Letters of Evaluation
All parts of a candidate’s dossier are important and are used to document the candidate’s accomplishments in the areas of scholarship/ creative activity, teaching, and service. Contributions to teaching are verified by student and peer evaluations. Service is indicated by membership on committees, administrative positions within the University, active participation in professional organizations, and community service. Judgment about a candidate’s scholarship/ creative activity also requires documentation from multiple sources. At a research university, the quality of the scholarship/creative activity is paramount. Although there are several metrics, such as number of papers, books, or other creative activity, quantity is not a substitute for quality.
In this regard, the external letters of evaluation are crucial. For review purposes, external refers to any evaluator outside UCLA. Thus, reviewers at any other University, including other campuses of the University of California, are considered external. Internal letters, which may be solicited from faculty at UCLA, provide important information about the candidate’s teaching, mentorship, and citizenship, as well as further input on the scholarship/ creative activity. For the clinical compensated series, for whom primary emphasis is clinical teaching and professional competence, the internal letters are most important. The following comments about the external letters refer to the regular and In-Residence series.
It is through external letters that members of each discipline have the opportunity to provide expert judgment on the candidate’s creative contributions, originality, and standing in the field. External letters then are important at every level of the academic personnel process. The procedure for soliciting letters is specified in the CALL (Summary of Procedures # 2: Guide to Preparation of a Dossier, Section III. Letters of Evaluation). External letters are solicited by the proposing department from experts in the candidate’s area of research/creative activity. Both the department and the candidate suggest individuals from whom letters will be solicited. The most useful letters are analytical and provide a detailed evaluation of the candidate’s contributions. The academic review process provides the candidate with a mechanism to alert the reviewing bodies of potential issues that may bias the letters of evaluation. As stated in The CALL (Appendix 1, section VI), “The candidate may provide in writing names of persons who, in the view of the candidate, for reasons set forth might not objectively evaluate the candidate’s qualifications or performance. Persons so named are not, however, necessarily disqualified from being asked to provide an evaluation.” The candidate has the opportunity to review redacted copies of the letters and comment on them.
“Under normal circumstances, five to eight such letters are sufficient” (The CALL, Appendix 1, section VI). If, after examination of letters in a dossier, the Council on Academic Personnel (CAP) decides that the number of letters is insufficient, or that the letters are not sufficiently analytical, additional external letters will be requested. Because external letters are solicited by departments, CAP’s request requires the proposing Department to solicit additional external letters. After the appropriate number of letters has been received, all letters are carefully considered by the Council. In practice, letters from the Chair’s list tend to be more independent evaluations, and CAP traditionally gives more weight to these letters.