Annual evaluations provide faculty “with a written record of continuing expectations and accomplishments, an ongoing critique of strengths and weaknesses, and a set of base documents that support the annual distribution of performance-based salary adjustments and other rewards.” (via executivevc.unl.edu). All units that conduct merit evaluations should have a documented process for assigning merit ratings and, where relevant, pay raises. Appeals may be made on the basis of procedure (failure to follow the standard process) or judgment (that facts or data were not evaluated appropriately).
Standards and the Basis for Appeal
The process of merit evaluation should include a discussion and analysis of performance in each area of apportionment and performance and is encouraged to include a more holistic assessment of overall performance. Merit ratings and pay increase recommendations should be reasonably consistent with the language of the written annual evaluations, but absolute equivalency is not expected.
Appeals may be made on the basis that the merit rating or salary increase process was negatively impacted by the failure to adhere to unit, college, or university procedures. Faculty members may also appeal the assigned scores, adjectives, or accompanying text, and/or the recommended salary increase. In either case, it is up to the faculty member to demonstrate that the evaluation and/or salary increase is at significant variance with what would be expected based upon unit, college, or university processes and standards.
It is recommended that any formal appeal should be preceded by an attempt at informal resolution between the faculty member and unit leadership. If the evaluation is disputed, and the dispute is not resolved through informal discussion, the affected faculty member has the right to submit a written appeal that becomes part of the evaluation.
Formal Appeal Process
Other than in exceptional cases, appeals must be initially submitted to the individual or body that conducted the merit review; the exception would be for units with bylaws describing a process involving a formal grievance committee. In the case of an evaluation by an executive or personnel committee, the appeal may be submitted to the unit chair or director.
The chair and committee are expected to provide a written response to the appeal. If the appeal to the unit is ignored, refused, denied, or if the unit response fails to address the issues raised by the faculty member, the faculty member has the right to submit the appeal materials, along with any unit response, to the Dean. All materials should be submitted in digital form.
The Dean may directly consider the appeal with the assistance of the Associate Dean for Faculty; however, the Dean may also bring the case to the College Executive Committee. The appeal at the college level would in general only attempt an independent assessment of the quality of a faculty member's work within a discipline when there is evidence of a marked departure from the ordinary range of difference of opinion about merit ratings. In such cases, the college reserves the right to consult with an evaluator external to the department or to the university (in a manner similar to that used for tenure and promotion recommendations).
Faculty members not satisfied by the decision of the Dean can appeal to the Associate Vice Chancellor for Faculty Affairs (if they feel that the decision is inappropriate for academic reasons), to the Faculty Senate Grievance Committee (if they feel due process was not followed) or to Institutional Equity and Compliance (if they believe they are the victim of discrimination).
Appeals should be made in a timely manner as merit scores and salary recommendations are typically forwarded to the college and thereafter the university by the end of March and April, respectively. Appeals submitted too late to impact the current merit/salary process will still be considered. However, any adjustments based upon a favorable judgment regarding an appeal may need to be implemented through the next year’s review process.
A faculty member who feels that his or her total salary has fallen behind others in comparable appointments and at a similar career stage with comparable performance may lodge an appeal on the basis of equity. No simple formula such as years in rank can used as an argument for a career adjustment pay raise, since each faculty career track is unique. Nevertheless, inequities may result from different career paths, particularly when a period of significant contributions corresponded with a period of minimal or zero merit pay raises. Faculty members who believe they have fallen behind in this way will strengthen their case if they document their career history as well as their accomplishments. These appeals can be made at any time to the unit director with copies to the Associate Dean for Faculty. Appeals on the basis of career equity will be reviewed by the college and may be reviewed by the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor.
Note: An equity-centered analysis and adjustment of faculty salaries was conducted during 2021 and 2022.
Updated April 2022