Review Materials

How many letters of reference should be from individuals at UC campuses?

Generally, CAP expects to see at least two to three letters from UC faculty for tenure cases.

Are letters from former students or Postdocs recommended?

Letters from students or Postdocs are not particularly useful to CAP. Other types of evidence of teaching excellence are preferred, such as syllabi, evaluations, reports from classroom visits, etc.

Are the names of external referees in fact held in confidence?

Yes. CAP has no direct evidence of breaches of this confidence except, perhaps, for those personnel cases that have gone to court. The authors of letters are urged not to betray themselves as authors in the body of the letter. Revealing comments, however, probably account for most cases in which the reviewed faculty member learns the letter writer’s identity.

How can non-UC referees be expected to understand our step system?

They cannot entirely, but some steps (tenure, Full Professor) are widely understood in this country. If a letter provides a thorough analysis of a candidate’s work, CAP can interpret the assessment in terms of an appropriate UC step.

What if a candidate for an Assistant Professor appointment has no teaching experience, as is sometimes the case in the sciences?

CAP understands this aspect of these fields, and has frequently voted for appointment if the scholarship looks very good. If a candidate has no teaching experience, or is unable to obtain teaching evaluations, it is best to address this fact in the Case Analysis. If evaluations are provided, ALL should be included, not a selection chosen by the candidate.

Does CAP consider aspects of a faculty member’s career that fall outside the review period?

At the major actions -- promotion to Associate or Full Professor, and advancement to Step VI and Above Scale -- CAP evaluates the candidate’s career since the last advancement, since the last major action, and across the entire academic career. For actions associated with merit increases, CAP focuses on the work accomplished during the review period since the last advancement. For all actions, CAP has access to the file prepared for the prior review.

Why are School-suggested letters required only for appointments at Assistant Professor Step IV and above?

An appointment at Assistant Professor Step I, II or III should mean that the candidate does not have much of a publication record or track record as an independent scholar. There is, then, little value in asking for letters beyond the three supplied by the candidate. An appointment at Step IV means that the candidate has a more extensive publication record and is close to consideration for tenure, and CAP would therefore expect letters from reviewers other than mentors.

Does CAP consider work completed before appointment at UC Merced?

There are slight differences between Units, and between Deans, in the extent to which they note accomplishments before appointment. Such works don’t count as much as work done at UC Merced, but they do count somewhat depending on the candidate’s length of service at UC Merced (e.g., if an individual is appointed as a Full Professor, his or her previous work might count more in subsequent reviews than someone who comes to UCM as a junior Professor and has a long career at this campus).

What constitutes a good letter of evaluation?

The most useful letters provide both description of the candidate’s work and a through analysis of the candidate’s important and original contributions. A “thorough analysis” places the contribution in historical and contemporary context; it answers questions such as how a key contribution has advanced the field and addresses the originality and impact of that contribution. It may explain, for example, how the contribution elucidated a long-standing problem that has been difficult to resolve, or has opened a new area of inquiry or creative expression. An analytical letter often addresses the quality of scholarship of the candidate’s work and how the candidate’s contributions compare with those of his or her peers. Since letters for promotions cover work over many years, evaluators should concentrate on the most significant past work but always comment on the most recent work.

Least helpful are perfunctory “testimonial” letter, with no analysis of the scholarship or creative work, and with indications that the only thing actually reviewed has been the curriculum vitae; CAP gives little consideration to such letters.

CAP is aware that Schools cannot control the quality of letters received. If Schools are careful to specify the kinds of information needed when they solicit extramural appraisals, the letters may be of better quality and more useful. Leading language must be avoided in solicitation letters, however. Solicitation letters should contain the rank and step of the action proposed by the Unit as well as a statement if the proposed action is an acceleration. Solicitation letters for Step VI or Above Scale should have an appropriate description of the expectations of these advancements.

