Improving Documentation for Promotion and Tenure

Academic Leader

At most colleges and universities, the documentation that faculty members submit when applying for tenure or promotion is so massive as to be burdensome at the same time that it is often unhelpful to the review committee. The result of this practice is that candidates spend weeks or even months amassing materials, and then promotion and tenure committees have incredible masses of documentation to read. If you ask about this excessive documentation, most committees issue statements along the lines of "We read every single document submitted to us." Nevertheless, even that response poses a problem. Either the committee is being disingenuous and not doing what it claims to be doing (thus probably missing important information as it skims through multiple volumes of material) or it actually is reading every word submitted to it (thus spending time reading thank-you notes, multiple copies of nearly identical course syllabi, and duplicates of information that already appears in the candidate's curriculum vitae, when its members could be devoting that time to teaching and research). In other words, all too many tenure and promotion systems today require candidates to spend far too much time amassing far too much information for committees to review far too little in a process that is far too cumbersome. Is there any alternative?

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