A. Leaves


The Faculty Handbook provides detailed information regarding requests for personal and professional leaves (without pay) as well as College-supported periodic leaves. The following information summarizes, but does not supercede, the Faculty Handbook’s description of the policies and procedures regarding Hamilton’s periodic leave program.

Eligibility for periodic leaves is determined by the number of semesters of full-time teaching. Tenured faculty are eligible to request, through application to the Dean and the Committee on Appointments, a one-term leave at full salary or a one-year leave at half salary after each ten semesters of teaching at the College. Tenure-track faculty are eligible to request periodic leaves on the same basis after their first six semesters of teaching at the College. The eligibility and scheduling of leaves for faculty who come to Hamilton with prior teaching experience will be determined at the time of appointment. One-semester leaves count as the two-course term of an annual five-course faculty teaching load.

Request for leaves are due on August 1 of the preceding year, and should be accompanied by a written statement from the Chair of the department in which the faculty member holds appointment. The Chair is expected to evaluate the proposal, make a recommendation to the Dean, and make clear how, if the leave is granted, the Department intends to staff its instructional program. The Chair’s letter should be informed by two concerns: an assessment of the candidate’s scholarly plan; and an assessment of the effect of the leave on the department’s ability to teach its curriculum. A chair can encourage the department’s faculty to stagger leaves, if possible, to avoid having a significant proportion of the leaves fall in the same year. This might include asking a faculty member to delay or advance a leave by a semester, remembering that any delayed or advanced semesters will count towards the timing of the subsequent leave. The chair should also take note of the fact that year-long leaves are typically replaced, while semester-long leaves and calendar year leaves are normally not replaced.

Application for Faculty Leaves

Applications should be submitted to the Dean no later than August 1, and at least one full calendar year in advance of the beginning of the academic year for which the leave is sought.

Applications should come in the form of a letter. Chairs should ensure that applicants have provided the following for the consideration of the Dean, the Committee on Appointments, and the President:

  1. The terms (fall, spring) for which the leave is sought.

  2. The year of the last College leave held while at Hamilton.

  3. A comprehensive and substantive statement about the goals, methods, and intended results of the study and research.

  4. An account of any special facilities or resources that will be required in its support.

  5. Copies of any prior publications upon which the proposed project is based.

  6. An explanation of the way in that it fits in the previous work and with the applicant’s long-term teaching, scholarly, and creative plans.

  7. Names of outside sources or agencies to which application also have been or will be made.

  8. An estimate of funds, if any, besides salary that are needed for the successful completion of the project.

  9. A letter of support from the department chair; or, if the applicant is the chair, a senior member of the department.

Chairs should help members of their department, particularly newer colleagues, plan and apply for periodic leaves by encouraging them to submit thoughtful and detailed proposals on schedule. Chairs are also encouraged to draw their colleagues’ attention to fellowship opportunities like those of the Guggenheim Foundation, NEH, ACLS, NSF, NIH, and others funded from outside the College. Chairs should familiarize themselves with the section of the Faculty Handbook (IX.F) that cover the means by which colleagues may seek leaves for purposes of professional activity. In all areas of faculty development, including the planning of leaves, the Dean can advise Chairs or the members of their departments.

If a chair is scheduled for a sabbatical leave, the chair may by agreement with the Dean continue to serve as chair during the sabbatical and receive the full amount of the chair stipend for that year. If the chair is instead receiving a course release for that year, the chair would teach two courses (instead of the expected three courses) during the semester not on leave. If the chair does not continue as chair during the sabbatical leave, then one-half of the chair stipend will be shared with the colleague serving as acting chair during the sabbatical. Someone serving as acting chair for a semester does not receive a course release.

Illness and Disability, Maternity,  Parental and Adoption, Caregiver, and Personal Necessity Leaves

The Faculty Handbook (FH: IX.F.3.) describes the terms and process for requesting all other leaves.  Faculty members anticipating any of these leaves should discuss their plans with the Dean as soon as possible. In each case the arrangements will be communicated to both the faculty member and the Department Chair in writing. 

