Special Actions

What can a Unit do when there is a need for exceptional speed in a personnel case?

Let the Academic Personnel Office know about the situation. Especially if it is a question of an appointment or retention case, CAP can often make emergency provisions when necessary.

Under what circumstances can the normative time to tenure be extended to more than six years?

The tenure clock may be extended for major illness, and parental responsibilities associated with the birth or adoption of a child. The Chancellor has the authority to extend the tenure clock in other extraordinary circumstances, but the maximum total extension is two years.

What is CAP’s view of proposals for the initial appointment of a recent PhD at a level above Assistant Professor, Step I?

CAP attempts to recommend the proper step based on the criteria of the University and with the goal of achieving equity across campus. In some disciplines, time as a postdoctoral researcher and publication of independent research often occur before the initial Assistant Professor appointment. This and other professional qualifications can justify appointment beyond Step I. But CAP is reluctant to recommend a step beyond Step I for a candidate who has just completed a PhD and who has no publications, formal postsecondary teaching, or other professional qualifications. Appointments at Step III or higher can occur, often when the candidate has held a faculty position elsewhere or carried out work as a postdoctoral researcher. Higher-than-warranted steps should not be used to solve salary issues, for which other mechanisms exist.

What is an acceleration?

An acceleration is a more rapid advancement through the ranks and steps than the norm due to the extraordinary record of the candidate. Accelerations are usually sought when there has been unusually high academic achievement in one category (teaching, research or service) since the last advancement, and at least normal progress in the other categories; that is, accelerations are not granted if any component of the record is below par.

If a junior faculty member is hired at a level above Assistant Professor, Step I, does the “Eight-Year Rule” still apply?

Yes, the individual would still be expected to be evaluated for tenure in the sixth year of service. Nothing, however, precludes an individual from going up for tenure before the sixth year if she or he feels ready.

What is a deferral?

A deferral occurs when an academic employee who is eligible for normal advancement chooses not to be considered for advancement at that time. Assistant Professors must be reappointed and may not defer.

What is the quinquennial or five-year mandatory review policy?

To ensure that faculty standards are being met, the Academic Personnel Manual (APM) requires that the performance of every Academic Senate member must be evaluated at least once every five years.

What is an “Acting” title and how is it changed to a regular title?

On the UC Merced campus, the “Acting” modifier is placed before the title of Assistant Professor when an individual is appointed before his or her PhD degree is complete. There is a two-year limit on the use of the “Acting” designation for Assistant Professors, and it is removed or “regularized” when documentation that a PhD degree has been conferred is provided to the Academic Personnel Office.

What is a Career Equity Review and who is eligible?

A Career Equity Review (CER) is an examination of a faculty member’s personnel actions from the initial hiring at UC Merced onward to determine whether those actions have resulted in an inappropriately low rank and/or step. The purpose of a CER is not to re-open or appeal the decision of any previous action, but to see if the candidate’s performance, when considered over multiple review periods, warrants additional advancement. The goal of a CER is to determine if a faculty member’s initial appointment was at too low a step; whether over time sufficient productivity has accumulated to warrant additional advancement even though merit actions did not call for accelerated advancement; and/or whether contributions have been overlooked, undervalued, or gained delayed impact after particular merit actions.

A CER may be initiated by any Academic Senate member. As stated in the MAPP, a CER may be requested once at the Associate Professor level, once at the Full Professor level prior to advancement to Professor, Step VI, and once after advancement to Professor, Step VI, up to Above Scale, but no more than once every six years.

What are “crossover” steps and how are they used?

A “crossover” step is a step within one rank that is approximately equivalent in salary to a corresponding step in the next higher rank. Assistant Professor, Steps V and VI are considered to overlap or crossover with Associate Professor, Steps I and II, respectively, just as Associate Professor, Steps IV and V crossover with Professor, Steps I and II. Time served at the steps of the lower rank may be considered as service at the overlapping step at the higher rank. For example, promotion from Associate Professor, Step IV to Professor, Step II is common, but a lateral promotion to Professor, Step I or an accelerated promotion to Professor, Step III are also possible.

