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Appendix 35: Merit Equity Review

Revised February 13, 2017

Effective June 23, 2017

I.    Definition

The Office of the President has mandated that each campus provide a mechanism for ensuring that all University ladder faculty members are at the appropriate rank and step that is consistent with achievement and the prevailing UC and UCLA standards. The Merit Equity Review (MER) was established for Ladder-Rank faculty and has been in effect since July 1, 2003.   A MER is a process by which a faculty member can request a review of their current rank in order to establish whether it is appropriate in comparison to other faculty in their department and may not be commensurate with the candidate’s merit as assessed in the areas of research, teaching, professional activity and service.  A request for a MER must be substantive with all supporting information from the UCLA CALL relating to the rank and step of the proposed advancement. The review will proceed by assessing the candidate’s overall record, using the University’s established criteria with one exception: where a significantly higher rank or step is indicated, the case will not require the additional demonstration of a basis for accelerated advancement. When the MER results in advancement in rank and step, an appropriate salary adjustment may also be made.  However, a MER should not be used as a mechanism for salary equity.

A MER differs from an acceleration. An acceleration, or as the official University of California APM puts it, “advancement in step or rank in advance of eligibility or to a higher step than normal,” usually occurs after the candidate has produced some extraordinary achievement, won some major award, received some outstanding recognition in her/his field, or been extraordinarily productive in the review period. A MER is proposed to correct a perceived inequity in rank or step, such as when a faculty member is considered to be achieving above rank or has been inappropriately held back in the past, but has not had a recent exceptional achievement as stated above.

A MER is not to reopen or appeal a decision or address salary issues.  

II.    Eligibility

A MER of an individual faculty member shall not occur at the Assistant Professor level or at the Above Scale level.   A MER may occur once at the Associate Professor level; once at the Full Professor level prior to advancement to Professor, Step VI; and once after advancement to Professor VI, but before reaching Above Scale.

The MER process applies to the following faculty: 

  • Associate Professor
  • Professor
  • Associate Professor-in-Residence
  • Professor-in-Residence
  • Associate Professor of Clinical X
  • Professor of Clinical X
  • Lecturer SOE
  • Senior Lecturer SOE

III.    Timing

 A MER is conducted following the established deadlines (see Submission Deadlines). Once a department or unit recommendation has been determined, it is to be communicated promptly to the faculty member for his or her response, then to the appropriate Dean for the Dean’s recommendation, and to the Academic Affairs and Personnel Office (AAPO) for transmittal to the Council on Academic Personnel (CAP), which will make a recommendation for action by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel.

IV.    Initiation of a MER

A MER must be submitted concurrently with an on time merit/promotion action, but cannot be considered concurrently with an acceleration.  At the conclusion of these two reviews, two separate decisions will be made; one based on the request for a MER and the other on the proposed action.  Initially, the candidate must provide a summary statement of not more than two pages that identifies significant discrepancies in his/her current rank and step and what the candidate believes is appropriate with peers in the same discipline.  This statement will become part of the review file.

The MER process also provides an opportunity for those in administrative positions, including Deans, Chairs, and CAP, to suggest a MER for faculty whose rank and step are found to be seriously inconsistent with career-long attainment.

There are three ways in which a file proposing a MER may be brought forward to the Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel:

a)    Any ladder faculty member may request from his/her Department Chair that he/she be put forward for a MER. The faculty member’s request should identify, in addition to  the other information specified in this Appendix, area(s) of the record  that he/she believes were not previously sufficiently evaluated and/or area(s) of the record that indicate he/she was not hired at the appropriate rank/step commensurate with his/her accomplishments at the time of hire. The review process for a MER will be the same as that established for whatever level the candidate requests. Before making a recommendation, the Department Chair should consult with such faculty committees, or other faculty bodies, as prescribed by Departmental Bylaws or customary practices for consultation in cases at the requested level. In addition, the department must include a history of the candidate’s employment at UCLA, including rank, step at appointment, years at step, years at rank, sabbaticals and leaves.  After standard departmental review, the dossier should be forwarded to the Dean’s office which will then forward it to APO and CAP.

b)    In the case of a ladder faculty member where there is clear and convincing evidence that his/her department, Chair or Dean will be unable to compile the MER file with appropriate objectivity, the faculty member may request that the action bypass one or more of these reviewing agencies. Such requests must be approved by the Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel in consultation with CAP.  If the department or Chair is removed from the review process, the Dean will assume all of the duties normally assigned to the Departmental Chair for a MER review and will act in accordance with the customary departmental review procedures for the requested level. The Dean will form a qualified ad hoc committee to review the dossier and prepare a MER report. The Chair of the ad hoc committee will substitute as the Departmental Chair for the purposes of the MER review and will provide the candidate with a copy of the committee report prior to the dossier being sent forward to APO. If the Dean is removed from the evaluation process, the Chair will submit both the departmental recommendation and dossier directly to APO for review by CAP. In such cases, the Chair, not the Dean, may be requested to present the case before CAP.

c)    In extraordinary circumstances where permission is granted to bypass both the department and the Dean, the Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel in consultation with CAP will be responsible for appointing a campus ad hoc committee. The ad hoc committee would assume the Chair’s responsibilities of assembling the MER materials, reviewing the dossier, and overseeing the preparation and review of the MER report in accordance with customary departmental review procedures for the requested level. The Chair of the campus ad hoc committee will substitute as the Departmental Chair/Dean for the purposes of the MER review and will provide the candidate with a copy of the committee report and summary prior to the dossier being sent forward to APO.