B. Course Releases and Senior Thesis Teaching Credit

Course releases for chairing a department/major committee or for a special assignment approved by the Dean of Faculty should be taken during the academic year when the work justifying the release is being done.

Teaching credit for senior thesis work should normally be claimed when the requisite minimum number of six (6) theses for one course teaching credit is reached. A faculty member can request a delay of one year in claiming the teaching credit to manage departmental curricular offerings; further accumulation of thesis credit may not occur until the teaching credit is claimed. Teaching credit for the senior project should be integrated into design of curricular offerings and claimed concurrently insofar as is possible.

C. Reappointment, Tenure, and Promotion

The College’s procedures and standards for reappointment, tenure, and promotion are specified in Section VI of the Faculty Handbook.

One of the Department Chair’s most important roles is to guide and clarify the formal evaluation procedures for those departmental colleagues going through these formal evaluation processes. Chairs should be prepared to offer guidance and mentorship to faculty at all stages of their careers. The annual review process (discussed in Section 10 of this Guidebook) is particularly important for mentorship, as it provides an opportunity for the Chair to give clear feedback to faculty members about their progress in terms of the quality of their teaching, scholarship, and service.

Although it is primarily the responsibility of the Dean’s Office to remind all parties of the deadlines for various stages of these processes, the Chair should also be aware of these deadlines, and remind candidates and/or the Dean’s Office of them. Important deadlines for Chairs are:

         March 1: Chair provides list of those scheduled to stand for tenure in the upcoming year

         May 1: Chair provides list of those scheduled to be reappointed in tenurable or renewable positions in the upcoming year.

The Chair does have primary responsibility for some aspects of these processes. These are:

  1. Providing to the Dean’s Office the names of three or four external evaluators by April 1 for tenure candidates, and by September 15 for promotion candidates.
  2. Leading the process of nominating Associate Professors who are ready to stand for promotion to Professor. If a candidate wishes to self-nominate, the Chair should be aware of this, together with the appropriate Associate Dean.

  3. In all cases, the Chair is responsible for seeing that the voting members of the Department have read the reappointment, tenure, or promotion files of the candidate, which should include the candidate’s student teaching evaluations. The Chair is furthermore responsible for ensuring that voting members meet to engage in thorough discussion of the files and that they vote in a transparent manner on the case. Finally, the Chair is responsible for writing a letter, in consultation with the voting members, that expresses the department’s understanding of the merits of the file. This letter must be approved and signed by all voting members. The deadlines for these letters are:

September 15 for reappointments in renewable positions

February 1 for reappointments in tenurable positions

October 1 for tenure cases

April 1 for promotion cases.

  1. Another important responsibility of the Chair is to ensure that all potential candidates for reappointment, tenure, and promotion have had their teaching evaluated first-hand through class visitations by the voting members of the department, as mandated by the Faculty Handbook. Chairs should arrange for and coordinate these visitations at the beginning of every semester, ensuring both that all voting members will have visited a candidate’s classes before they vote, and that no undue burden is placed on the candidate. Every effort should be made to distribute these visits among classes and over several years, and with the agreement of the candidate. Chairs should ask for a letter from each colleague that documents his/her class visitation. The Chair should refer to these letters in the annual review of the potential candidate, and the class visitations should be listed in the annual departmental report. Copies of the letters should be given to the candidate after each visitation, and the Chair should keep copies of them for discussion during the department’s future deliberations. These visitations, and the letters they produce, are an important part not just of the process of formal evaluation, but also of the department’s mentorship of its faculty.

D. COA Advice for Chairs Writing Department Personnel Letters

It is critical that Department Chairs ensure that the policies of the Faculty Handbook with regard to review, tenure, and promotion are followed by the Department in evaluating candidates.  We encourage you to review the criteria for reappointment, tenure, and promotion in the Faculty Handbook in advance of any discussion about a particular case.  We also urge you to make the department’s case in terms of the criteria set forth through Department Guidelines approved by the COA.

