Biology Guidelines

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A primary goal of the Biology Department is to tenure and promote outstanding teacher-scholars who are active members of the department and college community. To work towards this goal we have by consensus established this set of guidelines, and we consider it an informative document for pre-tenure faculty, the Committee on Appointments, the Dean of Faculty, and the President. These guidelines are meant to help, but not displace, mentoring of pre-tenure and pre-promotion faculty by tenured and promoted members, respectively, in the Biology Department.

Guidelines for Tenure


General criteria
  • Candidates should recognize the ideal of the liberal arts setting and strive to meet that ideal as outlined in the section on Teaching in the Faculty Handbook under Tenure criteria (p. 32, 2006–2007 edition). In sum, the Department looks for effective communication, intellectual stimulation, and thoughtful evaluation of students in all teaching.
  • We expect demonstrated success in teaching. Expertise and success in teaching should be developed and maintained during the pre-tenure years.
  • All faculty are expected to contribute across all curricular levels, with priority given to Biology Department courses.
  • We expect engagement of students in the research program of each faculty member. This will occur primarily through the senior thesis, but may also occur through summer and academic year internships, work study, and independent study opportunities.
Student Evaluations

The Department treats seriously student evaluation of teaching (end-of-course evaluations and letters solicited by the Dean of Faculty at the time of review) to ascertain the success of the candidate in meeting the criteria listed above, and candidates should treat these assessments seriously as reflections on their classroom and laboratory performance. In addition, the department looks for evidence of enthusiasm and empathy (as defined below) when reading student evaluations. Enthusiasm and empathy are assessed in a manner similar to all other aspects of teaching performance, in particular, through course evaluations and student letters.

  • enthusiasm for class material and for teaching, and both communicated to students; this might also be expressed as a sense of vocation or commitment to teaching well.
  • empathy with students (understanding where each student is academically and sharing intellectual engagement with students and desire for them to learn and perform well in the course) in keeping with the development of intellectual independence in the maturation of students during their careers at Hamilton.

Candidates should consider and respond to patterns that emerge in end-of-course student evaluations. This consideration and response should, most importantly, be demonstrated in practice and reflected in subsequent student evaluations. Additionally, this consideration and response should be communicated to and discussed with department and college colleagues through the faculty visitation, annual review, and reappointment and tenure processes (see below and Appendix 1).

Faculty Evaluations

The Department maintains a policy on departmental faculty visitations to the candidate's courses (Appendix 1). As stated in the policy, faculty visitations and evaluations are designed to be constructive and mentoring in nature. As with student evaluations, candidates should consider and respond (in practice, in annual reports, and in applications for reappointment and tenure) to comments and advice in their faculty evaluations.

This response should be reflected subsequently in student and faculty teaching evaluations and may also be done in development of course syllabi and development of new courses.

Summer Student Research

While engagement of students in the research program of all faculty is expected, this will occur primarily through the senior thesis. It may, however, also include summer and academic-year internships, work study, and independent study opportunities; these opportunities are increasingly sought by our students, are to be encouraged, and are recognized by the Department as valuable experiences for our students.

The Department anticipates that a faculty member will supervise student research during the summer, however, only when the faculty member's personal research program is advanced by the student internships. We recognizes that supervising student research outside of the senior thesis variously involves an element of teaching above and beyond the normal institutional contractual teaching load. Supervising summer student research is therefore not required. A willingness to participate in the summer program at least occasionally is, nonetheless, recognized as an important contribution to the mission of the Department, and it is anticipated that most research programs at an undergraduate institution such as Hamilton will benefit from summer student internships at least periodically.


Publication of original research—incorporating the generation of new data or ideas—in peer-reviewed journals (online or print) is required in the record of scholarly productivity.

  • It is anticipated that journal articles will form the most significant component of the candidate’s record of scholarly productivity, but other types of communication of original research, such as in book chapters, books, or other media, are also acceptable. These publications should reflect a sound research program at Hamilton and extend beyond dissertation and postdoctoral studies.
  • Within this criterion, we recognize differences among journals in quality and scope; while no formal measures are calculated (e.g., impact factors), additional evaluative weight is given to papers that appear in more general or widely distributed (i.e., prestigious) journals.
  • There is no set number of papers that need to be published, as the Department recognizes different field/ data collection methods and timelines, which affect time to publication. While quantity is not the primary criterion, however candidates should develop a research plan that will repeatedly demonstrate completion of published research within the pre-tenure timeframe, as is appropriate for the subdiscipline in question.

