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Statement of Professional Guidance for New Faculty Members

by the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC), 1987, Revised November 2015

CCCC offers the following statement of guidance for faculty embarking on careers in the field of composition and rhetoric.


The purpose of this statement is to help beginning faculty members, particularly at the assistant professor rank and in non-tenure-track positions, to succeed in their new institutions. These recommendations are intended for early-career faculty members themselves as well as administrators and other faculty in the hiring departments, to ensure proper mentoring. This document works in conjunction with two other CCCC position statements: the Statement of Best Practices in Faculty Hiring in Rhetoric and Composition Studies, as well as the Principles for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing, especially the information in principle number eleven, “Sound writing instruction is provided by instructors with reasonable and equitable working conditions.” While almost all the recommendations in this statement apply to both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, there is a section dedicated to professional guidance particularly for non-tenure-track faculty.

Conditions of Employment

Job advertisements typically offer key information about the position and the university—duties and expectations, whether or not the job is tenure-track, and if not, if it is renewable and for how long—but candidates should not hesitate to ask about terms of employment if they are not stated or are unclear. If the expectations are not provided in writing, then the candidate should include a detailed statement of his/her understanding of them in an acceptance letter, and keep a copy of that letter. Both personnel and policies change, so it is important to have written records on such matters. Administrators should assume responsibility for helping faculty members obtain information about their positions and for encouraging open communication about expectations.

Upon accepting a position, the candidate should discover and become familiar with any faculty handbooks, union contracts, and similar personnel policy materials. The new faculty member should know the practice, policy, and philosophy on such issues as:

  • Reassigned time
  • Merit evaluations: the relative weight given to teaching, service, publication, grants, and professional involvement
  • Reappointment, tenure, and promotion processes
  • Committee work and other university and departmental service expectations
  • Advising expectations
  • Summer school teaching
  • Consulting with industry or other schools
  • Grounds and processes for dismissal
  • Faculty grievance and appeals processes

If the new faculty member’s understanding is in conflict with the written regulations, or if customary practice seems to deviate from them, then the faculty member should, before accepting reappointment, clarify the situation with the department chair, with documentation in the form of a letter from the chair or a letter of understanding from the faculty member to the chair.

Writing Program Administration

When a position involves administrative responsibilities, a new faculty member should have a clear understanding, documented in writing, of how such administrative work will figure in evaluations, how it will be factored in with their teaching, research, and service (administration’s weight in performance reviews), and the length of time that the new faculty member is expected to serve as an administrator. Institutions should follow the recommendations in two helpful statements from the Council of Writing Program Administrators: “The Portland Resolution”: Guidelines for Writing Program Administrator Positions and Evaluating the Intellectual Work of Writing Program Administration.

In some institutions, beginning composition faculty are required to shoulder inappropriate or excessive administrative responsibility. Administrative responsibility is “inappropriate or excessive” when it interferes with the new faculty member’s ability to fulfill other requirements for reappointment, raises, promotion, or tenure, or when it places the candidate in conflicting relationships with senior faculty who will participate in decisions about such matters. For example, a junior faculty member in composition may be required to supervise the work of other, more senior faculty members who will participate directly in decisions about his/her reappointment, promotion, or tenure. The administrative and teaching burden of the position may be so heavy as to prevent the candidate from fulfilling requirements for scholarly work.

Reappointment, Promotion, Permanent Status

Faculty members should have a clear understanding, in writing, of what activities will be considered important in evaluation for reappointment, raises, promotion, and tenure. Some institutions base such evaluations solely on teaching and other locally assigned activities.

Where teaching is a major consideration, faculty members should know what factors are considered in evaluating teaching (e.g., attrition rates, student performance on departmental or institutional examinations, results of student surveys, classroom observation by peers or administrators) and the relative weight given to each factor. Some institutions consider service to the profession and/or scholarship as well.

Where service to the profession is a factor, a junior faculty member needs to know which activities (e.g., workshops, committee assignments, offices) and which professional organizations are deemed important by the institution.