Introductory Paragraph

The purpose of the first paragraph of the Department’s letter is to express its recommendation (with or without qualification) and record the department vote (numbers for, against, abstaining) as required by the faculty handbook.  The first paragraph might also offer a brief evaluation of the candidate’s teaching, scholarship, and service in terms of the criteria of the Faculty Handbook.

Part I: Teaching

Although teaching and scholarship records weigh more heavily than service, under the Faculty Handbook teaching is the most important criterion in the evaluation of a candidate for reappointment/tenure. Therefore the department’s evaluation of teaching is very important and must exceed discussion of student evaluations and student letters (random and select).

Note the courses (and levels) taught by the candidate. For reappointment, if the candidate had teaching experience prior to arrival at Hamilton, briefly mention. Note whether the candidate developed new courses or contributed to existing ones (or both). If the candidate has taught less-desirable or required courses, please note; also note courses that contain material with which students may be unfamiliar or to which they may be resistant.

Quote the department reappointment/tenure guidelines for teaching and frame the teaching section of the letter around them. It is helpful to begin with the candidate’s own materials (statement, teaching portfolio, course materials) and move outward to faculty observations before turning to student letters/student evaluations. You might consider including:

  1. Discussion of candidate’s goals/reflections from personal statement. It can be useful to discuss the rest of the materials in light of the candidate’s own goals.
  2. Description and evaluation of syllabi and teaching materials and discussion of how they support the candidate’s and department’s goals.
  3. Summary of faculty observations of teaching, noting themes and any changes over time.
  4. Summarize any evaluations of teaching that were created by the department or individual faculty member.
  5. Description of select and random student letters and student evaluations and how they support the themes described earlier. Include quotations from students that illustrate these themes.
    1. For letters, note student name and select vs. random letter
    2. For evaluations, note course, semester, and student number
  6. Candidate’s work mentoring students (labs, independent study courses, faculty-student summer research, senior projects).
  7. Other evidence of pedagogical success (scholarship, conference papers related to pedagogy, recognition of excellence in teaching).

Acknowledgement/explanation of any negative comments from students/faculty (do not sweep these under the rug). If the candidate has addressed these in his/her personal statement, discuss what steps are being taken to remedy the issues. Be sensitive to whether negative student comments could be indications of gender or ethnic/racial bias and discuss if the student evaluations differ from the faculty observations.

Summarize whether and how the candidate has met/exceeded the reappointment/tenure/ promotion criteria for teaching set forth in the Faculty Handbook, p. 28-29.

Part II: Scholarship

Briefly summarize the candidate’s area(s) of scholarship.

Reiterate the department’s criteria for scholarship as described in the department’s tenure & promotion guidelines.  Place the work the candidate has done since coming to Hamilton into the broader context of their scholarship trajectory.

For some science faculty standing for reappointment, it is appropriate to describe the steps taken to set up the candidate’s laboratory, as this often represents a significant investment of time in the first year. Note how the candidate has gone beyond the research conducted in graduate school or during the post-doc in the case of reappointment and tenure cases.

For faculty in book fields, scholarly progress can be demonstrated by stages of querying presses, submitting a typescript, receiving and responding to reviews by peer reviewers, and resubmitting revised or polished work for consideration.

Be sure to describe both the quality and the quantity of the candidate’s scholarship and whether these meet the departmental criteria.

a.         Is the candidate’s work published in high-quality journals or has a  manuscript been accepted by a high-quality press? Be specific about peer-review processes in the case of each publication or scholarly object.

b.             Has the candidate applied for external grants? Been awarded grants? What does grant activity suggest about the scholarly trajectory?

c.              Are there other types of scholarship that should receive consideration (e.g., digital, public)?

d.             Are there works in progress in the file that can be evaluated by the Department (and external reviewers in tenure cases) although not yet published?

e.             If appropriate, discuss collaborations formed/maintained and student co-authors and co-presenters.

f.          For collaborative work, it is helpful to address the relative contributions of the candidate.