Other types of publications contribute variously to the record of scholarly productivity but are not required.

  • Peer-reviewed synthetic or review papers and textbooks may be very significant scholarly contributions. We recognize that some scholarly products in book form or that may be characterized as “synthetic” may, in fact, represent original research as described above.
  • Editorship of a scholarly journal, book series, or contributed volume, either on-going or once-off, has both scholarship and service components. These may be significant. The relative contribution of the resulting publications to the candidate's professional record must be considered and weighed carefully by both the candidate and Department.
  • Encyclopedia entries, book reviews, abstracts, and other published contributions that receive minimal or no peer-review contribute to the record of scholarly activity but are considered lesser contributions than those above to the record of scholarly productivity.

Non-publication scholarship demonstrates activity but is not evidence of productivity.

  • Poster and oral conference presentations and invited lectures are important indications of ongoing research, engagement with scientific community, and future potential and engagement in the scholarly process. They do not in themselves constitute sufficient evidence of scholarly productivity.

Establishment of a research program at and published from Hamilton College is necessary.

  • Collaboration is recognized as often an important and sometimes an essential component of scientific endeavor and can enhance a candidate's scholarship and productivity; however, intellectual leadership of some published research created and developed at Hamilton College is necessary.

Involvement of students is necessary.

  • As stated above under “Teaching,” we expect engagement of students in the research program of all faculty, primarily through the senior thesis but perhaps also through summer and academic year internships, work study, and independent study opportunities. Publication with students as co-authors is not required.

Estimation of long-term potential is a component of the evaluation process.

  • The candidate should develop a research program that indicates development and continued activity post-tenure. In addition to publications, non-publication scholarly activities (discussed above) may contribute to this.

Role of Grants

Personal research grants should be pursued as appropriate for the field.

  • Receiving grant funds from external agencies is not required evidence of scholarship in tenure evaluation, but it is valuable evidence of developing/ongoing research and represents positive peer-review of a research program underway.
  • The Department recognizes variation in funding rates among grant-funding agencies and divisions within agencies and availability of funding opportunities across subdisciplines. Some faculty, therefore, may be expected to have greater success in funding than others.

The Department expects pre-tenure faculty to contribute to institutional grant proposals as appropriate.

  • The level of proposal development should be determined in close consultation with tenured faculty and, especially, the Chair. For example, grants for equipment with close relevance to the personal research activities of the candidate may be necessary to establish the candidate’s research program.
  • Alternatively, involvement in proposal development for broader curricular goals should be limited to minor Co-PI status rather than hinder the development of personal research activity.


The Department expects candidates to show engagement in issues that affect the administration of the department, college, and larger scientific community, and a willingness to serve at these different levels.

The Department and College rely upon faculty to contribute to the smooth running of our shared educational mission. Naturally, levels of service will increase through the faculty career. Balance must be struck throughout but particularly so during the pre-tenure phase.

Major service, such as committee work on larger College committees (e.g., CAP, CAS, Admissions, Middle States Review, etc.), should be done only in close consultation with senior colleagues and the Chair, and should generally be avoided except after full discussion of the effect on scholarly and teaching development.

Examples of typical pre-tenure service at various levels:

  • Department: website development, equipment management, assistance in development of institutional grant proposal, etc.
  • College: minor committee service such as Library committee, Animal Care and Use Committee, Alumni Council, etc.
  • Scientific Community: school science fair judging, ad hoc journal manuscript review, etc.


Guidelines for Promotion

The Department recognizes the pre-tenure phase of a faculty member’s career as a probationary and developmental one. This is not so after tenure. Instead, continuing professional activity at or exceeding the level established prior to tenure is expected. Expression of potential or promise in any aspect of professional activity identified through evaluation for tenure should be realized before promotion. In addition, further engagement with the disciplinary field of the candidate, primarily through scholarship but also through service, should be demonstrated.


Candidates should demonstrate a well-developed approach to teaching, as expressed in the expectations inherent in the General Criteria listed above under Guidelines for Tenure. Such maturity in teaching should be consistent at all curricular levels.

  • The Department expects tenured pre-promotion faculty members to maintain a full teaching load, including successful supervision of senior projects and other manifestations of student research within the Department.
  • The Department also expects Full Professors to accept a greater responsibility for the curricular needs of the Department, such as providing flexibility in course offerings to meet the curricular needs required of the concentrations offered by the Department.
  • Student evaluations of teaching are used to reflect the teaching success of candidates for promotion, as described under Student Evaluations in Guidelines for Tenure.
  • Visitations of class and labs by senior Biology colleagues, as a mentoring and teaching evaluative tool for pre-tenure faculty members, does not occur post-tenure and as such does not play a role in the process for promotion to Professor.
  • The statement about Summer Student Research, within the Guidelines for Tenure, applies equally to all faculty ranks within the Biology Department.


