General Policies for Initiation and Review of Academic Appointments and Promotions



    It is the policy of the University that the best qualified person, independent of race, sex, etc., be selected for each new position that becomes available. For new appointments, the goal of the search is to reach all potential female and minority group candidates. This goal can generally be achieved by wide circulation of the notice that the specific position is available and by addressing inquiries to the professional associations that maintain files and provide placement services for sexual and racial subgroups within specific professional disciplines.

    The responsibility for monitoring the affirmative action program within SAS is assigned to Affirmative Action Officers, appointed by the Dean. When a recommendation for a new appointment is made, it is the responsibility of the department chair to demonstrate to the Affirmative Action Officer that:

    1. The search was broad enough to reach all potential female and minority candidates. A candidate pool that is large and contains many female and minority candidates is often adequate prima facie evidence of a broad search. However, if the candidate pool is very small or contains very few female or minority candidates, the Chair will need to explain the special circumstances of the field or of the search that produced this result.
    2. The candidate selected (if not a female or a minority group member) was superior to available female and minority group members. This justification must be made on the basis of parallel evidence. For example, if the selection was made primarily on the basis of external letters, then external letters must also be available for the female or minority candidates.

    When a person already appointed to a specific track in the Standing Faculty or the Research Faculty is considered for promotion, no comparison with potential candidates from outside the University is required. However, the Affirmative Action Officer must be satisfied that any female and minority group faculty members in similar circumstances have been given equal consideration for promotion.

    In accordance with the University's Affirmative Action Plan, all applications and supplementary material received from applicants for full-time faculty posts must be retained for three years after the position in question has been filled.


    Under existing University regulations, the Chair is vested with the authority and responsibility for developing recommendations for all academic appointments and for maintaining excellence in the department. This responsibility should be shared by all members of the faculty to the extent practicable. In practice, any faculty member can recommend any appointment to his or her chair or to a properly constituted committee within the department. It is assumed by the Dean that each department will have developed its own mechanism for review of candidates for appointments at all levels. Recommendations for appointment or promotion must include objective evaluation obtained both from within and from without the University. Those procedures which apply to appointments and promotions in the ranks of the Standing Faculty should be available in written form to all members of the Standing Faculty.

    Departmental recommendations on appointments and promotions in the Standing Faculty and the Associated Faculty must include a record of the vote of the faculty of the department. Voting on promotion should be limited to those holding the proposed rank or higher. Voting on a new appointment should normally be limited to those in the proposed rank or higher. Associate Professors without tenure may not vote on tenure cases.


    Appointment or promotion to the rank of Professor or Associate Professor is a major step in a faculty member's professional development. It is essential that a careful evaluation be made of all relevant aspects of the candidate's record. These aspects include:

    1. Scholarly Record and Reputation

      An analysis should be made of the candidate's previous scholarly achievements, with special attention to the record of publications. The overall quality as well as the quantity of the publications should be examined. If multiple-authored articles are prominent in the publication record, the precise role of the candidate in the work should be outlined. The nature and significance of the candidate's contributions to the discipline should be explored. The candidate should have a coherent plan for future scholarship. Where relevant, an analysis of the ability of the candidate to secure external financial support should be made.

    2. Teaching

      The dossier should contain both a chronology of the candidate's classroom teaching and the formal evaluations (or summary of evaluations) made of that teaching. An evaluation should be made of the candidate's ability to work effectively with graduate students and to teach in informal settings. A list of the candidate's graduate students and their placements should be included.

    3. Other Contributions

      The candidate's performance in areas beyond teaching and scholarship should be discussed. These areas include service to the department, the school, and/or the University, as well as service to the candidate's profession. Major administrative assignments, either within or outside the University, should be noted.


    In addition to responsibilities for organizing the search, presiding over the discussions, and reporting the departmental sentiment to the Dean, the department Chair has a special responsibility toward those faculty in tenure probationary status, many of whom have no clear (or accurate) picture of their prospects for tenure or of the process by which they will be evaluated. The Chair should discuss the procedures with each person who is newly appointed to probationary rank and try to give him or her a good picture of those aspects of the position that the department judges to be most important, the details of the procedure by which the department and the University will judge his or her credentials for tenure, and some idea of the experience of previous members of that cadre.


