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"Counseling" refers to Stanford departmental developmental feedback on performance relative to the standards for reappointment and promotion for faculty members. Department chairs, deans or their delegates for schools without departments, should confer annually with each pre-tenure faculty member in their department or school to review their performance in light of the criteria for reappointment or promotion.

Appropriate areas to discuss may include:

  • scholarship quality and productivity to date
  • general expectations of the discipline with respect to quantity
  • form or scholarly venue of publications
  • expectations, if applicable, about other indicators of recognition such as grant funding
  • suggestions for the scholarship that may be helpful
  • teaching quality, quantity, and type to date (including acknowledgment of special efforts in teaching)
  • quality of performance in other academic activities (such as creative works or clinical practice), if applicable
  • general expectations as to levels of service appropriate for junior faculty (and acknowledgment of special service efforts)
  • professional, behavioral or "institutional citizenship" advising

These counseling sessions should include direct reference to – and discussion of – the university’s and the school’s early career faculty counseling and mentoring, criteria for reappointment and promotion, as set forth within the Criteria Booklet contained in Appendix B to the Faculty Handbook, and as may be supplemented by the faculty member's School’s handbook. The comparative and predictive aspects of the tenure/promotion decision should be stressed, as should be the fact that tenure/promotion judgments generally cannot be made until the referee letters are received as part of the evaluation process. For this reason, counseling early career faculty members that they are “on track” to gaining tenure or promotion is inappropriate.

Schools vary in viewpoint and practice as to whether there should be a written record of these annual discussions. The university leaves this matter to each school’s discretion. However, the university does require a written record – the counseling letter – at the time of reappointment, and at the time of promotion to some (but not all) ranks.

A counseling letter provides an opportunity to give important written feedback to faculty members about their academic performance and progress to date based on the results of a reappointment or promotion review. The feedback should be constructive, realistic, and specifically tailored to the candidate and to the standards and criteria applicable to a future review or promotion.

A draft version of the counseling letter is submitted with the recommendation papers. Only after completion of the review process should the counseling letter be finalized and then given to the faculty member. After receiving the counseling letter, a faculty member is encouraged to meet with the department chair to discuss in more detail the feedback contained in the letter. Department chairs are in turn encouraged to offer such a meeting, if one is not requested.

Finally, although the purpose of a counseling letter is to offer practical guidance to the faculty member in regard to future efforts (such as by pointing out areas for potential attention or improvement), the candidate should recognize that the strategic advice offered is not a prescription for achieving tenure or promotion, but rather provides the letter-writer’s best judgment based on the results of this review. The ultimate responsibility for career trajectory and success rests with each faculty member.