In several recent comment threads, Group of 88 members and/or their sympathizers have suggested that non-specialists even describing the work of Group members (something that, after all, requires only reading comprehension skills) is unacceptable and contrary to academic practice.
Given this fury, an outsider to academics doubtless would believe that professors from outside the candidate’s field are never put in a position to comment upon, much less evaluate, the candidate’s scholarship.
As the Group defenders are full aware, this claim is absurd. Duke, like most academic institutions, has non-departmental review committees as part of its tenure process. At Duke, the Committee is called the Advisory Committee on Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure.
Below is the relevant passage from the Faculty Handbook (admittedly, not the Group’s favorite document) describing the advisory committee. (See chapter three; the required "diversity" consideration is also worth noting.) As its composition makes clear, most of the committee’s members would not come from the field of the candidate—yet their decisions have a major effect on the candidate’s career.
All appointments and promotions that confer tenure and promotions to the rank of professor shall be considered by the Advisory Committee on Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure (AP&T), a group that advises the provost.
This committee is appointed by the provost and, in addition to the chair, consists of twelve full professors nominated by the Executive Committee of the Academic Council (ECAC) on the basis of scholarly distinction, aptitude for service on this demanding committee, and availability for the term involved. In making nominations, ECAC shall seek balance among divisions, schools, and academic disciplines within the faculty. Normally at least two members will come from the Arts and Sciences Division of Humanities, two from the Division of Social Sciences, two from the Division of Natural Sciences, one from the Pratt School of Engineering, one from the Fuqua School of Business, one from the basic medical sciences, and three from these or other units, subject to review. The chair shall be a faculty member nominated by ECAC and appointed by the provost. The chair will be appointed for a one year term, renewable. The president, the provost, and the dean of the
will serve as nonvoting ex-officio members of the committee. Graduate School
The Advisory Committee on Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure is charged with evaluating the dossiers forwarded to it, consistent with standards enunciated in this document. If the AP&T Committee has questions about materials in the dossier, or if it lacks certain documentation, the committee will ask the chair, director of the program, or dean of the originating unit for clarification or additional materials. The AP&T Committee may supplement the outside letters received about a candidate with additional letters or reports from evaluators who are competent to judge the candidate's scholarship. Should the AP&T Committee decide, in its sole discretion, that it needs additional advice, it reserves the option to establish an ad hoc panel to review the dossier. This panel may gather additional information, if necessary, and will be asked to provide the AP&T Committee with a written evaluation. Panel members will be selected on the basis of their knowledge of the candidate's field and an overall balance of perspectives. One or more panel members may be Duke faculty, and it is typical to include at least one member from another institution. An AP&T Committee member normally will serve as liaison between the ad hoc panel and the AP&T Committee. In the case of current Duke faculty being evaluated for tenure the chair (or director) of the originating academic unit and dean will meet with the AP&T Committee to discuss significant issues raised in the course of the evaluation; in the case of external tenure candidates or internal candidates for promotion to full professor such interviews may be scheduled at the AP&T Committee’s discretion.
Individual faculty members may write to the AP&T Committee (or to the provost, who will refer such letters to the AP&T Committee) with regard to any case being considered by that committee. Such communications will be added to the dossier and kept confidential.
The Advisory Committee on Appointment, Promotion, and Tenure must then formulate its own recommendations for presentation to the provost. In general, a quorum requires nine voting members unless a sufficient number of votes, affirmative or negative, has been cast to represent an absolute majority (seven) of the committee. A recommendation should be considered definitive only if it has been supported, affirmatively or negatively, by vote of an absolute majority (seven) of the AP&T Committee. In the event the AP&T Committee's recommendation is negative, the provost will review the dossier (prior to notification of the candidate or department) to determine whether all factors relating to the merit and value of the candidate, including ethnic, racial, and gender diversity, have been fully and adequately considered.
The provost will inform the AP&T Committee of his or her decision. Should the provost choose not to accept the recommendation made by the AP&T Committee, the provost shall so inform the committee in writing and indicate the basis for the decision.
The provost will communicate to the appropriate dean his or her decision and the major factors underlying it. The dean of the school is responsible for transmitting this information to the head of the originating academic unit (e.g., department chair), if there is one, and either the dean or chair will communicate this to the candidate. If the Provost intends to render a negative decision on a case already considered by the AP&T Committee, or a case that has not received a positive recommendation from the department, the Provost will inform the candidate, the departmental chair and the relevant dean. An appeal of the Provost’s impending decision, from any or all of these three parties, may then be made within the following two weeks, submitted through the Dean. The Provost will also provide a copy of the official APT memo summarizing the case and the deliberations of the APT Committee, or of the chair’s review summary. If the Provost intends to act contrary to a positive recommendation from the APT Committee, the Provost must provide the basis for this decision. On the basis of this appeal, the provost may then either refer the case back to the AP&T Committee, including the departmental appeal, and ask for reconsideration of its recommendation or make his or her decision without referral. On any one case the originating academic unit, school, and/or candidate is limited to one appeal of the decision to the provost.
Generally if a candidate’s tenure dossier is forwarded by the academic unit, the AP&T Committee will consider the candidate only once. Thus, a faculty member whose tenure review is undertaken by the AP&T Committee during his or her initial contract term, and who is turned down for tenure by the University, shall be allowed to complete the term of the original appointment, but his or her tenure track appointment shall not be renewed or extended. However, a tenure track faculty member who has been turned down for tenure by the University may apply during an authorized national search for an existing non-tenure track position at Duke.
When the provost's recommendation is favorable, the provost shall consult with the president. With the president's approval, the provost shall submit the recommendation to the Board of Trustees for final action.