SENATE COMMITTEE ON INTRA-UNIVERSITY RELATIONS
Interim report on implementation of AC-21
During the March 21, 2017 plenary session, the Senate approved revisions to AC 21 Definition of Academic Ranks (formerly HR 21) in the advisory and consultative report titled Recommendation for Standardizing Titles for Non-tenure-line Faculty across Units submitted by the Senate committee on Faculty Affairs. President Barron approved the recommendations outlined in this report and asked the Vice President of Human Resources and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs to implement the recommendations. AC 21was updated on July 1, 2017. On December 5, 2017, both the Senate and the president approved further revisions to AC 21, which incorporated language to include standing, non-tenure-line faculty to the policy.
The policy clearly indicates that Colleges should have their own guidelines for distinguishing between lecturer/instructor, assistant/associate/full professor positions or for promoting from one rank to the other, but all units should operate under the following University assumptions:
- Although there can be exceptions, positions above the first rank are designed to be promotion opportunities, with a recommended period of at least five years in rank as an instructor or lecturer (or, for fixed-term and standing faculty without tenure who hold terminal degrees, assistant teaching/research/clinical professors) before consideration for promotion. Fixed-Term and Standing non-tenure-line faculty should become eligible for promotion to the second rank after five years in rank, and would be permitted to compile their promotion dossiers in their fifth year. There should be no fixed time period for promotion to the third rank. Reviews for promotions should be conducted solely with regard to the merit of the candidate.
- Reviews for promotion of the full-time fixed-term faculty shall be conducted by Fixed-Term Promotion Review Committees. Fixed-Term Promotion Review Committees shall be constituted as follows: each of the colleges at University Park shall establish a committee for that college; each of the five stand-alone campuses (Abington, Altoona, Behrend, Berks, Harrisburg) shall establish a committee for that campus; each of the Special Mission Campuses (Great Valley, College of Medicine, and Dickinson Law) shall establish a committee for that campus; and the University College shall establish one committee composed of full-time fixed-term faculty from the campuses within the University College, with no more than one member from any campus. If a unit shall have fewer than seven fixed-term faculty members, at least two members of that unit’s Fixed-Term Review Committee shall be drawn from another unit’s Fixed-Term Review Committee. Only full-time fixed-term faculty members in each unit are eligible to serve on and to vote for the members of the review committee in their unit. Only faculty of higher rank than the candidate should make recommendations about promotions. If there should be insufficient numbers of higher-ranked fixed-term faculty, exceptions to this provision may be permitted by the Executive Vice President and Provost at the request of the academic unit.
- The promotion procedure itself should include recommendations by both (a) campus/department faculty committee, (b) the DAA or department/division head, and (c) the approval of the campus chancellor and/or dean of the college.
- All promotions should be accompanied by a promotion raise, in addition to a merit raise, to be determined and funded by the college.
- The exceptions to this policy are the College of Medicine, the Colleges of Law (Dickinson and University Park), and the University Libraries, since their faculty have for many years been hired off the tenure-track and do not create confusion about their relation to tenure-track faculty.
The charge to the Committee on Intra-University Relations was to “Conduct a mid-year report on the status of the fixed-term promotions committee. Have they established their committees? Have they met? Are they actively reviewing candidates?”
The committee developed a survey for both faculty governance leaders and administrators. The survey was open between December 7, 2017 and January 12, 2018. This study focused on the assumptions listed in AC-21, knowledge of the changes, implementation of the policy at the individual units, development and composition of the individual committee, development of guidelines for the committee to utilize for candidates, and number of expected candidates for the upcoming year. It is difficult to draw global inferences regarding the process throughout the University, as the response rate was 19% for faculty governance representatives and 38% from the pool of administrative staff. However, there are particular themes for further exploration noted in the commentary sections of the survey.
Many units indicated they have begun the process but are in various levels of implementation. This may stem from two areas. One faculty respondent noted that many faculty thought there were three levels of promotion, rather than two. Another noted that “having the specific guidelines sooner would have been helpful.” However, all of the administrators answered positively to the two first questions: “Do you feel that the information regarding AC-21 was communicated to your unit in a timely manner?” and “Do you feel that your unit was given adequate information to effectively implement the changes to fixed-term promotion?” The questions about resources may indicate a similar inconsistency of focus. Based on the limited survey results, faculty seemed focused on logistical difficulties such as lack of faculty of suitable rank to serve, and the need for committee members from other units while administration respondents seemed more focused on financial resources.
Some units have been proactive with adaptation of existing promotions and tenure processes for the new committee. Most appear to have devised systems for their specific needs for the election or assignment of committee members. However, there are three areas of concern within the commentary of faculty respondents. The administrators have generally written the guidelines with review by the faculty. Department heads appoint candidates for a controlled election. However, there are two separate comments related to the idea that “no changes were made based on faculty input” and another regarding the eligibility for the third level for those faculty without a terminal degree, indicating they would be eligible at the college level, in this case, not at the discipline level. AC 21 specifically states:
- The promotion procedure itself should include recommendations by both a campus/department faculty committee, (b) the DAA or department/division head, and (c) the approval of the campus chancellor and/or dean of the college.
- Ranks for non-tenure-line (fixed-term or standing) teaching faculty Associate Teaching Professor – Alternatively, the associate teaching professor without a terminal degree should possess at least a master’s degree or its equivalent in an academic field related to his/her teaching specialization; must have demonstrated exceptional ability as a teacher and adviser while in the rank of senior lecturer or instructor; and must have shown evidence of professional growth, scholarship, and/or mastery of subject matter at a level of distinction beyond that of the assistant teaching professor.
The second area of concern expressed was that part of the plan for promotion included maintaining departmental average grade distributions. For example: One respondent’s interpretation was that above average teachers whose learners have better grades may be penalized. In cases where there is only one instructor for a course, or few instructors, the grade distribution could be skewed. AC 21 specifically states:
- There should be no fixed time period for promotion to the third rank. Reviews for promotions should be conducted solely with regard to the merit of the candidate.
The units seem to be in various stages of changing their bylaws and constitutions to incorporate AC-21. Some are awaiting completion of the formal guidelines, while others have plans for making the changes in the near future timelines of March or April 2018. Timelines for promotion appear to be planned in the cases of most respondents. Many of the respondents in both groups anticipate promotions for fixed-term faculty this year, though it appears that faculty are not aware of those candidates that have been identified in many cases, and Human Resource matters are confidential.
As the surveys were conducted two months before the publication of this informational report, the Office of the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs will have made additional changes in the implementation of AC-21, presumably fixing some of the issues outlined above. Based on the respondents it appears that there is progress in the promotion of non-tenured faculty in the establishment of committees, and interim plans for lack of faculty of the appropriate rank to serve on the promotion committee. Working with the Office of the Vice Provost of Academic Affairs, the Senate will continue to monitor the progress of implementation.
- Andrew August
- Harold Aurand
- Matthew Clifford
- Will Dunn
- Peter Eberle
- Ryan Elias
- Raymond Funk
- David Kahl
- Kevin Koudela
- Carolyn Mahan
- Tiyanjana Maluwa
- Clifford Maurer
- Kevin McDade
- Timothy Palmer, Vice Chair
- Rosemarie Petrilla, Chair
- Carla Pratt
- Francesca Ruggiero
- Brian Saunders
- Ann Schmiedekamp
- Richard Shrugalla
- Roger Subramanian
- Johanna Wagner