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December 4, 2020

TO:       Deans, Department Heads/Chairs, and School/Program Directors

FR:        Jim Coleman, Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor

RE:        Faculty Evaluation during the Pandemic & Second Extension of Probationary Terms

The purpose of this memo is to provide additional guidance to the campus community on how I hope that the campus values of compassion, empathy, and flexibility are built into the performance review process for UNCG faculty members.

On August 7, 2020, I wrote to the Deans to share with them the responses to the Faculty Senate COVID-19 survey questionnaire and to ask them to facilitate conversations within their College/School about the challenges that many faculty members have faced as a result of COVID-19 and its impact on nearly every aspect of faculty work.  I also emphasized that women and underrepresented minority faculty members are more likely to have shouldered the burden for many of the challenges such as those around child care or the care of other family members.

In that memo I specifically requested that deans, heads/chairs, program directors, and other supervisors draw on our values of compassion, empathy, and flexibility to ensure that appropriate consideration of Coronavirus-related impacts on teaching, research/scholarship/ creative works, and service is included in all personnel evaluations.

Below I summarize additional guidance:

Class Climate Surveys/Teaching Evaluations:

  • We know that this has been an extremely difficult semester for faculty and students. It is likely that Class Climate Surveys (student teaching evaluations) will be affected by the stresses that students are feeling and may be even less useful in the evaluation of teaching this year than in a normal year (though, they may still be very useful for developmental purposes).  Class climate surveys are still required, but faculty members should be given the choice whether to include them as part of any formative or summative reviews[1].  Formative reviews, when permitted by the faculty member, can be especially helpful to us in understanding instructional methods that worked well and those which did not, given that COVID-19 will continue to impact instruction for some time.

Given these circumstances, I offer the following guidance related to teaching evaluations:

  • For Annual Review purposes, departments are restricted from uploading teaching evaluations into Activity Insight without permission from the faculty member.
  • As part of the normal P&T process, tenure-track faculty still in the probationary period who have elected not to extend their tenure clock must have their teaching evaluations uploaded, in keeping with established P&T procedure.
  • Heads, chairs, and directors are encouraged to rely more heavily on other ways to evaluate teaching as part of annual reviews and promotion and/or tenure reviews, including consideration of the efforts that faculty have put in to redesigning courses in the face of the pandemic.

COVID Impact Statements:

  • Annual Review and Post-Tenure Review will proceed as scheduled.
  • Faculty members should be given the option to develop a COVID Impact Statement (see below for the items that can be addressed in such a statement), which can be added to the materials uploaded to Activity Insight as part of annual review and post-tenure review.
  • The COVID Impact Statement is an opportunity for faculty to describe both positive and detrimental effects of the pandemic on the mix or balance of their work activities and the types of work outcomes that they were able to achieve. Evaluators are asked to consider these impacts as they apply departmental and unit standards in faculty evaluation processes. Evaluators are also asked to recognize the individualized impacts of COVID and avoid taking a “universal” approach; for example, the same factor that presented an opportunity for one candidate may have presented a hardship for another. Please note that the inclusion of an impact statement is an option available to faculty members undergoing annual or post-tenure review, but it is not required.
  • All candidates for promotion and tenure may supply a COVID Impact Statement to the department head in order to help frame the required Statement of Context.
  • The department head/chair or school/program director should refer to information in the COVID Impact Statement in preparing the candidate’s required Statement of Context so that reviewers, including those external to the department and UNCG, will have a better understanding of a dossier that differs slightly from the expected norms of the discipline.
  • Current University policy is silent on whether the Statement of Context is sent to external reviewers. Given the potential impact of COVID, I strongly recommend including the Statement of Context with the material sent out for external review.

Please encourage faculty members to submit a COVID Impact Statement in their annual review or promotion and tenure documentation to the head/chair/director if their work has been affected by the pandemic. Also, please make sure that such statements are used thoughtfully and productively with the compassion, empathy, and flexibility the Chancellor and I expect.  I have heard concerns expressed by some faculty members that they are reluctant to share challenges they have faced during the pandemic because they fear their colleagues might consider them professionally weak or undeserving, with negative repercussions on their careers.  Behavior of this type in the annual review process cannot be tolerated—the impacts of the pandemic on people’s lives and work are real and must be considered carefully and thoughtfully.

