reviewer declines to serve as a reviewer, retain a copy of that reviewer’s declination message. All declinations must be documented in the dossier. If the declination is received orally, by telephone or in person, provide a note in the dossier to that effect, including any reason(s) stated for the declination. 

Contact additional prospective reviewers in order to ensure timely receipt of an appropriate complement of reviews. It is important to ensure that a clear majority of the reviewers are independently selected by the unit and do not appear only on the candidate’s list of suggested reviewers. 

Resources