Updates from the CAP

28 July 2020

Dear colleagues,

The CAP recognizes that the 2020-21 academic year will be unusual, to say the least, with faculty stretching to teach in new ways and with ongoing disruptions to research programs and creative work. In light of this, the CAP has begun a series of conversations about the evaluation of teaching, scholarship, and creative work in these times. We are writing to share some updates about evaluation processes going forward.

You may remember that in the Spring of 2020, the CAP, in consultation with faculty, decided that teaching would not be assessed for that semester. Although student course surveys were fielded, they were only sent to the instructors. We asked instructors not to submit their SCS scores as part of the evaluation process but invited an optional narrative self-assessment. We did not conduct student interviews or new class visits.

While the CAP feels that suspending the evaluation of teaching was appropriate for the emergency switch to online teaching in the spring, we believe that the evaluation of teaching plays an important role in the development of teaching. Therefore, we will resume the evaluation of teaching this academic year, staying as close as is feasible to our regular procedures. Given that faculty will be teaching in new ways, we imagine that we will need to adapt some of our processes. For example, if a unit or evaluation committee regularly conducts student interviews as the means to gather individual student opinions, then those interviews will likely be conducted virtually. Units or evaluation committees may also choose to observe video recordings of classes rather than conduct “in-class” visits, whether the course is remote, hybrid, or in-person. The Faculty Handbook already describes the procedures for observing such recordings.

Importantly, while we know that our colleagues are making tremendous efforts to provide meaningful and engaging intellectual experiences for our students in the coming fall, we recognize that this fall will be far from the regular Williams classroom experience for which our methods of assessment were developed. Therefore, we want to emphasize that the data from these various methods of assessment will need to be contextualized to account for the new ways in which faculty are teaching and innovating, and for the general disruptive nature of this pandemic on the experience of students and faculty. The CAP is also aware that faculty have different choices for teaching modality, including in-person, hybrid, and remote formats. There should be no pressure to choose any particular modality: faculty should choose the format that works best for them.

You may also remember that in the spring of last year we offered to assistant professors, instructors, lecturers, senior lecturers, or artists-in-residence with three-year contracts the option to delay either their tenure-clock or renewal decision by one year.

In recognition of the ongoing disruption, the CAP will grant all incoming assistant professors the same option to extend either their reappointments or tenure clocks by one year. Of course, assistant professors will have the option to come up for reappointment or tenure at the regularly scheduled time. An assistant professor who does not delay the reappointment decision will still be able to elect later to delay the tenure decision by one year. Assistant professors who opt to delay their reappointment decision should inform their unit or evaluation committee chairs not later than May 1 of their second year in rank. Assistant professors who opt to delay their tenure decision should inform their unit or evaluation committee chairs not later than January 15 of their fifth year in rank.

The CAP is also extending this option to delay a reappointment or renewal decision to incoming assistant professors of athletics on three-year contracts, as well as incoming lecturers on three-year contracts. These faculty may choose to delay their next reappointment or renewal decision by one year or to continue on their current schedule. Faculty who want to take this option must inform the Director of Athletics or their unit chair by May 1 prior to the year of their reappointment/renewal decision.

Finally, we recognize that faculty are confronting a range of challenges to their ability to pursue research programs and/or creative work. Please know that we are aware of the ongoing disruption and are actively discussing how we might address it should the pandemic continue to affect research productivity past this year.

Best wishes,
Safa, on behalf of the CAP