2016-17 Memo on Confidentiality in Personnel Process
TO: UCLA Faculty
FROM: Academic Senate Chair Susan Cochran and Interim Vice Chancellor Michael Levine
DATE: September 21, 2016
RE: Confidentiality in Personnel Process
Peer review is the lifeblood of the academic personnel process, and confidentiality is essential for meaningful and credible peer review. As the university embarks on a period of intensive faculty hiring and promotion review, we are writing to remind you of your obligations to maintain confidentiality throughout the peer review process. These obligations exist at every level, including review of candidate files, submission of internal letters, participation on ad hoc and personnel committees, and discussions during faculty meetings to consider candidates for appointment and promotion. The identities of those writing external letters, serving on ad hoc committees, and speaking during faculty discussions as well as the contents of their evaluations must be kept confidential if candid assessments are to occur and the institution of tenure is to maintain its integrity. No matter how innocuous you may think a disclosure is, and no matter how significant you may believe the countervailing considerations to be, there is no acceptable excuse for violating confidentiality within the academic review process.
Within these constraints of confidentiality, faculty members have multiple means of securing guidance for their personnel actions. Junior faculty are typically assigned an advocate or mentor by their department when they are hired to help guide them through the academic process. In addition, all faculty members seeking insight into departmental judgments about their promotion cases are entitled to see the departmental letter presenting the evaluation; and departmental faculty are entitled to review and comment upon those departmental letters before they are released. Furthermore, obligations of confidentiality can coexist with the mentoring activities important to the advancement of junior faculty. Obligations of confidentiality do not preclude individual faculty members from sharing their own professional judgments about candidates’ performance or providing advice to candidates about how to satisfy the professional standards of their department, provided they do not disclose information revealing the identities of other faculty members or the specific contents of their comments.
It is a violation of the UCLA Faculty Code of Conduct to “[b]reach … established rules governing confidentiality in personnel procedures.” This provision of the Code is subject to enforcement through the Academic Senate’s Charges process. Although sanctions are available, we believe it is more important to reinforce the values that we share through our institutional norms and culture. We are writing to affirm our conviction that the advancement of knowledge and public support for higher education depend upon a review process in which faculty feel free to make evaluations based on substance rather than on fear of personal or professional repercussions. Through your own adherence to confidentiality, as well as your affirmation of its importance, you will strengthen the culture of peer review. We thank you for your commitment to ensuring the quality of our hiring and promotion process at UCLA.
Interim Vice Chancellor, Academic Personnel
Chair, Academic Senate