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The Role of Collegiality in Academic Review, Promotion, and Tenure

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Review, promotion, and tenure (RPT) processes at universities typically assess candidates along three dimensions: research, teaching, and service. In recent years, some have argued for the inclusion of a controversial fourth criterion: collegiality. While collegiality plays a role in the morale and effectiveness of academic departments, it is amorphic and difficult to assess, and could be misused to stifle dissent or enforce homogeneity. Despite this, some institutions have opted to include this additional element in their RPT documents and processes, but it is unknown the extent of this practice and how it varies across institution type and disciplinary units. This study is based on two sets of data: survey data collected as part of a project that explored the publishing decisions of faculty and how these related to perceived importance in RPT processes, and 864 RPT documents collected from 129 universities from the United States and Canada. We analysed these RPT documents to determine the degree to which collegiality and related terms are mentioned, if they are defined, and if and how they may be assessed during the RPT process. Results show that when collegiality and related terms appear in these documents they are most often just briefly mentioned. It is less common for collegiality and related terms to be defined or assessed in RPT documents. Although the terms are mentioned across all types of institutions, there is a statistically significant difference in how prevalent they are at each. Collegiality is more commonly mentioned in the documents of doctoral research-focused universities (60%), than of master's universities and colleges (31%) or baccalaureate colleges (15%). Results from the accompanying survey of faculty also support this finding: individuals from R-Types were more likely to perceive collegiality to be a factor in their RPT processes. We conclude that collegiality likely plays an important role in RPT processes, whether it is explicitly acknowledged in policies and guidelines or not, and point to several strategies in how it might be best incorporated in the assessment of academic careers.
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