    All recommendations for academic appointments will be reviewed by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences. The Dean may accept or reject recommendations of appointments to the Academic Support Staff based on funding limitations, the long-range plans of the department, and the Dean's perception of the academic quality of the suggested appointment.


    The Personnel Committee of the School of Arts and Sciences is governed by Article III, Section 4 of the Bylaws of the School of Arts and Sciences:

    1. Charge

      The Committee shall review all proposed appointments, reappointments, promotions, and tenure assignments in the Standing Faculty of SAS and make recommendations concerning them to the Dean. The Personnel Committee shall represent the faculty in evaluating the academic qualifications of individuals proposed for appointment, reappointment, promotions, and tenure within the faculty.

    2. Membership

      Only full professors in the Standing Faculty with primary appointments in the School of Arts and Sciences may be members of the Personnel Committee. Officers of the Administration of SAS and of the University and department chairs are excluded from membership.

    3. Composition of the Committee

      The Personnel Committee shall consist of twelve members and a chairman. Each of the three major branches of learning in SAS--the Humanities, the Natural Sciences, and the Social Sciences--shall be represented by four members on the Personnel Committee.

    4. Appointment to the Committee

      The respective chairpersons of the Personnel Committee and the Committee on Committees shall confer whenever vacancies on the Personnel Committee need to be filled. After such consultation, the Committee on Committees shall make recommendations to the Dean concerning appointments to the open positions on the Personnel Committee. Normally, this process will take place before the last regular spring meeting of the SAS faculty. Unanticipated vacancies on the Personnel Committee shall be filled by means of the same procedure. Normally, no more than one member of a single department shall sit on the Personnel Committee at any given time. In no case may more than one member of a single department sit on the same panel, nor may more than two members of a single department sit on the Personnel Committee simultaneously.

    5. Terms of office and rotation

      Members of the Personnel Committee shall serve a three-year term. Normally, each year, four new members shall be appointed, distributed across the major branches of learning (the Humanities, the Natural Sciences, and the Social Sciences).

    6. Appointment of the chairperson

      The chairperson of the Personnel Committee shall serve a one-year term. He or she shall be selected by the Dean, normally from members of the Personnel Committee about to enter the third year of their three-year terms. In making this appointment, the Dean shall consult with the outgoing chair of the committee.

    7. Subpanels

      The four committee members in each of the major branches of learning (the Humanities, the Natural Sciences, and the Social Sciences) shall constitute a subpanel in their particular area. The chairperson of the full committee shall appoint one member of each subpanel to serve as its chair. On occasion, a special four-or five-member subpanel may be created by the chairperson of the full committee on an ad hoc basis to address the special needs that may arise owing to the unique charcter of an interdisciplinary case.

    8. Deliberations and reports

      All cases forwarded to the Personnel Committee will initially be deliberated by the appropriate subpanel, whose chair will report to the full committee a recommendation for disposition of the case in the form of a vote, along with a summary of the reasoning that led to that vote. The report of the subpanel, however, shall be regarded merely as a point of departure for the discussion of the full committee. Members of a subpanel offering a recommendation are not bound to adhere permanently to a position they took during the deliberations of the subpanel. Rather, they shall feel free to alter their original position, subject only to the influence of the course of the discussion at the meeting of the full committee. Upon conclusion of these deliberations, each case shall be brought to a vote. The chairperson of the full committee shall submit to the Dean a written report of the vote and a summary of the most salient elements of the discussion that led to it.

    9. Further transmission of recommendations to the Personnel Committee

      The positive recommendations of the Personnel Committee shall be forwarded to the Provost's Staff Conference by the Dean; the Dean may choose to concur with or dissent from the proposal. In the case of a tie vote of the Personnel Committee, transmission of the case to the Provost's Staff Conference is at the discretion of the Dean.

