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URBANA — Candidates for promotion and tenure at the University of Illinois will have to submit a one-page summary of their on-the-job contributions to diversity, equity and inclusion come fall 2025.

Officials believe the UI to be one of the first — if not the first — “research 1” university to explicitly implement a diversity, equity and inclusion requirement into the formal faculty promotion process.

This change is one byproduct of the revised promotion and tenure guidelines unveiled by the UI at the end of March, after several years of internal revisions and feedback.

Eva Pomerantz

UI psychology professor Eva Pomerantz

“I think this new revision makes it explicit that this diversity, equity and inclusion work is part of your responsibility as a faculty member,” said Eva Pomerantz, the psychology professor who led one of the promotion and tenure task forces.

Weaving diversity, equity and inclusion into all aspects of the university life was a central goal spelled out in the UI’s 2018-23 strategic plan.

Bill Bernhard

Bill Bernhard

The justification for the statement is to incentivize faculty as early as possible to do societally impactful work, said Bill Bernhard, executive vice provost for academic affairs.

That said, the university expects “diversity, equity and inclusion contributions will be more central for some faculty than others,” Bernhard said.

Just as some departments may emphasize authoring a book or gathering outside funding for research activities as part of the promotion process, departments will get the chance to define how the diversity, equity and inclusion statement fits into their framework, he said.

That’s why the statement won’t become a requirement for candidates until fall 2025. Until then, they can submit the document, but won’t be penalized for declining.

The UI provided a table of examples of activities that faculty members could include on their diversity, equity and inclusion statements on individual, programmatic and institutional levels.

An English professor could organize an annual summer workshop on the work of transgender authors. A physicist might adjust the syllabus to incorporate more authors and scholars from historically marginalized groups of the field.

A contribution could be as simple as changing when a lab group meets to a more “family-friendly” time — that’s inclusive and considerate, Bernhard said.

“What we hope is that long term, we’re really changing the culture of the university,” Pomerantz said. “We’re saying this is part of your job, we want you to think about this, act on this and continue it on into the future.”

Tenure refresher

Colleges submit their recommendations for faculty promotions to the Office of the Provost on Dec. 15 every year.

Recommended faculty have to provide a few core documents. They submit a research statement, summing up the professor’s scholarly work and aims, and another statement of three or fewer pages discussing “teaching philosophy, methods strengths, problems, goals” and more.

The one-page diversity, equity and inclusion statement will also become required in 2025.

Candidates also have the option to provide a three-page statement summing up their service impact to the campus community, department or state and national levels.

After evaluations by departments, colleges and the provost’s office, decision letters are sent the following May. Assistant professors are recommended to become associate professors of indefinite tenure, and associates are recommended for full professorship.

Beyond the diversity, equity and inclusion statement, there were a couple of key changes introduced in this round of promotion and tenure revisions. “Public engagement” work receives extra shine, to include academic contributions that may not be published in academic journals.

For example, Pomerantz singled out the UI law professors who, in March, submitted a rigorous evaluation of now-confirmed Supreme Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson for the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, which later presented findings to the U.S. Senate. The UI was one of two law schools to contribute an evaluation.

“That is a real service to our country using their expertise, and it won’t result in any sort of publication in a traditional sense, but clearly that has a major impact, and we want to acknowledge that type of thing,” Pomerantz said.

‘Research and teaching’The UI added measures to recognize candidates’ contributions in team research, where designated team members can spell out the work the candidate performed in the project. Evaluators must now consider how COVID-19 disruptions affected the output of each candidate.

That said, “The overriding criterion for promotion and tenure remains whether the promotion is ‘in the best interests of the institution,’” Provost Andreas Cangellaris said in an email detailing the changes to faculty.

“For most faculty members, the primary basis for promotion and tenure will be the record of research and teaching, with consideration also being given to service as well as public engagement and diversity, equity and inclusion in research, teaching and service,” he said.