  • Scholarship is the main criterion for promotion. Active and ongoing peer-reviewed publication of original research, as considered under Scholarship in the Guidelines for Tenure, is required and may be sufficient for the scholarship component of evaluation for promotion.
  • Other types of publications contribute significantly or less so to the record of scholarly productivity, but they are not required. These include peer-reviewed synthetic and review works, text books, edited publications, and publications receiving minimal or no peer review, as described under Scholarship in the Guidelines for Tenure.
  • Non-publication scholarship, as described under Scholarship in the Guidelines for Tenure, demonstrates activity but is not evidence of productivity.
  • As under Scholarship in the Guidelines for Tenure, the value of collaboration is recognized, while intellectual leadership and maintenance of a Hamilton College based research program, with student involvement, is necessary.
  • The Department expects a continuing trajectory in the building of a scholarly record, building on that recognized at the time of tenure.
  • Tenured faculty are expected to continue to seek grants as appropriate for their field, as described under Role of Grants in the Guidelines for Tenure. While personal research grants are encouraged, it is expected that once tenure is attained, greater responsibility will be assumed for institutional grants (e.g., equipment, facility, and curricular grants that benefit the Department more broadly than the individual's lab).


  • In contrast to the pre-tenure phase of a faculty member’s career, when service should be limited to allow maximal development of teaching and scholarship, the faculty member should assume greater responsibility for service to the Department and College once tenure is attained. This may include leading departmentally-based institutional grants or curricular initiatives and service on major college standing or ad hoc committees (e.g., CAP, COA, CAS, Admissions, Middle States Review, etc.). The Department encourages the development of leadership in this way, as planning and progress of the Department and its supported concentrations are best served by the active engagement of all its faculty.
  • National and international service, in the form of holding office in professional societies, editorship of journals and books, and serving on external review committees of institutions, departments, and faculty at other institutions, strengthens the service component of the candidate's case. Such service reflects on the professional reputation of the candidate and enhances the recognition of Biology at Hamilton College by the larger professional community.

Appendix 1: Biology Department Visitation Policy

Visitation serves both diagnostic and evaluative functions. All department members should recognize this dual purpose and realize that there are times when it is more appropriate to help newer colleagues improve their teaching, as in their first few years at Hamilton, just as there are times when evaluations must be made, as just before personnel decisions. We expect good faith efforts from everyone in the department to meet the standards set in this policy.

  1. Every non-tenured member of the department should be visited in at least one, and normally only one, course each semester.
  2. Before a fourth-year reappointment or tenure decision, every tenured member should have first-hand experience with the teaching of each non-tenured member being evaluated.
  3. All assignments about which tenured member is to visit which non-tenured member should be made within the first two weeks of the semester.
  4. Out of courtesy, all classroom visitations should be coordinated in advance between the instructor and the visitor with dates satisfactory to both.
  5. No visitations should be conducted during the first or last weeks of the semester, and when an instructor is responsible for part of a team-taught course, no visitation should be held right at the beginning or end of that person's section.
  6. Visitations may be accomplished during team-teaching, but as in statement 4 above, the dates for the visitation should be agreed upon in advance; visitations are distinct from simply being in the class as a co-instructor.
  7. A visitation normally covers one week’s worth of classes, including all lectures and lab.
  8. An instructor may choose to be videotaped rather than visited in person.
  9. The visitor and instructor should discuss the visit as soon afterwards as is reasonably possible.
  10. Within four weeks of the last visited class, the visitor should write a letter about the visit for the departmental files. The letter should be dated and should refer to the dates of the visitation and the material covered.
  11. A copy of the letter to the departmental files should be given to the person visited.
  12. Both a candidate for promotion or tenure and the tenured members of the department may make use of the visitation letters in the cases they present to the Dean and COA.
  13. A member of the department may ask any other member to visit his or her class at any time to provide diagnostic comments, apart from required visitation.
  14. Non-tenured members are invited and encouraged to visit the classes of tenured members.

[EHW; June 1994; last reviewed: February 2007]

Contact Information

Office of the Dean of Faculty

Buttrick Hall
315-859-4601 315-859-4677
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