October 12, 2020
The results of the “Survey on Faculty Research and Creative Practice,” released in August 2020, made plain that the research productivity of UO faculty members may be negatively affected by the pandemic. These results are consistent with what faculty across the country have reported. The COVID-19 pandemic may have produced a range of impacts on the UO faculty’s research productivity. Some differences are attributable to personal circumstances, while others may be structural in nature. Our survey results and national data suggest that female faculty, faculty of color, and faculty with caregiving responsibilities may be disproportionately affected.
It is critical that universities acknowledge and be attentive to these issues. It is also critical that we seek to be responsive, compassionate, and fair. We want to prevent compounding any negative impacts of COVID-related disruptions and the disparities they have exacerbated. At the same time, we must operate within the parameters defined by our academic values and the inherent limitations of policy to address the full range of circumstances—both non-academic and academic—in an efficacious and satisfactory fashion.
Some existing policies and practices can be modified to make them more responsive to the acute needs of faculty. Other policies are less flexible. Criteria for promotion and tenure for tenure-line faculty must remain unaltered. There is a need to preserve clear and equitable standards for all faculty evaluated for promotion and tenure and related processes, standards enshrined in the United Academics collective bargaining agreement and unit-level policies. There is also a need to maintain rigorous promotion and tenure criteria in order to, first, fortify the UO’s standing as a major research university, and, second, ensure that tenure and promotion are not devalued, diluted, or otherwise compromised.
Our decision to grant a one-year, opt-in tenure clock extension to pre-tenure faculty related to the pandemic was made on the basis of the aforementioned principles, informed by recognition of the circumstances described in the preceding bullet points. More information about this tenure clock extension is available here.
The Office of the Provost is now prepared to provide units with further guidance. We affirm the indispensable role of reviews in faculty development. Therefore:
- Most faculty reviews will continue as planned, including annual reviews for pre-tenure faculty; promotion from associate to full professor; and 6th-year reviews for full professors.
- 3rd- and 6th-year reviews for associate professors and 3rd-year reviews for full professors scheduled for AY20-21, which do not carry salary increases, will be postponed until AY21-22 unless the faculty member eligible for a review opts to be reviewed. Postponement will change the review period but not the timing of the subsequent review. For example, an associate professor who ordinarily would have undergone a 3rd-year review in AY20-21 will instead be reviewed for 4 years in AY21-22, but their next review will take place 2 years later (AY23-24). It should be recognized that a faculty member who does not opt to be reviewed as originally scheduled will not benefit from the feedback furnished by a timely review. A tenured faculty member currently completing a development plan may, with the permission of their department head and dean, postpone completion of their plan by one year.
- We recognize that assistant and associate professors in particular may be adversely impacted by COVID-related disruptions to their research. With a view toward encouraging and supporting faculty research as well as enabling the completion of significant projects to accelerate progress toward promotion, the Office of the Provost has created a special $200,000 fund to spur the research of assistant and associate professors impacted by COVID. Priority will be given to (1) assistant professors and (2) associate professors who are within 4 years of their promotion to the associate rank.
- The Office of the Provost recognizes that all tenure-line faculty, at all career stages, have been affected by COVID-related disruptions, including the closure of campus and the transition to remote instruction.
- To that end, statements will be sent to department heads and deans to be shared with their personnel committees for all reviews both this year and in AY21-22 (and beyond, if necessary) to remind them of, and urge them to be sensitive to, the context in which reviews are taking place.
- A similar statement will be sent to external reviewers beginning in the AY21-22 major review cycle. The statement to be sent to external reviewers for tenure-and-promotion reviews, but not promotion to full professor reviews. The statement explicitly describes how external reviewers should understand and evaluate the research dossier of a pre-tenure faculty member who received a one-year, COVID-related tenure clock extension. The extension cannot be treated as “extra time” in that it should not raise expectations, create a negative impression or otherwise bias the faculty member. Rather, an extension should be treated as a way to account for potential delays resulting from COVID-related obstacles to research productivity.
- Faculty members undergoing major reviews, from annual reviews for pre-tenure faculty to 6th-year post tenure reviews for full professors, should feel free to describe the impact of COVID-19 when describing their research, teaching, service, and contributions to equity and inclusion in their personal statements.
- Peer Review of Teaching: The usual frequency for peer reviews gives units an opportunity to be strategic this year to minimize service loads. Career faculty and pre-tenure faculty who have completed their mid-term review are the most impacted groups and should be prioritized. Most associate and full professors could be skipped this year without impairing the unit’s ability to secure the requisite number of peer reviews prior to a major review. The Provost recommends that units strategize to complete those reviews necessary for an individual faculty member’s promotion and tenure case. Furthermore, recognizing that COVID has in some cases complicated the completion of the requisite number of reviews, we suggest that there be a minimum of two peer reviews in the post-mid-term review period for assistant professors being reviewed for promotion and tenure in AY20-21 and two peer reviews in the prior 6 years for associate professors being reviewed for promotion in AY20-21.
- The Office of the Provost has asked that all non-essential service be postponed this academic year as the UO continues to navigate the COVID crisis. Recognizing that what is considered essential is in many ways a local decision, department heads have been asked to convene their faculty to discuss essential service for the coming year and to address the equitable allocation of service, giving careful consideration to faculty with increased caregiver responsibilities, faculty rank, and faculty with other professional responsibilities. The following 3 overarching principles should guide departmental conversations about what is essential and non-essential service:
- the importance of shared governance;
- building community/support within departments; and
- the advancement of diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism.
- In addition, the Office of the Provost requests that department heads strive to limit the number and duration of meetings, to streamline essential service and, when possible, account for the needs of faculty members with caregiving and other personal needs when scheduling meetings, determining their duration, and deciding whether they are necessary.
- The current situation necessitates slight modifications to some normal operating procedures. Current OtP guidance regarding voting in promotion and tenure cases, which is consistent with Article 20, Section 15 of the United Academics collective bargaining agreement, applies imperfectly to the remote department meetings and voting necessitated by the pandemic. The best way to ensure a “signed, secret ballot” under the present circumstances is for department managers to distribute ballots electronically to eligible faculty. A faculty member casting a ballot will return it electronically to the department manager, who will collect, retain, and maintain the confidentiality of all ballots received. The email accompanying the returned ballot will constitute the faculty member’s signature.
Please let us know if you have any questions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for all your work to make UO a better institution.
Provost and Senior Vice President
Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs