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.  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, 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:  

  • The candidate can select up to 30 students from a computer-generated list of every student she has taught or taught and advised during the pre-tenure (i.e., their years as an assistant professor) or post-tenure (i.e., their years as an associate professor) period.  This selection should be submitted to the department chair by September 1 of the evaluation year.
  • This list of 30 is then combined with an additional 60 names (consisting of 25 current students, 25 graduated students, and 10 advisees), taken from the same lists but generated randomly by the program. (This occurs automatically once the candidate submits the 30 initial names.)
  • The full list of 90 students is automatically sent to the department/program chair or the tenure/promotion committee chair.  (When the chair logs in, she can see all the faculty in her department/program who have completed the selection process).
  • The candidate can submit up to 3 additional names to the department/program chair of students who were not in the initial computer-generated list in step 1 (e.g., advisees who never took a class with the candidate).
  • The chair then uses the letter solicitation template on the Provost's web site (see below) to send email requests to all 90 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.  (Never send individual messages to any students; they should not feel pressured to provide a letter.  Always use the Bcc field for student outreach.)
  • 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 request from the [  ] Department at Washington and Lee University.  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 [his/her] file.  I ask that you provide such a letter.  

According to our records, you have worked or are working with [him/her] directly in at least one class, in guided research, as an advisee, as an athlete, or in more than one of these categories.  We would greatly value your individual impressions of Prof. [Lastname] as an educator, research mentor, coach, and/or academic advisor, according to your experience with [her/him].  

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].  

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 chairaddress@wlu.edu.  Let me assure you that your letter will be held in strict confidence; only members of the committees involved will have access to it.  Prof. [Lastname] will not see your letter.  

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

Sincerely,  

Chair's name