External Review for Promotion and Tenure · 13
“evaluative comments,” “objective appraisal,”
“candid appraisal,” “critical evaluation,” “letter
of assessment,” “substantive and rigorous evalua-
tion,” or “comment in a discriminating and objec-
tive way”—or from the criteria for selecting exter-
nal reviewers, such as “Objective evaluators with-
out conflicts of interest,” and “unbiased, external
evaluators.” Based on these statements, for nearly
half of the institutions external reviews are to be
unbiased evaluations or critical assessments of the
At three institutions, the language in the in-
structions to the external reviewers or from the
criteria for selecting external reviewers reveals that
the purpose of the external review is to put the can-
didate in a positive light. For example: “Your name
has been suggested…as someone who could write
a recommendation on [candidate’s] behalf refer-
ees contacted by the candidate who have “agreed
to write positive written letters of recommenda-
tion and external reviewers are “expected to dis-
play the academic professional and his/her activi-
ties and achievements in the most advantageous
light.” At one of these institutions, the positive let-
ters are paired with letters designed to evaluate the
candidate critically and objectively.
Five institutions (17%) require external reviews
only for those candidates seeking the top one or
two highest ranks and this occurs primarily in
systems with four or five ranks. One institution re-
quires external reviews only for candidates seeking
continuing appointment.
Soliciting Reviews
At 30 of the responding libraries (79%), candi-
dates for promotion or tenure identify potential
external reviewers. In all but six of these libraries,
they receive assistance from review committees
and/or the library director. It is also not unusual
for supervisors to assist candidates in this process.
Personnel officers are involved at only three of the
libraries. At five of the eight libraries where the
candidate does not identify reviewers, the com-
mittee and/or library director most often does so.
At one library, the external reviewers are those li-
brary directors who serve on the visiting Library
Advisory Council. At another, the candidate’s su-
pervisor identifies reviewers, while at the third it
is the unit director, who may not be the candidate’s
immediate supervisor.
Somewhat unexpectedly, the documentation of
five institutions specifies that the candidate has the
opportunity to identify people (s)he would prefer
not be asked to provide an external review and why.
At two of these institutions, a person who has been
identified by the candidate as inappropriate may
still be asked to write a review, but the review must
be accompanied by the candidate’s objection and
a rationale on why (s)he was chosen as a reviewer
against the candidate’s expressed concerns.
Nearly three-fourths of the respondents indi-
cated that reviewers are selected based on their
reputation in the candidate’s area of expertise. For
six, this is the only criterion, the remainder chose
multiple criteria. Rank of the reviewer is the second
most important factor and some select reviewers
because their home institution has similar promo-
tion and tenure criteria. Other criteria include the
reviewer’s knowledge of the candidate’s contribu-
tions and the favorable reputation of the reviewer’s
institution. For example, six institutions specifically
require that reviewers come from a “comparable,”
“peer,” or “benchmark” institution or otherwise
comment on the quality of the institution where
the reviewer works. Four require that reviewers be
considered experts in their field. Five require a spe-
cific rank for the external reviewer, most commonly
at the rank to which the candidate aspires or above.
In one case, only full professors or the equivalent
can be selected as external reviewers.
Some libraries seek input from reviewers who
have had limited or no contact with the candidate
while others seek out reviewers with knowledge of
the candidate and his/her contributions. According
to a review of the procedural documents, five insti-
tutions either require that letters come both from
Previous Page Next Page