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Department of Mathematics and Statistics
Criteria for the Reappointment and Promotion of Term Faculty
(Approved by Provost July 2019)
The American University Faculty Manual calls for all departments or schools (a.k.a. “teaching units” and “academic units” respectively) to develop guidelines establishing the overall contributions expected of all faculty candidates for reappointment and promotion, in accordance with the “General Criteria for Evaluation of Faculty” outlined in section 15 of the Manual.
CAS has established college-wide reappointment and promotion criteria for term faculty, including those in the professorial lecturer sequence, the term professor sequence, the research professor sequence, and in in-residence and postdoctoral appointments.
The purpose of this document is to elaborate on the general CAS guidelines in the specific context of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. It is intended as a reference for term faculty members in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics seeking reappointment or promotion, as well as for the department's Rank and Tenure Committee and the department chair fulfilling their roles in the review of such faculty.
- The Department of Mathematics and Statistics’ procedures on voting for term faculty reappointment and promotion can be found in the department’s by-laws.
- Although often conflated with questions of reappointment and promotion, the merit review process is fundamentally distinct. Further information on this process can be found in departmental by-laws, as well as in the College’s “Faculty Merit System Guidelines.”
Term Faculty Reappointment Criteria
Term faculty in the professorial lecturer and term professor sequences are eligible for reappointment if they:
- Have attained—or, in the case of recent hires, are building toward—a record of teaching excellence and demonstrate that they remain current in their field;
- Provide a meaningful level of service, appropriate to their rank, while demonstrating civility, collegiality and respect for different points of view.
The following sections outline the Faculty Manual’s expectations in areas of teaching and service.
For the purpose of all term faculty actions at American University, “teaching excellence” is defined by the Faculty Manual as enabling students
to acquire knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and become active participants in the learning process…. Faculty may demonstrate teaching excellence through a variety of ways, including course design, development of new curricular initiatives, up-to-date course content, advising of students, student engagement and achievement outside the classroom, and adherence to evaluation procedures that accurately reflect student accomplishments. Teaching units or academic units may also view publication and presentation of teaching materials and methodologies as a contribution to teaching. (section 15.a)
To the Manual’s list of ways to demonstrate a commitment to teaching excellence, the department would add: the overall quality of syllabi and course materials; clear articulation of course goals; evidence of rigor in courses taught; the innovative use of classroom formats or technologies; the inclusion in the syllabi and the coverage of required topics in each course; the timely return and with sufficient and useful feedback of all the graded assignment; development of new courses and curricula; development of online and hybrid courses; effective use of regularly scheduled office hours; supervision of independent study, internships, theses and dissertations (whether or not as the dissertation’s chair of record); initiatives to encourage student research and community service work; mentorship of students for prestigious awards; or other forms of engagement with students outside the classroom; the ability to achieve teaching excellence across a wide range of courses; and the ability to teach courses in both mathematics and statistics.
Regarding student evaluations of teaching (SETs), we accept that they can be suggestive of the level of teaching performance, but find that their meaningful interpretation requires consideration of all the questionnaire items, as opposed to focusing narrowly on one or two summary items. Similarly, our analysis of SET results takes into account the response rate and the pattern of responses for each questionnaire item, rather than a simple average. Overall, we expect successful teachers to elicit positive responses from the preponderance of their students in the great majority of their courses. There are many aspects of teaching that students are either unable to observe or unqualified to evaluate, including the selection of course materials, decisions about what topics to cover and how to present them, and defining a given course’s instructional goals. Effective teaching is such a multi-faceted effort that single numbers, from just a few questions, cannot accurately measure, much less evaluate, an effective teacher. Widespread dissatisfaction in the teaching evaluations with a course and with the professor should be seriously addressed by the faculty member and the Rank & Tenure Committee. On the other hand, no professor is likely to be able to satisfy all students, and the professor with the highest teaching evaluations may not be the best teacher. The department values intellectually rigorous courses even if they do not achieve popularity as measured by student evaluations of teaching effectiveness. Mean item response statistics and comparisons between such statistics for a particular course and an aggregate for the department or college are statistically invalid. The median is the statistically valid summary statistic. We also recognize that common variations in student population can lead to occasional aberrant results, and that student attitudes may be less positive, on the average, for courses taken to fulfill a requirement outside their major field. Moreover, extensive studies of teaching evaluations have highlighted sources of bias such as gender, race, age, and appearance.
