External Review for Promotion and Tenure · 49
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Finally, it is expected that evaluators will normally be of a senior rank (full professor or
equivalent) and never of a rank lower than the proposed rank of the candidate.
Objectivity of Evaluators. Letters from close colleagues/collaborators, former
professors, and mentors will very likely be discounted by the Campus Committee on
Promotion and Tenure. Letters from such individuals are discouraged, essentially on
grounds of conflict of interest. If a department uses such an individual, the reasons for
the extraordinary choice must be explained in the papers. In considering the use of
“colleagues or collaborators” of the candidates, the guiding principle is to avoid recourse if
the reviewer stands to benefit from the success of the reviewee. In general, one could
expect that this would be true if the two shared a common grant, or were close
collaborators on a number of common projects, for example. This phrase is not meant to
exclude colleagues who have knowledge of the reviewee from ordinary professional
contact in a community of scholars.
It is not appropriate to argue that a person cannot be evaluated except by a very small
community, all of whom have a demonstrable conflict of interest of the kind described
here. Scholarship of the quality that is to be recognized by promotion and tenure on this
campus is expected to have substantial impact; that is, it must affect a community
substantially larger than this sort of argument can admit.
Procedure for Soliciting Letters. Usually letters requesting an evaluation of the
candidate’s record are solicited by mail. This section describes language that must be used
in the letters soliciting the evaluation. Some departments choose to make prior telephone
contact with potential reviewers to ascertain the referee’s willingness to provide a review
of a candidate. When this type of contact is made, it is essential that neutrality about the
candidate be maintained in the telephone conversation in the manner required in the
written request to provide a review. If the reviewer agrees, the letter of confirmation
should include the required language outlined below. In cases where the contacted party
declines to serve as a reviewer, the name of the individual contacted must be included with
the list of referees (section VI. B) and the reason for declining the request should be
A copy of the letter or letters of solicitation must be in the recommendation package. (If
the same letter was sent to several different individuals, only one of the letters of
solicitation need be submitted.) It is extremely important that these letters reflect the
exacting standards for promotion and tenure at our institution.
Required Elements
Neutrality. Letters to outside referees must not include passages such as “We have
decided to recommend the promotion of . . .” or “Will you please help us to make a case
for . . .” or “We are very pleased with X; she is an excellent . . .” Such phrases are likely
to bias the response of the outside referee, for they present the evaluator with the
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