Tenure is, surely, the most visible and consequential formal academic review that a college or university faculty member encounters. But academic institutions certainly have in place many other types of formal faculty review processes—so it’s critical that Interfolio be able to accommodate those as well. And we do.
A wide landscape of academic review types
Today, Interfolio’s online platform for faculty reviews is named “Promotion & Tenure.” That’s because Interfolio was (and still is) the only product of its kind on the market, and the phrase is a well-known term on most campuses.
But we’re well aware that only something like 25-30% of higher education faculty positions are on the tenure track. And only something like 50% of faculty positions are even full-time. So, clearly, there are many academic review structures out there that might differ from tenure in degree, but are quite similar in kind.
What’s more, even for tenured and other full-time faculty, there are regular moments of administrative review in which a certain bundle of information about the professor must pass through one or more offices or committees in order to be approved—sabbaticals, for example.
Therefore, because a niche application that’s only valuable for 30% of reviews would be a little disappointing (and would ignore the reality of academic employment), Interfolio is making sure our faculty review platform accommodates all sequential committee review processes in higher education.
What makes for a flexible faculty review platform
As we’ve mentioned before, Interfolio’s product researchers spend a lot of time talking with real users in higher education about aspects like:
- What tools the candidate needs to be well prepared for a review (here)
- Why schools must manage and document communication with the candidate (here)
- Equity and legal risk in tenure reviews (here)
When it comes to what a software platform for varied faculty reviews should be able to do, you might start with a few key questions, all of which have corresponding functions in Interfolio’s platform.
What type of review case is this?
With Interfolio’s review platform, you mark each faculty member’s review case as belonging to a particular type—such as “Reappointment,” “Tenure,” or “Sabbatical.”
The concept of case types is a key element in separating out your data (on the other end) around different kinds of decision processes that are taking place at your school.
When each faculty member’s case is marked with a type, you’re able to use Interfolio’s reporting tools to study the breakdown of different numbers of cases within any given time frame. It’s also a help to administrative staff who need to manage the practical differences between review processes in terms of workflows and requirements.
What is the role of the faculty member being reviewed?
Using Interfolio, you can either enable the faculty member under review to submit a packet, or skip that aspect altogether. This dimension of the academic review process varies between institutions, of course—most broadly, between public and private institutions—but also between decision processes of differing magnitude.
Does the case involve a series of committees, a series of individuals, or a mixture of both? (NEW RELEASE)
Some kinds of the most sensitive review processes involve a sequence of full-on collaborative reviews by multiple committees. But other kinds—including annual and periodic evaluations at many schools—are more routine, often structured largely around the approval and “sign-off” of individuals such as a dean.
In Interfolio’s faculty review platform, you can assign both individuals and committees to any given workflow step, including either standing committees or ad hoc committees. And you can assign more than one to each step.
How many faculty members are beginning the same review process around the same time? (NEW RELEASE)
Think about the administrative labor involved in managing the details of several dozen reappointment, tenure, or promotion cases (or similar formal academic processes) of the same kind. For example, you might need to initiate the cases of all of the non-tenure-track faculty members who are going up for reappointment in a particular department this year. Certain identical information, labels, and documents need to get into each separate case.
For precisely this scenario, Interfolio enables administrators to initiate a group of any number of cases simultaneously, establishing the same core information and settings for all of them.
In addition to saving a ton of administrative time (no small benefit!), the ability to bulk-create cases of the same type should give Interfolio client institutions another practical way to ensure consistency between review cases for all candidates in the same situation.
The above are just a few of the more obvious examples of the different administrative implications of different faculty review structures, and how they pose headaches if you’re trying to use a system built for a narrower scope.
The future: online faculty periodic reviews and inherited academic traditions
Your input is indispensable. We go out and ask faculty, institutional leadership, and staff throughout higher education what would really make a difference to them; compile and compare the responses we get; and propose future product development that addresses the most widely felt pains that we’ve heard about.
When it comes to translating faculty review, promotion, and tenure (RPT) policies into a viable online format, clearly the institutional culture around these processes can set the tone. Again, we assume that our client institutions are the ones who should tell us what is important to them.
Still, some of the institutions that use Interfolio’s Promotion & Tenure most successfully tell us that they are finding ways their workflows could be simplified—and in some cases, administrative steps removed—in the transition to a unified, faculty-focused digital environment.
If you use Interfolio’s Promotion & Tenure at your institution and want to learn about the new features, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Curious about how Interfolio’s Promotion & Tenure could help your institution? Let us know today.