As a method of evaluating classroom teaching, peer review by faculty colleagues is as valuable to the Rank and Tenure Committee as the SET. In order to formalize this process of peer review, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics has established a mentoring policy. Under this policy, a mentor from the Rank and Tenure Committee is assigned to each term faculty. In addition to regularly consulting on various matters related to teaching, the mentor is tasked with conducting classroom visits on a timetable jointly developed with the mentee. Together they discuss the content of these classroom observations. The observations of the mentor, viewed alongside the record of the term faculty, are very important to the Rank and Tenure Committee and the department chair. Of importance is also the official letter that the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics is required to submit for each term faculty who applies for reappointment or promotion.
Because faculty are better equipped to help students “acquire knowledge, develop critical thinking skills, and become active participants in the learning process” to the extent that they themselves “remain current in their field,” the Faculty Manual strongly encourages “scholarly or professional engagement that enhances teaching” (section 15.a). Currency in the field may be demonstrated by one or more of the following: up-to-date syllabi and course readings; professional development in teaching and instruction as demonstrated by participation in conferences or training; efforts in internal/external acquisition of teaching methods and practices; new instructional modalities pertinent to the candidate’s discipline or field; scholarly research; high-level creative and professional work; grant development; and/or patent development.
In fulfillment of their duties, all term faculty in the professorial lecturer sequence are expected to demonstrate “a meaningful level of teaching unit, academic unit, or university service,” typically entailing, as a minimum, a significant commitment to student advising and mentorship (in the classroom, in office hours, and online); participation in committees; and attending department colloquia and other functions at the department, college, and university levels (Faculty Manual, section 10.a.iv). Candidates for senior professorial lecturer and Hurst senior professorial lecturer are subject to additional service expectations, as detailed below.
“As members of the learned profession responsible for educating the community,” all faculty members at American University are expected “to exhibit civility, collegiality, and respect for different points of view in the academic community” (Faculty Manual, section 15). Failing to model these core values is grounds for denying reappointment in the College.
One-Year and Multi-Year Reappointments
Customarily, term faculty in their first year of full-time service at American University are eligible for one-year reappointment in the course of the spring semester, following completion of their first full semester. Assuming that enrollments in the department remain strong and that the faculty member fulfills a continuing teaching need, term faculty in their second year and beyond become eligible for one-year reappointment in the course of the fall semester.
Typically, the department will consider term faculty for a multi-year appointment when the faculty member will have taught at AU on a full-time basis for at least three years at the time of formal reappointment, and when the dean’s and provost’s offices deem long-term funding of the position to be secure. The duration of a faculty member’s first multiyear contract is typically two years, followed by a three-year contract, then a five-year contract (renewable). Term faculty with major service responsibilities—such as program director, director of undergraduate studies, or language coordinator—may receive special consideration in the evaluation for a multi-year contract.
Please note that, although many term colleagues at higher ranks in the professorial lecturer and term professor sequences hold multi-year contracts, the recommendation to confer a given rank and appointment to a multi-year contract are separate actions.
In the case of promotions in the term professor sequence, all files for action should mirror those of tenure-line promotion, as detailed in file preparation guidelines from the Committee on Faculty Actions/Dean of Faculty and the College. In all other cases, a file for reappointment will customarily include an up-to-date CV; a candidate statement on achievements and professional development activities over the past year in the areas of teaching, service, and (where applicable) research; representative syllabi; evidence of student engagement beyond the classroom; the report of at least one peer observation of the candidate’s teaching; and full copies of all student evaluations (SETs).
