Can you smell it in the air? It's annual review season!
One of the early surprises when I got to Employment University was the way they handle the review and tenure process here. When I interviewed I asked a lot about expectations, timeline and general P&T type stuff, but I didn't really think to ask how the actual reviews are done.
Reviews occur at all stages of the game, but assistant profs are reviewed annually, associates every two years and full profs every four. Fair enough, no surprises, until I found out that the process is entirely transparent. The AAUP contract negotiated at the university level specifies that every tt-track person in a department gets to weigh in on the file of everyone else. That means that in my first year, I had the right* to weigh in on someone's tenure case and someone going up for full professor.
I've asked around and can't find another university that does it this way, but they may be out there. In this system there are some advantages, such as being given an in depth look at The Bar for those hoping to make tenure. It also makes a process that is generally shrouded in mystery and wrapped in an enigma, very open. The down side, of course, is that junior faculty are asked to comment on people's files who are senior to them, which can present some conflicts at times. Also, if the decision is grieved the books get opened up and everyone's signed comments are available to the candidate, further muddying the waters. Interestingly, the external evaluation letters for tenure are openly available to the candidate as well, though the letter writers are informed of this.
I do wonder if the openness leads to a more fair evaluation of the candidates or whether it tends to make people less likely to be harsh on a person, even when it is warranted. Will people be brutally honest if they think it might lead to frostiness in the department? I don't know, but I'm sure it depends on the person and their relationship with the candidate.
So how does review work in your department? What are the good and bad aspects of it?
*One can also decline to assess someone, but must do so in writing.