A COVID-impact statement should be no more than three pages and should include items that have affected teaching, research/scholarship/creative activities, and service.  Below are some ways that COVID-19 may have impacted the work of faculty members that might be addressed in an impact statement:

  • Provided opportunities to demonstrate innovation and creativity;
  • Required modifications or increases to workload, activities or approaches;
  • Canceled or delayed events, activities or work products;
  • Reduced access to facilities, libraries, archives, performance venues, galleries or other locations, as well as reduction in personnel, access to human subjects, or access to community or other partners;
  • Changes in the availability of external funds to support research or teaching, or changes in the timing of access to those funds; required off-contract work in the summer to redesign courses or provide COVID-related service work to the unit, school, college or university.
  • Provided opportunities to address emergent issues related to the pandemic.
  • Required additional service to sustain departmental or other operations or to support students that felt “invisible”; and/or
  • Caused personal challenges that affected overall productivity (i.e., increased caregiving demands)

Such Impacts should be discussed explicitly in the faculty member’s statement as well as in the departmental, department head, college and/or dean’s assessments.

Extension of Probationary Terms:

Additional Extension Option for All Probationary Faculty.  The purpose of extending the tenure clock is to compensate for COVID-related impacts, giving the affected faculty member additional time to achieve scholarly or creative goals and to develop an effective dossier for reappointment or promotion and tenure. This is particularly important given that research, scholarly and creative activities have been disrupted because of impacts on so many things, including travel; lab closure or social distancing in labs; closure of archives, libraries, galleries and performance venues; constraints on research with human subjects; and others.  On April 16, 2020, former Provost Dunn granted an automatic one-year extension of the probationary period for all faculty members currently holding a tenure-track appointment. Disruptions to the normal patterns of academic life and the subsequent barriers to scholarly achievement have continued into the Fall 2020 semester and show signs of continuing through Spring 2021. Therefore, all tenure-track faculty are granted an additional one-year extension of the probationary period. This includes faculty who joined UNCG prior to Fall 2020 (and who have already received a one-year extension) and those faculty who joined UNCG in Fall 2020 (this would be their first extension).

Timing for Opt-Out Notification:

Should a faculty member decide to forego either the first or second tenure-clock delay, individuals may opt-out of this extension by submitting a written notification to their department head/chair/director, who in turn should notify their dean. Deans shall confirm receipt of actions from all departments/programs/schools in their unit, and then notify the Provost of the opt-out actions in the departments/programs/schools in one comprehensive document. Nothing changes the existing process that allows faculty to be reviewed early.

  • For faculty members choosing to opt out of the first extension (granted April 2020), final notifications from the deans must be forwarded to the Provost by March 1, 2021.
  • For faculty members scheduled to undergo review in the 2021-22 academic year, choosing to opt out of this second extension (granted December 2020), final notifications from the deans must be forwarded to the Provost by March 1, 2021.
  • For faculty members with reviews scheduled in subsequent years, choosing to opt out of this second extension (granted December 2020), final notifications from the deans must be forwarded to the Provost by March 1, 2022.

Given the extraordinary circumstances, this additional one-year extension prompted by the impacts of COVID-19 will not count toward the two-year limit on extensions of the probationary terms, as stipulated by Section 3.C of the Regulations.  Any previous or future requests for extensions of the probationary term will be considered in accordance with the procedures outlined in Section 3C.

Please let me know if you have questions about these matters.

And, let me conclude by thanking all of you and your faculty and staff for the tremendous efforts that have been made to get through this semester.  I am so humbled and feel so lucky to be part of a community that drew so creatively on everyone’s passion and strengths to deliver a transformative educational experience to our students in the face of an ugly pandemic. While, at the same time continued rapid expansion in our volume of research and remaining devoted to your commitment to the community.  I know that I am exhausted just trying to break out of the impenetrable walls of my two dimensional zoom rectangle. I am sure you are even more exhausted with that as well as waging constant battle with the effects of the pandemic on your lives and your work. Should I not see you in the virtual or real world before the holidays, let me wish you the  most relaxing, refreshing, spiritually uplifting and reflective holiday season possible as we come to the end of a torturous year and nurture our hope for 2021.

1Formative reviews are developmental in nature; summative reviews are evaluative.