      The Dean may also forward recommendations that did not receive a positive endorsement of the Personnel Committee, although it is expected that this would occur only rarely. In such cases the Dean must inform the Personnel Committee of the reasons such action was taken. With the concurrence of the department, within six months after a negative vote on a case, the Dean may ask the Personnel Committee to reconsider a case without recourse to the full resubmission procedures, if the Dean has additional information to offer about a case.

      Where the President and Provost propose to recommend an appointment, promotion, or grant of tenure in the face of a negative recommendation by the Personnel Committee, they shall inform the Dean, the Personnel Committee, and the Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility of the School of Arts and Sciences. The Provost shall then call a meeting with the Dean and the Personnel Committee; the case shall be discussed at the meeting. Following this, the Dean, the Personnel Committee, and the SAS Committee on Academic Freedom and Responsibility shall be provided with an opportunity to respond in writing to the Provost's proposal before a final decision is made as to whether or not it should be submitted to the Trustees.

    10. Conflict of interest

      No member of the Personnel Committee may participate in the evaluation of the credentials of any candidate nominated from his or her own department or from a department in which he or she has a secondary appointment with voting rights. Members of the Personnel Committee shall be excused from deliberating or participating in particular cases in the event they feel there is a conflict of interest for reasons other than departmental affiliation.

      An appointment, promotion, or grant of tenure to an individual holding an administrative position at the School or University level renders the roles of the President, Provost, and Dean especially sensitive. In such cases, these individuals shall remove themselves from the decision processes to the full extent that such removal is compatible with their respective responsibilities. Only at the point of bringing papers before the Provost's Staff Conference, for example, shall the Dean enter this process. Where the President and the Provost propose to recommend an appointment, promotion, or grant of tenure to an individual holding an administrative position at the School or University level in the face of a negative recommendation from the Personnel Committee, the procedure described in Section 9 shall be followed. In addition, after the meeting there described, the Provost and the Dean may add to the file any additional relevant material that was not previously present. Then the augmented file shall be reviewed by the Personnel Committee, which will again advise whether the appointment should be made.

      There is a presumption that the Provost, cognizant of the potential conflicts of interest inherent in such a situation, shall base his or her decision entirely on the merits of the case.

    This concludes Article III, Section 4 of the Bylaws. On implementing its mandate under the Bylaws, the Personnel Committee has adopted and modified, from time to time, various operating procedures. The current procedures, most recently revised in 2007, are as follows:

    1. General

      Although the Dean is not a member of the Committee and does not normally meet with the Committee, either the Dean or the Committee may on occasion wish to initiate communication with the other; such communication may take place in person or in writing. The Dean or his/her designate may appear at meetings of the Personnel Committee to present additional information or context for an appointment or promotion before a vote is taken.

      Recommendations that come to the Committee are first reviewed by the subpanel in the general discipline from which the recommendation originated. This subpanel makes its own recommendation to the full Personnel Committee which then, after its own discussions, votes on the recommendation.

      When additional information would be valuable, either the subpanel or the main committee must, prior to a vote, request that information or clarification from the chair of the department that made the recommendation. This request should normally be made in writing no later than three business days prior to the meeting at which the information is needed. A department chair may also be asked to meet in person with the full Committee in response to written questions provided, normally according to this same timetable. Other methods of communication, including contacting a department chair without advance notice during subpanel or full committee proceedings, are permissible with the approval of the Dean's office, but a department chair shall reserve the right to request time to obtain the necessary information, in which case any vote must be delayed. Any interaction between a department chair and the subpanel or full Committee must be acknowledged in the report of the Committee chairperson, and any written documentation of that interaction will become part of the dossier.

      It is the responsibility of the Personnel Committee to advise the Dean on the merits of the proposed candidate, and to judge, insofar as it is possible, the potential contributions the individual will make to scholarship, to teaching, and to other forms of service within the academic community. The Committee should not be concerned with the value of the scholarly enterprise, these being the province of the Dean and the University Administration.

