18 · SPEC Kit 293
law or university policy. More than a third of the
documents reviewed required that external review
letters remain strictly confidential the candidate is
not allowed to see them or respond to their con-
tents. A small number state that the candidate can
request to see the letter in redacted form where all
identifying information is blacked out. In one case,
the candidate has five days to respond to the con-
tents of a letter, but it is not clear whether the let-
ter is in redacted form. In another case, state law
dictates that the candidate has the right to see ex-
ternal review letters if (s)he makes a request. It is
not clear whether the letters are in redacted form
or identifying information is available to the can-
didate who reviews them. In two cases, the insti-
tution allows the candidate to choose among op-
tions: waiving their rights to see the letter, seeing
the letter in redacted form, or seeing the complete
letter with identification of the reviewer included.
In both cases, the reviewer is apprised of whether
the candidate will see the letter when they conduct
the review.
Unique Features of the Review Process
The review of procedural documents also revealed
these interesting features of the external review
A small number of institutions specifically
state that external review letters may be used
again for another review at a later date. For
example, documentation from one university
says that external review letters “may be used
again” but cannot be used selectively. All of
the letters must be used or none of them may
The documentation for another university
talks about “interviews with referees,” but it
isn’t clear whether this is done in addition to
a written external evaluation or in lieu of a
written review.
In one document, knowledge of the candidate
is considered “evidence of the candidate’s
visibility” and is defined as having heard the
candidate present a paper, having read an
article by the candidate, etc.
At another university, the library faculty
personnel committee reads the external
review letters and prepares a “written analysis
of the validity and significance of the reviews
Three institutions specifically require that all
letters solicited must be included in the file
whether negative or positive.
Several institutions also state that negative
input from external evaluators should be
addressed rather than ignored.
Nearly all of the institutions that supplied
procedural documents specifically require
reviewers or the person who selects the
reviewer to document the relationship of the
reviewer to the candidate.
Two institutions specifically require that
letters written to solicit outside evaluation
contain neutral language about the candidate.
These survey results clearly show that external
reviews carry weight in tenure and promotion de-
cisions with both peers and administrators. They
also show a significant amount of collegiality on
the part of faculty who are asked to perform exter-
nal reviews. Although there are some similarities
and patterns in the process of conducting outside
peer reviews, procedures vary across institutions.
In some cases, these variations are due to institu-
tional policy. In others, they seem to be choices
made by the library faculty in developing their in-
ternal procedures.
Nonetheless, what is striking about these sur-
vey results is how closely they mirror other studies
of the external review process in some areas, yet
differ widely in others. For example, when Reilly,
Carlisle, Mikan, and Goldsmith surveyed nursing
schools, they found that external reviews were re-
quired by 60% of institutions for tenure and 64%
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