UB officials address concern about faculty evaluation policy, say nothing has changed

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Some faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences were upset and confused last month when they received an unexpected email from their dean outlining procedures to submit annual reports for evaluation. The professors read the email as a shift in how instructors, including those with tenure, will be evaluated.

But administrators, including College of Arts and Sciences Dean Robin Schulze, insist there is nothing new in the policy, except that it asks faculty to submit electronically rather than directly to individual chairs.

Schulze wrote to faculty on Monday to clarify the memo that had left some concerned that administrators wanted to change faculty evaluation policies without faculty input. In her email, Schulze told faculty members they can submit directly to chairs if they “feel uncomfortable for any reason” with the web format.

The concerns came after Schulze told faculty members they would be required to submit an annual report by May 15 detailing their professional work and activities from the year.

In her April 16 email, Schulze cited a memo from Provost Charles Zukoski that said deans and chairs are both responsible for looking at the reports and that the “distribution of faculty activities can be altered as appropriate to ensure equitable workloads and better enable us to advance our mission.”

University officials said the email sent to faculty was merely a reminder of existing policies required of all UB employees.

“First and foremost, while the format and vehicle for reporting activity is new this year, there is no change to the role that chairs and faculty play in establishing norms of faculty activity within departments,” Schulze wrote.

The policy has always required faculty to submit annual reports to both department chair and dean for evaluation, according to university officials.

Some faculty members in the college say that’s not the case and that the reports have always gone directly to department chairs, who may better understand the type of work their faculty are doing.

English professor Kenneth Dauber said the announcement “set off red flags” for some faculty. He said they felt it suggested a policy that would result in less nuanced faculty evaluations and would take power away from department chairs to determine faculty workload.

“What may result from that is an evaluation that’s not based on disciplinary understanding, that’s not based on intellectual criteria but that becomes a push toward number crunching,” Dauber said.

In response to faculty concerns, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee passed a resolution last week asking the dean and provost to postpone the May 15 deadline until the Faculty Senate had time to review the “new policy.” The resolution passed 15-1. The provost attended the meeting April 25.

The resolution says that Schulze’s announcement violated Faculty Senate bylaws, which require voting faculty to either initiate or approve policies related to the evaluation of research and teaching.

Zukoski said he only sent the letter to deans to restate the policy and to ensure its enforcement, and emphasized that nothing has changed regarding the reporting policies.

Schulze’s letter sent Monday to faculty echoed the provost and president’s position: No new policy.

Schulze also added that faculty may submit their reports and CVs directly to chairs in “whatever form they wish.”

Faculty chairs will create reports to summarize activity in their departments and then report to the dean, which Schulze said is “long standing college practice.”

“I will ask chairs to discuss individual faculty activity in relation to the current norms in their departments and the documents that their departments have created in regard to norms. Here again, the web forms were designed to make this process less labor-intensive for chairs and faculty during a busy time of the year,” Schulze wrote.

In the letter, Schulze repeated that all faculty activity reports are still due by May 15.

Sarah Crowley is the senior news editor and can be reached at sarah.crowley@ubspectrum.com and @crowleyspectrum.