Instructions for Student Letter Solicitation Process Process Approved Sept 2018

The protocol for the solicitation and collection of confidential letters from current and former students was approved by the Advisory Committee on September 27, 2018 and updated on June 30, 2020.  The aim of this protocol is to create a process that balances the values of fairness and efficiency, and that ensures that evaluators receive sufficient student feedback to get an accurate picture of the candidate's qualities as a teacher, coach, mentor, and/or adviser.  The protocol ensures that we are contacting students with whom the candidate has worked closely, while also contacting students who have had a wide range of interactions with the candidate in their various work capacities.  The protocol addresses the concerns about how to generate a random sample of letters; about how many letters to request; about how to ensure a sufficient response; about the timing of the process; and about the extent to which the candidate can give input to the selection process.

Here is how the process works:  

  • Candidates can select up to 30 students from a computer-generated list of every student they have taught and/or advised at the university prior to the tenure evaluation (for candidates for tenure) or subsequent to tenure (for candidates for promotion to full professor). This selection should be submitted to the tenure or promotion committee chair by September 1 of the evaluation year.
  • This list of 30 is then combined with an additional 60 names (consisting of 25 graduated students, 25 non-graduated students, and 10 advisees), taken from the same lists, but generated randomly by the computer program. (This process runs once the candidate submits the 30 initial names.) At no point does the candidate have access to the 60 names randomly selected by the computer program.
  • The full list of 90 students is electronically sent to the tenure or promotion committee chair.  (When chairs log into the site, they can see whether the candidates have completed the student selection process.)
  • In addition, the candidate can submit to the tenure or promotion committee chair up to 3 names of additional students who were not in the initial computer-generated list described in step 1 (e.g., students whom the candidate neither taught nor advised but mentored informally).  These three students must be contacted in addition to the 30 identified by the candidate.
  • The chair then uses the letter solicitation template on the Provost's website (see below) to send email requests to all 90-93 students. (Their current emails are provided in the list.  Put all addresses into the Bcc field to preserve confidentiality.  If the chair wants the emails to go to an administrative assistant, that person's name should be in the Cc field.)  First outreach should go out by September 15.  Letters should be submitted no later than December 1.
  • On October 15, the original message should be forwarded again to all students who have not yet responded, with a brief reminder that their feedback will still be welcome by December 1.  It should be forwarded once more on November 15.  (We encourage all to use the mail-merge system to create individualized letters. Always use the Bcc field for student outreach if sending group emails.)
  • All received letters must be combined into a single PDF for inclusion in the confidential section of the candidate's tenure/promotion file.  

Student Letter Template

Dear X,  

I am writing to you today with a special request.  This year, [Assistant or Associate] Professor [Firstname Lastname] is a candidate for [tenure and] promotion, and confidential letters from current and past students form an important part of their file.  I ask that you provide such a letter.  

According to our records, you have worked or are working with them directly in a substantial way, whether in a class, in guided research, as an advisee, as an athlete, or in some other way.  We would greatly value your individual impressions of Prof. [Lastname] as an educator, mentor, coach, and/or academic advisor, according to your experience with them.

We would appreciate it if you would address the following general questions at the start of your letter, which will allow us to give your evaluation some context: (1) When and in what capacity or capacities have you worked with Prof. [Lastname]? (2) If it was in the context of one or more courses, was this/were these course(s) required or elective? Introductory or advanced? (3) If it was in an advising context, was Prof. [Lastname] your initial advisor, your major/minor advisor, or both? (4) If it was in a coaching context, please address the extent of your opportunity, while at W&L, to represent the university in a sport coached by Prof. [Lastname]. (5) If it was in some other capacity, please explain.

The department will begin to review Prof. [Lastname's] file starting Dec. 1, 2[XXX], so if you are willing to provide a letter, please send it before then.  We would be most grateful for letters that arrive sooner, and hope your schedule might allow you to send one early; that will help to ensure that a sufficient number of letters are received.  Please address your letter to me at chair or administrative assistant  Let me assure you that your letter will be held in strictest confidence.  Prof. [Lastname] will not see your letter.  

I thank you in advance for your help with this important process.  


Chair's name


Process Approved by the Advisory Committee: Sept 2018

Process Updated and Approved by the Advisory Committee: June 2020