V.    Procedures:

a)     A request for MER must be a substantive request that will require all supporting information as described in the UCLA CALL relating to the rank and step of the proposed advancement.

b)     A significant discrepancy between the faculty member’s existing rank and step and that of his/her peers within the same discipline must be identified.

c)    In order to allow for an appropriate assessment of equity, the department, school, or other designated reviewing unit shall provide the faculty member with copies of curriculum vitas and data summaries for a relevant number of faculty in the Department who have sought the same advancement. These data summaries and supporting documentation must be provided to the applicant within one month of the applicant’s request.  The candidate must submit 3-4 names of comparison faculty and the other reviewing agencies (the ad hoc committee, Chair, Dean, or possibly CAP) will provide the other comparisons.  The candidate should have 5-7 total comparison faculty.

d)    The applicant will supply a written analysis that compares his/her record of achievement in the areas of research/creative attainment, teaching, and service with that of colleagues who have attained the rank and step requested by the applicant. This comparative information should include, for example, a table containing some or all of the following information: year of Ph.D. or highest degree(s), rank and step of comparable faculty members, career publications, amount of extramural funding as appropriate, average number of courses taught per year and the average instructor score for the past five years, number of Ph.D. graduates advised over the career and/or over the past five years, and major prizes, awards, or recognitions received. Typically these analyses will consist of both quantitative (i.e., tables) and qualitative descriptions of the differences among the faculty members’ scholarly contributions. Subsequent to review and departmental vote, the department chair may chose to provide a similar comparative analysis of the candidates work.

e)    As stated in the UCLA CALL, advancement to Step VI is based not only upon performance since the last preceding advancement but also upon performance during the individual’s entire academic career.  Advancement to Step VI will be granted on evidence of sustained and continuous excellence in each of the following three categories: (1) scholarship or creative achievement; (2) University teaching; and (3) service.  Above and beyond that, great academic distinction, recognized nationally, will be required in scholarly or creative achievement or teaching.  Advancement to Step VI normally will not occur after less than three years at Step V.

f)    As stated in the UCLA CALL, advancement to Steps VII, VIII and IX will be granted on evidence of continuing achievement at the level required for advancement to Step VI.  Advancement normally will not occur after less than three years at the current step.

g)    As stated in the UCLA CALL, advancement to an Above-Scale rank involves an overall career review and is reserved only for the most highly distinguished faculty (1) whose work of sustained and continuing excellence has attained national and international recognition and broad acclaim reflective of significant impact; (2) whose University teaching performance is excellent; and (3) whose service is highly meritorious.  Except in rare and compelling cases, advancement will not occur after less than four years of service at Step IX.  Mere length of service and routine good performance at Step IX is not a justification for further salary advancement. There must be demonstration of additional merit and distinction beyond the performance on which advancement to Step IX was based.

If the recommended advancement involves an action that would require outside letters of evaluation, such letters must be included in the case (see “Sample Solicitation Letter” for each barrier step below).

The University of California is committed to excellence and equity in every facet of its mission, and the MER should take such contributions into account. Contributions in all areas of faculty achievement that promote equal opportunity and diversity should be given due recognition in the academic personnel process, and they should be evaluated and credited in the same way as other faculty achievements. Individual contributions to diversity and equal opportunity can take a variety of forms including efforts to advance equitable access to education, public service that addresses the needs of California’s diverse population, or research in scholar’s area of expertise that highlights inequalities.  Mentoring and advising of students and faculty members, particularly from underrepresented and underserved populations, should be given due recognition in the teaching and service categories of the academic personnel process.

VI.    The Council on Academic Personnel (CAP)

CAP’s assessment and recommendation play a critical role in the MER, as CAP is the only peer review body that has the advantage of a campus-wide perspective on faculty performance; and, unlike any other reviewing body, CAP has the ability to collect and compare files drawn from across the campus. CAP strives to ensure equity with every review. In consultation with the Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel, CAP will determine if a campus ad hoc committee will be required. The Dean (except in circumstances described in above) will have an opportunity to review the ad hoc committee report, as is done in all cases that require a campus ad hoc committee.

VII.    Possible outcomes

The Vice Chancellor for Academic Personnel shall make the final decision based on the full body of evidence in the file.

VIII.    Appeals

There is no appeal or reconsideration process for a Merit Equity Review.

Sample Solicitation Letters and Checklist



Revised 2/13/17

Web page updated 6/23/17