Professorial Lecturer Sequence
Term faculty with teaching appointments in the professorial lecturer sequence, which includes the ranks of instructor, professorial lecturer, senior professorial lecturer, and Hurst senior professorial lecturer—will normally be evaluated for reappointment and promotion solely on the basis of their teaching and service. Term faculty on this sequence may elect to include a supplemental evaluation of their research, without the necessity of external letters, in their reappointment and promotion reviews. In all instances, such review will involve a holistic assessment of the faculty member’s many contributions in light of the needs of the department, program, and/or the College as a whole.
The following section details specific performance expectations for each of the four ranks in the professorial lecturer sequence.
In the College of Arts and Sciences, the rank of instructor is reserved for those term faculty members who have not yet been granted their terminal degree, in which case the rank is normally a temporary one-semester or one-year appointment, or for temporary appointments of faculty in certain skill areas or professional fields where the terminal degree is not deemed necessary (section 13.a.i). Reappointments at the rank of instructor are typically subject to annual review. Instructors will be evaluated primarily on their teaching and secondarily on their service to their department or college, in accordance with the general principles outlined above.
Candidates for reappointment in the rank of instructor should be successful teachers who have built well-thought-out courses that foster student learning and achievement and that reflect the current state of their academic field(s). Their course materials will state clear objectives that are informed by the goals of our department. Their professionalism will be displayed through their syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments. Candidates for reappointment as instructor will also provide service to the department, college, and/or university, commensurate with the general expectations listed above.
The Faculty Manual states that term faculty members are “customarily awarded the initial rank of professorial lecturer if they hold the terminal degree in the field, or have professional experience and achievement equivalent to a terminal degree” (section 13.a.ii). Candidates who were hired as instructors without a terminal degree in their field may apply for promotion to professorial lecturer, typically after a period of three years of professional accomplishments or when they receive the terminal degree, whichever comes first.
Instructors applying for reappointment at the rank of professorial lecturer should be successful teachers who have built well-thought-out courses that foster student learning and achievement and that reflect the current state of their academic field(s). Their course materials will state clear objectives that are informed by the goals of their department or program. Their professionalism will be displayed through their syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments. Candidates for professorial lecturer will also provide service to the department, college, and/or university, with the expectation that their service profile will both broaden and deepen over time.
Senior Professorial Lecturer
After five years of service, professorial lecturers are customarily eligible for promotion to the rank of senior professorial lecturer. The Faculty Manual describes senior professorial lecturer appointees as demonstrating “excellence as a teacher and strong engagement with the university community” over and beyond the criteria for appointment as a professorial lecturer. Appointments at the senior professorial lecturer rank are also possible for candidates with “extensive professional experience…” (section 13.a.3).
Candidates for promotion to senior professorial lecturer should be expert teachers whose courses foster, in challenging and motivating ways, student learning and achievement. Their course materials will promote the goals of their department or program and demonstrate currency in their academic field(s). Their professionalism and expertise will be displayed through their course and curriculum development, syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments. They will provide significant service and contribute to professional development, which might include leadership activities such as faculty mentoring, assessment work, and research in their field, in addition to significant service to their department, college, and/or university.
Hurst Senior Professorial Lecturer
The Faculty Manual describes appointees at this rank as having demonstrated “meritorious performance through sustained excellence in teaching and in service internally to the university and/or externally in their profession or field of scholarship” (section 13.a.iv).
Senior professorial lecturers who are candidates for Hurst senior professorial lecturer should demonstrate a consistent record of marked teaching excellence. Their professionalism and expertise will be displayed through their course and curriculum development, syllabi, assignments, evaluation of student work, advising or mentorship, and student evaluation of teaching assessments. Their application portfolios will show that they have regularly refined their teaching, adapted to new student populations, and attended to innovations in their field(s) of research. These candidates will also have demonstrated strong leadership in their department or program, have contributed to professional development initiatives in their department or program and in their field, and have engaged in notable service to their department, college, and/or university.
