Davis Faculty Association

Archive for June, 2001

DFA Board Responds to SCPPR Report

by Ben McCoy

Faculty Colleagues:

The Davis Faculty Association has maintained a deep interest in the faculty personnel review process since we learned of and reported the shocking statistics that UC Davis faculty were seriously behind other UC campuses in salary and rank. In the first DFA Email Bulletin (http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~dfamhays/) issued by the DFA Board in October 1999 we noted that UC Davis Full Professor average salaries were lowest of the seven major campuses. Assistant and Associate Professor salaries also ranked near the bottom. Soon thereafter, the Academic Senate Special Committee on Academic Personnel Processes (SCAPP) was appointed. Based on the SCAPP report, the Special Committee on Personnel Process Reform (SCPPR) was formed and has now released its report with 21 concise and convincing recommendations (http://www.mrak.ucdavis.edu/senate/committee_scppr_report.htm).

Among the important issues addressed in the report is the definition of CAP’s role, limitations on its purview, and revised procedures to appeal its decisions. These are key factors addressing the perception that CAP has played the role of sole arbiter of scholarship quality at Davis. The SCPPR recommendations provide a balance in clarifying CAP’s purpose, while still allowing it to intervene when problems occur. Part of the reason that CAP assumed so much responsibility was its presumed objectivity, distant from internal departmental conflicts. The new recommendations throw weight back to departments, where unfavorable majority reviews can be coerced by influential senior faculty, and where reviews based on quality of research might not be questioned by deans or CAP. We would suggest that CAP should report to the faculty each year the number of cases where it has contravened any prior recommendation, and where it has intervened in any actions outside its normal purview, for example, in normal merit actions. The appeal process should also be reviewed after one or two years of experience. The report attempts to strike the right balance between providing an avenue for genuine appeal, yet makes the barrier high enough to avoid appeals of every negative action.

We agree that a positive change recommended in the report is to establish standards based on departmental and college criteria, and we endorse this move. Departmental standards should be appraised by the faculty of each college, and must be open and available. This will ensure a greater uniformity of quality and forestall concerns of unfair standards in particular departments. Because of differences among subdisciplines and departmental cultures, the process will not be straightforward for all departments. Patience and thoughtfulness will be required as the discussions develop. It is vital that all faculty members know that their academic accomplishments will be rewarded appropriately, including accelerated advancement when merited. Department chairs should be reminded of their obligation to evaluate their faculty each year, and to use this evaluation for possible recommendations of acceleration.

We applaud the call for reorganization and simplification of review files. Most routine merit actions would require simple documentation of teaching, research, and service, plus an invitation to the candidate to attach any other appropriate materials. Usually a publication list, a summary of teaching evaluations and a list of committee service should suffice. Faculty members spend far too much time preparing paperwork when they could be attending to scholarly activities.

Changes in the policies of CAP (as well as other committees) should be proposed by the committee on a regular basis, for approval by the Senate prior to implementation. In that way there will be adequate time for notice to reach the affected parties. The suggestion in Ren. 42 (B) 6 that revisions in procedures or criteria can be approved after the changes have already been applied will seem unfair to faculty whose review actions have been affected by the changes.

We conclude by commending members of SCAPP and SCPPR for their outstanding work, which has resulted in thoughtful and compelling recommendations for change. Their efforts will improve the fairness of the faculty review process, increase faculty support of the process, and enhance the level of collegiality at UC Davis. The SCPPR report will be considered by the Representative Assembly on Thursday, May 24, at 3:30 p.m., in the Cabernet Room of the Silo. It is important that faculty attend and participate.

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