Soliciting advice from experts within the University of California system is especially useful to evaluate appropriate placement of the candidate on the UC step scale or when an action involves a subtle knowledge of the UC system, such as acceleration, or advancement to Professor Step VI or Above Scale

It is useful to begin the solicitation process early, so there is time to send a second solicitation if several “testimonial” letters are received or if not enough letters are received.

In general, independent letters carry more weight. Letters from the candidate’s dissertation or postdoctoral advisor are never considered independent, although they may be useful.

Can work in progress be considered in a personnel review?

As a rule, CAP does not give any weight to work that is in progress or in “submitted” status. It is important to note, however, that each item may be counted only once in an individual’s merit reviews. (Full-career reviews are another matter and allow for submission of all materials from the candidate’s career.) Therefore, if a “work in progress” or “submitted” item is included in one merit or promotion review, it will not be “counted” in the next merit review. Candidates should carefully weigh their decisions about which materials to include.

Are prizes and awards necessary for advancement?

Not typically. Like success in garnering grants, the receipt of awards, prizes and honorific positions in societies can be a sign of achievement and recognition. For the Above Scale portion of the professorial rank, such indicators of professional recognition are expected.

Grant funding frequently spans more than one review period. Do grants “count” only once or are they ongoing?

Grants are “counted” only once, usually in the review period in which they are first awarded. This is because the effort to acquire the grant was expended only once.

What are the criteria for tenure in a book field?

In any field, a tenure file should describe the career of a person whose accomplishments match those of an Associate Professor. Evidence of formal acceptance of books, journal articles, and book chapters is essential if the works are not available in published form at the time of tenure review.

For fields in which book publication is the norm for tenure, a completed book manuscript does not carry nearly as much weight as one that has been fully peer-reviewed and evaluated. A provisional contract does not carry nearly as much weight as clear evidence that a book manuscript is in its final form, formally accepted for publication, and in production. If a book is primarily a revision of the dissertation, peer-reviewed evidence of a second, independent project is expected. Published reviews in professional journals provide evidence of a book’s significance and impact.

With regard to external letters of evaluation, what distinguishes “School-solicited” from “Candidate-solicited” letters?

Formally, the School solicits all letters of evaluation. “Candidate” letters are those solicited from an official list of names that the candidate provides. These may include collaborators and colleagues with whom the candidate may have worked in professional contexts, as well as independent reviewers. “School-solicited” letters are requested from referees not on the candidate’s list of suggestions. School -solicited letters should be requested from a slate of experts who are tenured and at least at the candidate’s rank. Letters from Full Professors are preferred.

How can the Unit and School avoid common mistakes in preparation of the Case File?

  • ​ The Unit is expected to examine the work first-hand and provide a full and independent analysis of the candidate’s contribution in the Case Analysis, especially his or her clear and defined contributions in any collaborative work. Extensive paraphrasing of the candidate’s Self-Statement is not useful.
  • External letters (which CAP reviewers do carefully read) should not be quoted at length in lieu of independent analysis and evaluation of the work of the faculty member.
  • It is helpful for the Case Analysis to provide both an honest assessment and supporting evidence of the quality of the publishing or performance venues. Exaggerating the impact of a journal will not be helpful to the candidate.
  • The Case Analysis is expected to describe the actual effort and effectiveness of teaching, and any new or modified teaching plans, as well as the actual quality and effort that go into University and professional service.
  • The Self-Statement and the Case Analysis should identify and enumerate clearly what work has been accomplished within the review period for the specific action.
  • The Case Analysis should address shortcomings that are obvious in the file, clarify exceptional circumstances, and explicitly address potentially troubling aspects of the file, such as a split Unit vote or negative comments in the external letters.
  • On tenure and promotion cases, the School should obtain sufficient analytical and independent external letters. The School should also carefully select outside referees, preferably choosing largely from among well-established faculty members at peer universities.


Are letters of reference required for the Mid-Career Assessment (MCA)?

CAP does not require letters; the Unit may do so if it so chooses.

Are Letters of Reference Required for Merits?