      The full Committee and its subpanels meet at frequent intervals during the academic year, scheduling their meetings in response to the number of recommendations they receive. It is expected that the Personnel Committee will be available to meet in person weekly from September through May. The subpanels and full committee will be convened over the summer if necessary to consider urgent cases involving tenure. Those members who cannot attend in person are expected to participate by conference call. In extraordinary circumstances and with the prior approval of the Chair, participation by conference call will also be permitted during the academic year when a committee member is not able to attend in person.

      The members of the Committee are expected to keep all of their deliberations confidential and to allow the Chair of the Committee to be the sole voice for their collective advice. If a committee member is approached by another faculty member or individual with information about a case pending at the committee, he or she should refer that person to the Chair of the Personnel Committee or to the appropriate person in the Dean's office. Department chairs who interact directly with the Committee, either in writing or in person, are bound by the same rules of confidentiality that apply to Committee members.

    2. Personnel Committee Quorum

      The Committee has twelve voting members and a non-voting chair. Nine voting members, including those participating via conference call, shall constitute a quorum. If fewer than a quorum are present either in person or by phone, business may be transacted, but a case shall require seven positive or seven negative votes to constitute a recommendation to the Dean.

    3. Subpanel Quorum

      Each of the three subpanels (Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences) consists of four voting members. The quorum for the subpanel shall be three. Subpanel members may participate in the deliberations and vote by conference call. Occasionally, a fifth subpanel member, drawn from one of the other subpanels, may be added, characteristically when the case under consideration is from a discipline that crosses traditional lines. The fifth member of a subpanel shall have the right to vote. Quorums for a five-member subpanel will be the same as for a four-member subpanel.

    4. Actions by the Subpanel

      Initial review of a case is carried out by one of the three subpanels. Department chairs, or their designee, may be asked to be available to answer questions. The subpanel meets (without the presence of any member from the department) to consider the dossier.

    5. Actions by the Committee

      The Committee may accept without discussion a unanimous recommendation of the subpanel for cases of initial appointment at the rank of assistant professor or of reappointment at the rank of assistant professor. If the subpanel recommendation in any such case is not unanimous or if any member of the Committee wishes to have discussion of the case, then the full Committee shall discuss the case and vote.


    The Dean must forward all positive recommendations of the Personnel Committee, together with his or her own recommendation, to the Provost. The Dean's recommendation to the Provost will comment on the long-range plans of the department and the school and on how the proposed appointment will fit into those plans. The Dean may also forward recommendations that did not receive a positive endorsement of the Personnel Committee. In such cases the Dean must inform the Personnel Committee of the reasons such action was taken.

    Recommendations that come to the Provost are discussed by the Provost's Staff Conference, a group consisting of the Provost, several sub-provosts, and the Deans of several schools. This group discusses each case and provides the Provost with advice on the strength of the candidate relative to University-wide standards and on the justification for making that particular appointment in view of University plans and resources. A subcommittee of the Provost's Staff Conference, consisting of the Deputy Provost and several subdeans, is given the responsibility of providing advice on those appointments (reappointments, Associated Faculty, etc.) that do not have significant long-term consequences for the University.

    The Provost, after receiving the advice of the Provost's Staff Conference, consults with the President. The President and the Provost then decide on the final recommendations to be made to the Trustees of the University.


    When appointing faculty to named chairs, either permanently or for a fixed term, the School has the responsibility to ensure that the donor's funds are used in accord with the gift agreement. The divisional associate deans will work with departments to address specific questions regarding such stewardship issues.

    Appointments of external candidates to named chairs are governed by the same procedures as those for all new appointments, with the additional requirement that appointments to permanently endowed chairs be approved as outlined below. When nominating internal candidates for named chairs, department chairs should submit a letter of nomination to the Dean, accompanied by the nominee's updated curriculum vitae.