For tenure and promotion cases, incorporate quotations from the external reviewers in your evaluation of scholarship. Is the candidate a national or international expert in their field? How is this clear from the file?

Summarize whether and HOW the candidate has met/exceeded the reappointment/tenure/promotion criteria for scholarship set forth in the Faculty Handbook.

Part III. Service

Describe the department’s expectations for service from the tenure and promotion guidelines.

Describe the candidate’s within-department and broader college-wide service. Incorporate evidence from colleague letters about the candidate’s engagement/contributions, etc., in service contexts/committees. Describe the candidate’s service to the profession and the community (e.g., presentations to local elementary students), if applicable.

Summarize whether and how the candidate has met/exceeded the reappointment/tenure/promotion criteria for service set forth in the Faculty Handbook.


Summarize the department’s recommendation based upon teaching, scholarship, and service.

Signatures of Voting Members

All voting faculty members must sign and date the letter.

E. Principles for faculty evaluation

Evaluating Teaching
  1. When evaluating teaching, start by defining the characteristics of good teaching.  Then use the evidence to determine if that person has those characteristics. Do not allow student evaluations to define good teaching exclusively. Student evaluations can provide evidence on a number of dimensions of teaching quality, but not all of them. A good evaluation process will have multiple types of evidence for as many characteristics as possible so that comments in student evaluations (good or bad) can be corroborated with other types of evidence.
  2. When examining student evaluations, corroborate numerical evaluations with written comments.
  3. Peer visits should also include review of teaching materials. Feedback should be given after the visit and written reports should be shared with the person being evaluated. Feedback from peer visits should relate directly to criteria for good teaching established in departmental guidelines. All voting members of a department should observe teaching after consulting with candidate about appropriate classes to ensure that a candidate’s full range of teaching is observed.
  4. Consider contextual issues in classes when interpreting student feedback (e.g., class size, level of class, required course, time of day)
  5. Discuss evidence of possible bias in student evaluations.
Evaluating Scholarship
  1. Communicate any signals of scholarship quality to individuals (e.g., peer-review, importance of coauthors, importance of press or journal quality, relevance of policy reports or public scholarship). If press or journal quality is important, how is it determined?  Does your discipline value different types of scholarship differently (e.g., sole-authored books vs. edited volumes, journal articles vs. books)?  In providing this guidance, keep in mind that both internal and external reviewers evaluate scholarship. If you give advice that is not a disciplinary norm, the departure from disciplinary norms should be clearly acknowledged in departmental guidelines.
  2. Consider if there are other appropriate metrics of scholarship that broaden the traditional prestige-based measures.
  3. When selecting external reviewers, look for qualified reviewers at a broad range of institutions. Departments should put in context any comments of external reviewers resulting from ideological or methodological differences.
Evaluating Service

Communicate service expectations and the role that service plays in tenure and promotion decisions.  Provide feedback on the amount of service an individual is performing relative to those expectations.  Be aware that there can be differential service loads arising from a variety of factors, including department size, gender, or race of the individual.

F. Other Mentoring Considerations

Especially with new faculty, it’s important for Chairs to check in regularly with them, to see how they are coping with the pressures and demands of working at Hamilton. We all know that balancing teaching, research, and service is difficult, but we also have succeeded in doing so (more or less) ourselves. Here are some suggestions for mentoring:

  • Sharing syllabi of similar courses with new colleagues, and offering to read over theirs
  • Including them in social activities
  • Strongly encouraging that they attend department and faculty meetings
  • Giving them small departmental service tasks early on, and encouraging some committee work pre-tenure
  • Giving them copies of the Faculty Handbook, The Red Book, and this Guidebook so that they may inform themselves about college procedures and standards

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