By: Ann Petrila, Professor of the Practice, Kimberly Bender, Professor for Children and Youth, Graduate School of Social Work
After our first year of using the DDM model to guide our promotion and tenure deliberations, we turned to year two and were a bit shocked by our growing size. Based, in part, on Covid-related extensions, we had an unusually large group of faculty seeking promotion (7 colleagues when 2-3 is our norm). Based on our P&T guidelines, up to 35 faculty members were eligible to deliberate and vote on several of our applicants. It didn’t take us long to do the math and realize that our current DDM model, in which all voting members were given individual time to speak to each aspect of an applicant’s portfolio, was going to require more than 18 hours of deliberation meeting time within one deliberation month – a toll too heavy for GSSW.
We considered options to address our growth in faculty size and applicants. Small group deliberations seemed convenient but didn’t allow for all voting faculty to be informed by what their colleagues shared in the deliberation. Adding layers of interpretation, where small groups filtered down what to report back to all voting members introduced potential bias and power dynamics we were hoping to avoid.
We decided to hold separate criteria discussion meetings ahead of discussing specific applicants. These criteria meetings allowed faculty to share interpretations of the criteria, informing one another and providing a frame for how individual applicants were going to be reviewed. This also gave us an opportunity to add a deliberation question about how individual faculty members were interpreting the criteria in the context of Covid-impact. We recorded these criteria discussions – requiring all voting faculty to review before assessing individual faculty and offering the opportunity for assistant professors to transparently hear how criteria were being discussed by their more senior colleagues.
Post criteria discussion, we entered deliberation of individual applicants (by line and rank), and instead of all individuals present speaking, we randomly chose 7 faculty to share their interpretations and then asked anyone not chosen that had a new/different perspective to share to raise their hand to add input. This allowed for hearing multiple perspectives (with limited speaking time and random speaking order) while doing so in a shorter meeting period. We also weighted random selection of speakers by faculty line (e.g., if reviewing a clinical professor, more clinical professors were asked to share their assessments than tenure track professors); this allowed us to elevate the specialized knowledge of faculty who had shared the role being evaluated and address power differences common across faculty lines.
It went well; feedback was generally positive. The DDM gave us a framework to guide our deliberations but was flexible enough for us to adjust as our department grew, as we faced new considerations like Covid, and as we attempted to honor the diverse roles we have in the school. In the coming year, the P&T committee is facilitating a refinement of our school’s P&T guidelines based on issues raised in our criteria discussion and deliberations – the DDM process helped us realize where our criteria needed updating and greater clarification moving forward.