    In recognition of the honor and prestige associated with appointment to a permanently endowed chair, any such appointment requires the approval of:

    1. a special consultative committee appointed by the Dean and consisting of chaired SAS professors
    2. the Provost's Staff Conference



    To: Academic Deans
    Department Chairs
    From: Stanley Chodorow, Provost
    Date: January 15, 1997
    Re: Confidentiality of Employee Records
    The Pennsylvania Personnel Files Act requires that all employers permit employees to inspect their own personnel files. The Act includes within the definition of a personnel file, "performance evaluations," but excludes "letters of reference." These terms are not defined by the Act, but consistent with case law, the University considers all internal documents in tenure files, such as internal review letters and summary letters from department chairs and from chairs of personnel panels, to be performance evaluations and open to inspection.

    Since 1993, the University also has permitted faculty members to inspect letters from external reviewers. This memorandum modifies that policy. Inasmuch as letters of reference are excluded from the definition of a personnel file, the University will no longer allow inspection of external review letters, provided that the faculty member had some input into the selection of the reviewers and the reviewers did not receive honoraria or other payment from the University for completing the review. The following assurances to potential reviewers and procedures will apply henceforth.

    1. Letters to Potential External Reviewers

      Letters to potential external reviewers should be completely mute on the subject of confidentiality or they may warn potential reviewers that although it is the University's policy that external letters will be held in confidence, in the event of litigation or a governmental investigation, the candidate or others may gain access to the information therein contained.

    2. Inspection of Personnel Files

      The most complete and reliable personnel files are those maintained in the deans' offices of the schools. Thus, these files will be provided in response to requests from faculty members. The procedures outlined below are intended to regularize the process.

      1. Faculty members who wish to have access to their personnel files will make a formal request, in writing, to the Associate Provost. That request should specify the materials to which access is requested.
      2. The Associate Provost will procure the requested files from the school office and review them to determine what information, if any, is not subject to the access requirements of the Personnel Files Act.
      3. The material will be made available for inspection by the faculty member in the Office of the Associate Provost. Notes may be taken, but no materials may be copied.

    SAS Implementation of Provost's Memorandum #1-97

    1. The phrase "some input into the selection of the reviewers" refers to, and is the same as, our procedure in which candidates for promotion to tenure or to full professor and candidates for new appointments to these ranks are asked to name three external reviewers while the department independently--without consulting the candidate--names a more extensive list for approval by the School and the Provost.

      For appointments to assistant professor or non-tenured associate professor, the candidate names some -- if not all -- of the references and no honoraria are paid. Thus, in all cases of appointment to non-tenured positions, external letters of reference will be treated subsequently as a confidential portion of the personnel file.

    2. The School recommends, and has so noted on SAS Form 99-18, that all requests to external reviewers state that: "It is the policy of the University of Pennsylvania that external letters be held in confidence. However, in the event of litigation or a governmental investigation, the candidate or others may gain access to the information contained in these letters."
    3. The School recommends that those few departments in which the payment of honoraria for external reviews has been this custom, cease providing such honoraria. In these cases, a word of explanation to reviewers accustomed to the former practice may be in order. If that is the case, we recommend that the following statement be appended to the confidentiality statement from item 2 above: "Changes in the law make it impossible for us to promise this level of confidentiality if we provide honoraria or other payment for completing the review. Thus, we have had to discontinue our policy of providing modest honoraria in order to secure the maximum protection allowable by law for your very valuable input into our personnel process."

    1. It would be useful to the Provost's Staff Conference if either the department chair or one of the reviewers would identify the most significant scholarly journals in the field.
    2. When listing jointly authored publications, authors should appear in the order actually employed. Do not use the "with" terminology unless it is a standard usage in the discipline.
    3. Give exact page numbers for articles; give number of pages for books and monographs.
    4. Include all professional reviews of books written by the candidate since his or her last promotion.
    5. All votes of departments, departmental committees, and school committees should appear and should be stated numerically--number favorable, number opposed, number abstaining, number not present.
    6. Do not include illegible teaching reports or other unreadable materials.
    7. All letters received must be included in the dossier.