Where scholarship is a factor, the junior faculty member needs to know which journals and types of publications will “count.” Of particular concern are textbooks, computer software and documentation, creative writing, collaboratively authored work, and community engagement; in each case, some institutions do and some do not value such work as scholarly activity. Three other, related CCCC position statements will be helpful for reference:

Given the wide variance among institutions on these matters, a new faculty member should seek—and the department should provide—detailed guidance from the beginning and throughout the early years of a career.

Almost all institutions have a formal procedure of annual review, with a written and/or oral evaluation by the department chair of the faculty member’s performance in the areas relevant at that school (e.g., teaching, scholarship, and service to the institution or profession). Such procedures can give junior faculty members a general indication of what progress they are making toward reappointment or tenure.

Regardless of whether there is a formal procedure of annual review, most department chairs will appreciate a written report from a faculty member of his or her professional activities, including publications, participation in conferences and the like, course and curriculum development, proposals for external funding, teaching evaluations, awards and other professional recognition, and any other relevant matters.

If the institution provides a written annual evaluation, the candidate should keep a copy in his/her personal files. If the annual review is oral, the candidate should reply to it with a letter documenting his/her understanding of the results, keeping a copy on file. If there is no formal procedure for annual review, the above described annual report of one’s professional activities is especially important, as it will be the sole means of documenting the candidate’s efforts to fulfill the institution’s requirements for reappointment, promotion, or permanent status.

New faculty may find it helpful to seek mentors who can offer experienced counsel about the values and procedures of the institution. Some schools have formal systems of assigning mentors to new faculty members. New faculty members must realize, however, that the oral counsel of a mentor, even one formally designated, may be inaccurate and is not part of the official record that will determine matters of reappointment, promotion, or tenure.

Candidates for tenure and promotion should keep a record of what procedures are followed throughout the promotion and/or tenure process. The timing, sequence, and manner in which procedures are followed may be of importance in case of an unfavorable decision. If the candidate feels that an unfair decision has been made, then he or she should appeal through channels, carefully following the appeal procedures required by the written rules of the institution.

Professionalism and Collegiality

Every institution strives for a spirit of collegiality, and junior faculty members should respect and practice collegiality while advancing their own careers and protecting their own interests. Still, institutions should be aware of racial, regional, gender, and ableist bias embedded in the notion of “collegiality” and should resist using it as an implicit criterion in faculty review processes. All discussions and written communications on issues of evaluation and personal advancement should be professional, objective, and dispassionate.

The best way, finally, to prepare for the decision of reappointment, promotion, and/or tenure is to discharge professional responsibilities to the best of one’s ability, and ensure that these efforts are fully recognized by the department and school administration.

Non-Tenure-Track and Adjunct Faculty

During the search process for a NTT faculty position, and once an offer is extended to a candidate, the department should communicate clearly with the candidate about the particular expectations, processes, and resources associated with NTT positions, such as:

  • Possibilities for promotion: if NTT faculty who are hired on a less-than-full-time basis have access to a promotion to full-time status, if qualified, or if promotion within full-time NTT rank is possible.
  • Teaching support and recognition opportunities, including basic supplies such as private office space, an individual computer, an individual telephone, administrative support, and office supplies, as well as professional development support and eligibility for teaching awards.
  • Enfranchisement: opportunities for participation in faculty governance at all levels from the department to the whole institution.
  • Evaluation procedures: if formative evaluation (with opportunities to improve) before summative evaluation is not available, the faculty member should request it, as well as a measure of teaching evaluation in addition to student surveys. Numerical scores on student surveys are a particularly deficient lone measure of teaching performance and should always be placed in an appropriate context. If evaluations are not in writing, the faculty member should write a letter to his or her department chair explaining his or her understanding of the feedback given in the evaluation.
  • Academic freedom: the official institutional policy describing protections for teaching, research, intramural speech, and extramural speech, as well as customary practice.

This position statement may be printed, copied, and disseminated without permission from NCTE.

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