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Questions from AAUP Listening Session on Promotion to Teaching Assistant Professor

October 26, 2022 / PSU-AAUP

Process Questions

Q. The MOA identifies three broad qualifications for the teaching professor ranks. The third refers to the skill and expertise to teach across the levels, the application of scholarly inquiry, and the application of disciplinary knowledge to teaching. How should we demonstrate this third aspect?

University P&T Guidelines identify the types of accomplishments that review committees should consider when evaluating a candidate’s teaching, mentoring, and curricular activities (see pp. 13-15).

The Senate’s rank descriptions say little about how to demonstrate these qualifications for those transitioning to the position of teaching assistant professor. The descriptions for associate and full suggest that merit for these ranks may be demonstrated by curricular innovation, recognition from professional organizations, and the dissemination of scholarly work through publication, invited papers and presentations, and grants and awards. Candidates for teaching assistant professor may want to look ahead to future promotions by highlighting any such accomplishments in their self-evaluations.

Q. What is the reconsideration process?

The reconsideration process is the same as for the tenure-track and instructor ranks (see pp. 41- 42 of University P&T guidelines). (1) Submit written notification of intent to request reconsideration within two weeks of receipt of the departmental decision. (2) Submit supportive material within two weeks of notification of intent to request reconsideration. (3) Departmental committee/chair considers material and forwards reconsideration material and appraisal to the next administrative level. A faculty member may also request a reconsideration of the Provost's decision (see p. 43).

Q. How should review committees frame their letters?

When writing their evaluations, Departmental P&T Committees should take cues from the University P&T Guidelines pertaining to promotions of non-tenure track instructional faculty (see especially p. 40, “Committee Decision and Narrative Report”).

Q. Is it possible to move into the new teaching ranks and simultaneously be promoted to a higher rank?

This happens in two situations: (1) NTT assistant professor, who did not retitle, promotes to teaching associate professor. (2) NTT associate professor, who did not retitle, promotes to teaching full professor. Senior Instructor Is, and IIs are only eligible for teaching assistant professor, which is not a promotion IN rank – although it will include a salary increase.

Q. What is the relationship between milestone review and promotion? What does milestone review look like, whether or not someone seeks further promotion?

Milestone reviews are independent of promotion reviews. They are analogous to tenure reviews, but without the typically simultaneous review for promotion to associate professor. Procedures for milestone reviews are detailed on pp. 50-53 of the University P&T Guidelines.

Q. What documents are required in the application for promotion to teaching assistant professor, other than the CV? Is there a requirement for peer review?

In addition to the CV, documentation in support of one’s merit for promotion should include a self-appraisal of accomplishments and an evaluation of teaching effectiveness. Documentation may also include a sample of scholarly work and evaluations by peers, although such documentation is more likely to be required for promotion beyond teaching assistant professor. (See University P&T Guidelines, pp. 11-12.)

Nothing in the Senate definitions or the MOA requires that the review process include peer review, but departmental P&T Guidelines, once they are developed for the teaching ranks, may require evaluation by peers in a position to comment on the candidate’s activities. (See University P&T Guidelines, p. 39.)

Eligibility Questions

Q. How can we assist colleagues in promoting through the teaching ranks, given their lengthy experience?

Non-tenure track Assistant Professors, Associate Professors, and Senior Instructor IIs who retitled into the teaching ranks bring with them credit for years in those ranks, which decreases the number of additional years they must serve before becoming eligible for promotion. Some are eligible to be considered for promotion immediately during the AY 2022-23 review cycle.

Q. What flexibility will departments have for early consideration of promotion to next rank for extraordinary achievement?

The “extraordinary achievement” standard for early promotion exists for the tenure-track ranks and the existing instructor ranks, as well as the new teaching ranks. Departments should therefore have some experience in applying this standard and that experience will be pertinent when considering candidates for early promotion to associate and full teaching professor.

This standard for early promotion should not be confused with the standard of “outstanding achievement and professional recognition” that the teaching ranks MOA identifies as justifying an exception to the requirement of holding the highest degree in one’s field of specialization. (See p. 2 of the MOA.)

Q. If a person does not have the required terminal degree in their field, how is the exception based on “outstanding achievement and professional recognition” determined?

During the retitling process, this was largely left to Deans and their administrative review committees. During the promotional process, departmental P&T committees will make the initial determination. Once departmental P&T guidelines have been updated to incorporate the teaching ranks, what counts as a terminal degree and what outstanding achievement and professional recognition may be considered in lieu of a terminal degree will be more transparent. It is incumbent on the candidate to show the evidence of outstanding achievement and professional recognition in order to make the case that the terminal degree requirement should be waived.

Other Questions

Q. Does moving over to the teaching ranks provide any additional job security?

No additional security. Faculty in both the instructional and the teaching ranks achieve some job security after successful milestone reviews and the award of continuous appointment. On continuous appointment, see University P&T Guidelines, pp. 47-50.

Q. What happens if a Senior Instructor I or II is unsuccessful in their application for promotion to teaching assistant professor? Will their teaching duties be redefined to be more commensurate with those specified for the instructor ranks in the MOA?

As currently defined in the University P&T Guidelines (pp. 18-19), the ranks of Senior Instructor I and II include expectations that, moving forward, are more appropriate for the teaching ranks, including in the areas of curriculum development and the pedagogical application of disciplinary knowledge. The duties and expectations of faculty hired into the instructor ranks prior to the creation of the teaching ranks should not be redefined to be substantially different from those in place when they were hired or last promoted. This is the case whether or not a senior instructor has applied unsuccessfully for teaching assistant professor.

Q. Must a Senior Instructor I who is unsuccessful in promoting to Teaching Assistant Professor be considered for promotion to Senior Instructor II? Doing so requires serving three years in rank before applying again for the teaching ranks.

In this situation, according to the MOA, if the Senior Instructor I does not request consideration for promotion to Senior Instructor II, they are not prohibited from applying for Teaching Assistant Professor again the following year.

Although the MOA allows this, it may not be the best choice for a Senior Instructor I for two reasons. First, by choosing to promote to Senior Instructor II, the faculty member receives an 8% pay increase, and then another 8% increase as soon as three years later if they are successful the second time in promoting to Teaching Assistant Professor. Second, if the Senior Instructor I does apply again for Teaching Assistant Professor the following year and is again unsuccessful, they are no longer eligible for the teaching ranks. (See MOA, p. 9.)

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