Senate passes reforms to merit process

The UC Davis Representative Assembly has voted to revamp the campus’s method for evaluating merit raises and promotions in the hopes of restoring faculty confidence and boosting pay, traditionally near the lowest in the UC system.

The move came at an assembly meeting last week at which faculty members overwhelming approved a plan of the Academic Senate’s Special Committee on Personnel Processes Reform. The changes are designed to keep faculty reviews closer to sources of academic expertise and enhance faculty member’s chances for advancement.

The reform committee refined suggestions first made by another senate group, the Special Committee on Academic Personnel Processes, to the pay increase and promotion processes. Earlier this year members of the reform committee proposed new senate bylaws and drafted resolutions to the chancellor and the Committee on Academic Personnel. That board now reviews both promotions as well as merit reviews for senior level professors.

The reform committee’s plan includes:

• redelegating all merit reviews to college-based personnel committees;

• increasing the authority of the Academic Senate over the Commit-tee on Academic Personnel;

• establishing standards for achieving advancement in every academic discipline;

• returning to the five-member ad hoc personnel committees to ensure balanced input;

• and creating a formal appeal process for personnel committee recommendations on merit raises and promotions.

"This is the biggest reform of the personnel process made on this or any UC campus," said Kevin Hoover, an economics professor and member of the reform committee.

The new bylaws will go into effect Sept. 1. The resolution addressed to Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef – who has the final decision on merit raises and promotions – will ask that he make parallel changes in administrative processes.

Academic Senate Chair Jeff Gibeling said the changes are intended to simplify the appraisal process for faculty. Many faculty members have felt as though they were not getting enough constructive criticism from CAP for improving on their scholarship record, he said.

Additionally, review appeals will now be considered by a group superior to the group that made an initial recommendation. Faculty members will also get the assistance of a body of experienced faculty members, the Academic Personnel Advisers.

"I hope they have far-reaching impacts. There are many faculty who don’t understand the process," Gibeling said. "A group that can provide independent advice could be very helpful."

One member of the personnel reform committee did not endorse the report. Linda Morris, chair of the English department, said in a letter to Gibeling that she believed it went "too far in attempting to correct perceived problems in the campus personnel process."

Overall, however, Hoover said that he was pleased with the feedback the reform committee received from the Representative Assembly.

"I think most of the debate was extremely useful, and the changes that were made were truly improvements," Hoover said.

With the Representative Assem-bly’s decision made, plenty of work still remains for the new review processes to work, Gibeling said.

Academic departments for example, Gibeling said, will be asked to create published standards of scholarship that personnel committees will use to evaluate the departments’ faculty members.

"It’s going to be difficult," he said. "It’s going to tear some departments apart; others will find it healing."

In addition, CAP, the vice provost for academic personnel and Gibeling will be asked to encourage faculty to sit on ad-hoc review committees.

One bylaw contained in the report will go back to the senate’s Executive Council for review this fall. Bylaw 77 would ask the Faculty Welfare Committee to annually collect and report salary data comparing all UC campuses and "universities of higher status … whose reputations we would like to emulate."

Committee chair John Oakley, a law school professor, said with the work his committee does already – including discussing retirement, health benefits, housing and investment issues – that would be impossible to do.

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