The Term Professor Sequence
The Faculty Manual states that new appointments at the term assistant professor rank will be made “only under extraordinary circumstances and with approval of the provost” (section 13.b.i). Faculty at this rank who meet the criteria for promotion to term associate professor normally may apply for promotion after six years of fulltime service.
The standards for promotion to the ranks of term associate professor and term professor in the area of scholarship are functionally similar to those for their tenure-line equivalents, as outlined in our department’s tenure and promotion guidelines. There are, however, several notable differences. Term assistant professors are not required to apply for promotion to term associate at the end of six years of service and, unlike their tenure-line peers, may be reappointed in the absence of such a promotion. Although always welcome, the securing of major grant funding is less critical for promotion in the term professor sequence than it is in its tenure-line analogue. For more on the university’s expectations of term associate and full professors, see the Faculty Manual, sections 13.b.ii and 13.b.iii.
Insofar as possible, the College will endeavor to grant term Associate Professors multi-year contracts, but that determination remains a function of teaching need, as outlined above.
Faculty who wish to move from the term professor sequence to an equivalent rank in the professorial lecturer sequence to take advantage of the salary increases built into the latter may do so with a memo to, and approval of, their department chair, the College dean, and the dean of faculty. Moving from term assistant professor to senior professorial lecturer is a promotion and requires a corresponding faculty action. Movement from the professorial lecturer sequence to term associate or above requires a full review with external letters. Faculty contemplating such an action should explore its viability with the department chair and the College dean.
The Research Professor Sequence
Faculty in the research professor promotion sequence are appointed and reappointed principally on the strength of their research, scholarship or creative activity. Typically fully funded by external grants to AU PIs or by grants that they themselves bring to AU, research faculty hold renewable time-limited appointments, which may be full- or part-time. All recommendations for appointments and reappointments in the research professor sequence must be reviewed by the Department’s Rank and Tenure Committee, the department chair, the College dean, and the provost.
There is no formal external review process for changes in research professor rank. At the time of reappointment, the department may recommend reappointment at one rank higher than that of the previous appointment, based on the candidate’s history of external funding, contributions to scientific knowledge and/or practice, and nationally or globally recognized achievements. Although the role of research faculty is typically quite different from that of their tenure-line peers—they often engage in applied research, frequently work on another’s project(s), and rarely provide substantial service or teaching—successful candidates for reappointment at a higher rank will have presented a record of scholarly achievement roughly comparable to that of tenure-line colleagues at the equivalent rank. Final approval of appointment at the new rank rests with the provost.
In-residence appointments in the College of Arts and Sciences are typically granted to individuals who have achieved distinction in a career outside American University. As the Faculty Manual stipulates, “the in-residence designation constitutes a title rather than a rank, and should be reserved for individuals who bring notable experience and accomplishments to their teaching or other primary responsibilities” (section 16.e).
All in-residence faculty hold formal ranks within the professorial lecturer or (more rarely) term professor promotion sequences. As such, they are reviewed in the same manner as colleagues in their formal sequences and are eligible for the standard salary increases associated with promotions in those sequences.
Postdoctoral fellow appointments are made on an annual basis and are normally renewable, so long as funding is available, for no more than five years. In the case of postdoctoral fellows funded on grants, the grant PI(s) will serve as the fellow’s research mentor and will formally recommend reappointment to the department chair, dean and provost.
The College’s Postdoctoral Fellowships for Academic Diversity are capped at two years. Annual reappointment in this program follows a positive recommendation of the department chair to the College’s dean, who makes the formal reappointment recommendation to the provost.
Postdoctoral fellows will be assessed primarily on the basis of their research productivity during the term of appointment, although assessment of teaching is expected in the case of fellows whose letters of appointment specify teaching duties. In all cases, postdoctoral fellows need only submit an up-to-date CV, a brief summary of their annual accomplishments in the areas of research and (if applicable) teaching, and appropriate teaching documentation such as syllabi, a peer observation report, and SET results (if applicable).