2021/2022 Update: College of Arts & Letters Faculty and Academic Staff Annual Evaluation Guidelines During COVID-19

Dear Colleagues, 

In mid-November 2021, the College held two meetings to assess the effectiveness of COVID impact statements in annual reviews. One meeting focused on tenure-stream faculty and the other on non-tenure stream faculty and academic staff. Department chairs and/or faculty and academic staff from unit peer evaluation committees attended. The charge was to review and update the university and college-level guidance on writing and evaluating COVID impact statements provided in fall 2020. In both meetings, participants were in agreement that the existing university and college guidance on COVID impact statements was quite helpful, but that they needed to be supplemented with additional information learned in practice. 

The following represents additional suggestions and clarifications for those writing and evaluating COVID impact statements for 2021 and in subsequent years. In addition, departments and centers should consider revisiting their annual review policies that may have been amended for 2020 to ready them for a resumption of peer review in 2021. Finally, at the bottom of this document you will find a sample COVID Impact Statement evaluation rubric that can be adapted for use in departments and centers by peer review committees and chairs/directors/supervisors alike. 

“Assessment of COVID-19 Impact Statements in Annual Evaluations and Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure” 

“CAL Annual Review Framework COVID 19 – Faculty and Academic Staff Annual Evaluation Guidelines During COVID-19” 

Please consider the following guidelines additions based on meeting feedback: 

Writing the Statement: 

  1. COVID impact statements are most effective when they clearly and factually define the professional impact over the past year and can project strategies and impact over the next year or two. When writing, it is essential to acknowledge and describe the types and amount of work that expanded or were new as well as areas of work that were limited or not feasible due to the pandemic. If possible, take time briefly to reflect on what has been learned and how this knowledge might be applied in the future. For instance, here are some starting sentence ideas –  
    1. Two of my co-workers became sick with COVID, and I subbed for them for 2 weeks each, which added to my workload.  
    2. My advising or mentoring load has risen substantially in the amount of work that I need to contribute because there are so many students in need.  
    3. My outreach activities that are normally 50% of my workload gradually started again over the summer and we were able to do 20% of our work in-person in the fall and the rest continued virtually. 
    4. The everyday flexibility and crisis management work took additional time: the everyday reflection on the teaching; multiple assignment changes in D2L, everyday classroom management, change in classroom dynamics, and classroom effectiveness strategies needed to be rethought. 
    5. The film I am making has been delayed for multiple reasons, including constant caregiving COVID isolation needs, interview and filming delays, and archive closings in another country.  
    6. The material that I need for my new art series has been delayed due to supply chain challenges. 
    7. I submitted an article or book proposal where it is now taking 9-12 months for peer review. Because of this, I needed to shift to this other project, for the time being, which was unexpected.

2.  Evaluation committees need to honor the impact statement at face value and not investigate its veracity. Faculty need not include long personal explanations to support the impact or provide documentation in the review dossier. If the faculty or academic staff member feels that a personal explanation is warranted, they have the option of providing additional information to the chairperson or director. It is also important to remember that some continue to juggle personal circumstances and commitments that were not foreseen. Some are getting back to normal, but the playing field is not even and others continued to be impacted in ways that are often not visible. 

3. Impact statements are confidential to the extent that MSU policies and procedures allow. While annual review letters written by the chairperson, director, or supervisor accompany promotion review materials, the annual review dossier materials themselves do not. If a faculty or academic staff member chooses to include a COVID impact statement in a promotion dossier, that statement will remain with the promotion dossier. 

4. Two examples of practices in units this past year that might be helpful: 1) To save time and effort, one unit integrated a location for factual COVID impact  onto the annual review form that included a number of potential pre-described impact options that could be checked. Faculty could add at the bottom. In this way, everyone was able to record their COVID impact in a standardized way that also helped with equitable evaluation across all faculty and academic staff. Personal impact that shaped professional impact was communicated to the chairperson. 2) Another unit provided a substantial list of some potential impacts to help with the statement writing.

5. Overall there was concern that everything that has been learned and all of the materials developed during COVID might go unused with a return to in-person instruction. Considering that each COVID experience is different, please reassess your work and strategically revise student learning outcomes. For instance in a program or a course, consider new materials developed and new strategies learned that improve student learning and course content.

Evaluating the Statement
In addition to the information provided above and in the existing university and college guidelines, consider creating a rubric to fit the context of your unit.  

Thanks and take care, 

Sonja Fritzsche, Associate Dean
College of Arts & Letters