How does CAP handle joint-appointment cases?

CAP is sensitive to the pressure that comes with a joint appointment. In some cases, the research can be quite varied. The Self-Statement provides an opportunity for the candidate to efficiently explain how all of the research fits together. Publications in peer-reviewed journals are also helpful.

What does CAP look for in a Mid-Career Assessment (MCA)?

The purpose of the Mid-Career Assessment (MCA) is to inform an Assistant Professor in a thorough and formal way about his or her prospects for tenure. The MCA thus serves a very different function from the Case analysis for a merit increase. Of utmost importance are rigorous evaluation and complete candor. If there are weaknesses in the candidate’s record, the reviewers’ natural reluctance to cause pain can do much more harm than good to the candidate and the University.

The most common weakness in an Assistant Professor’s early career is a lack of progress with regard to research publications. The University of California is a research university, and provides generous resources and time for research. A relatively thin publication record (or its equivalent in the arts) cannot be lightly passed over.

Disciplines vary in their expectations for tenure, and MCAs reflect this. In the sciences, positive mid-career accomplishments show evidence of research independent from doctoral work (and any mentored postdoctoral work), of research projects that promise leadership in the field, and evidence that research will continue once tenure is granted. The award of competitive grants for research to a candidate as Principal Investigator (PI) can help to validate an independent research program, although grants do not in themselves substitute for published scholarship.

Collaboration of a junior faculty member with senior colleagues can present a problem with regard for evaluation for tenure. This is especially true when a junior candidate publishes frequently or exclusively with a small number of more senior collaborators who are always in senior authorship positions. In such cases, establishing the intellectual independence or leadership to warrant promotion above the Assistant level can be difficult.

CAP will recommend a “Good” appraisal only if it seems clear that maintenance of the trajectory will result in a recommendation for tenure within two years. CAP is likely to judge prospects as “Fair” in the many cases where reviewers note that there is room for improvement but the candidate is basically on the right trajectory. CAP will recommend a “Poor” appraisal when there is a significant obstacle to timely promotion. The most common such problem is the demonstration of research independence: publications that all include a senior mentor or that comprise almost exclusively middle authorships will make tenure unlikely. Poor teaching can also cause concern at the MCA and, if not remedied, provide an obstacle to promotion.

Can a Mid-Career-Assessment (MCA) be combined with a merit review?

No. These two processes must be kept separate because they ask different questions. The merit review asks what has taken place during a limited review period. The MCA asks what the career looks like as a whole, what the prospects are for the future and the achievement of tenure, and what helpful suggestions can be made to the candidate. Even if some information may be redundant, the two decisions must be kept distinct as they are separate issues.

How does a mid-year hire date affect the review process for junior faculty?

An Assistant Professor with an appointment that begins in January (“mid-year”) rather than the typical July 1 academic year start date will follow the same review timeline as the July 1 appointees for merit reviews, reappointments and the mid-career appraisal (“MCA”). This means that the initial review period will be shortened for mid-year hires. Specifically, a faculty member with a mid-year hire will need to submit a case for a first merit/reappointment shortly after the end of his or her first semester, for a July 15 deadline.

When a case is submitted for tenure review for a mid-year hire (normally before the sixth year), the faculty member has the option to elect a July 15 submission of tenure case materials or to extend the review period by one semester and submit materials in January. Either date will be considered an “on-time” or “on-cycle” submission. This option will be presented in the letter of eligibility for tenure review.

How does a mid-year hire date affect the review process for senior faculty?

An Associate or Full Professor with a January appointment date will have a shortened period for the first review after appointment. Subsequently he or she will be “on-cycle” with the majority of the faculty who have July 1 start dates and will follow the normal schedule for reviews.

Does a “stop-the-clock” change the timeline for reappointment reviews and the MCA?

No. A “stop-the clock” only affects the timeline for the tenure review. All other reviews will proceed at the expected times.