The possibility of an acceleration, or as the official University of California APM puts it, “advancement in step in advance of eligibility or to a higher step than normal,” usually occurs after the candidate has produced some extraordinary achievement, won some major award, received some outstanding recognition in her/his field, or been extraordinarily productive.  Such an action should not be proposed to correct a perceived inequity in rank or step, such as when a faculty member is considered to be achieving above rank or has been inappropriately held back in the past, but has not had a recent exceptional achievement.  That is when a department should consider a Merit Equity Review (MER).  An accelerated merit increase should only come up when the importance of recent recognitions or the exceptional rate of recent productivity is deemed sufficient to request an interruption to the normal merit cycle.

The review process for a proposed acceleration depends on the number of years proposed and the candidate’s pattern of past accelerations.  Accelerations of one year are almost always within the Dean’s final authority, with no CAP review unless the acceleration would lead to a rank or step that CAP would normally review, such as Full Professor or Professor Step VI.  A two-year acceleration is also normally within a Dean’s final authority, unless it is to one of the CAP-reviewed steps or the second two-year acceleration in a row.  Proposed acceleration of three years or more will always be reviewed by CAP, regardless of the step involved.

In a best-case scenario, the decision to make any request to come up for advancement early would only be made after discussion with one’s Department Chair and agreement from one’s faculty.  One wants faculty support for the action, and the Chair’s letter will have to provide much of the context and defense for it.  Such explanatory support should offer a complete description of the award or honor, a description of its background and sphere of influence, and perhaps suggest the company and caliber of former awardees.  Or, if it is another sort of achievement, such as an unusually productive period of publication or a major funding grant, the Chair’s letter should give CAP a full appreciation of its importance and some comparative sense of its prominence, rarity, or value in the field.

The larger the acceleration, the greater the justification that must be provided.  For example, a candidate’s achievements may prompt him or her to request not only early advancement to the next step, but also skipping a step.  To illustrate, a candidate who is at Professor, Step III might ask to come up for promotion after two years (rather than the normal three), and also ask to skip a step and request advancement to Step V.  In total this would amount to a four-year acceleration.  While such a request is not unheard of, it must be justified.  This means it is incumbent upon the candidate to provide her/his Chair and faculty with all the necessary background information on the achievement to convince them of its value and the appropriateness of the request.  And this context must also be sufficiently detailed and persuasive for them to make their supporting arguments in the dossier that CAP will receive.

The problems for CAP occur when such justifications are not provided, or are thinly or off-handedly treated, or are taken for granted.  For CAP, the question is simple and the same in each and every acceleration case:  do the achievements truly merit the extraordinary request?  If answering that question is taken seriously, and exaggerations and fact-stretching are kept to a minimum, a healthy evaluation and fair assessment process can ensue.  It is CAP’s inclination to look favorably on accelerations that are warranted, well-substantiated, and demonstrate above-and-beyond contributions to the campus, the wider academic community, and human knowledge.