Standard Five: Faculty


Wesleyan has 238 tenured and tenure-track faculty, with 121 full, 63 associate, and 69 assistant professors. In a typical year an additional 90 faculty are present as adjuncts, full- or part-time visitors and artists-in-residence. The student:faculty ratio is 9:1.

Hiring and Retention

Wesleyan is committed to hiring and retaining an outstanding and demographically diverse faculty with a strong commitment to both research and teaching.

The faculty recruitment process begins with specific requests from departments or programs based on their curricular need. These requests are evaluated and selectively approved by the Provost and Associate Provost in consultation with the academic deans. Departments or programs with approved requests subsequently form search committees that meet with the provosts, deans, and the Vice President for Diversity to discuss appropriate practices for advertising and contacting potential applicants for posted positions. Mechanisms for assuring the recruitment of the most diverse applicant pool possible are reviewed. An online application and review process has recently been instituted in response to the concerns expressed by faculty and administrative staff about the time commitment required to carry out a thorough search.

Once the applicant pool for a given position has been established, the search committee and department or program review the application files and in some cases conduct an initial round of interviews with preferred candidates. On the basis of this initial filtering process, the department or program identifies a short list of candidates, whom it proposes to invite for on-campus interviews. The short list and the search report are then carefully reviewed by both the divisional academic dean and the Vice President for Diversity, who then make recommendations for final approval by the Provost.

Candidates invited to campus are interviewed by the department’s faculty (and in some cases, student representatives), the academic dean, and a representative from the University Advisory Committee. After all of the candidates on the short list have been interviewed, the department or program decides whether to request that an offer be made. The divisional dean recommends a hiring request to the Provost for approval, and if it is approved, then extends the University’s offer to the chosen candidate.

Junior faculty are strongly encouraged to choose one or more tenured faculty as mentors. These mentors guide the professional development of junior faculty and offer them suggestions regarding effective pedagogy, productive scholarship, and engaged colleagueship. Tenured faculty formally review the progress and performance of junior faculty in the department in their second, third, and fifth years in order to provide feedback prior to the tenure review, which typically occurs in the seventh year. Because the divisional deans are not involved in the formal process of evaluating cases for promotion and tenure, they are in a particularly good position to act as non-threatening sources of advice for junior faculty. 

The University also provides support for junior and senior faculty through the Center for Faculty Career Development: including one-on-one consultation with experienced faculty, videotaping and assessment of classroom performance, and consultation with outside experts on pedagogy. Scholarly productivity is enabled and encouraged by Wesleyan’s teaching loads, generous sabbatical policy, in-house Grants in Support of Scholarship, and its Office of Foundation and Corporate Relations, which provides assistance in obtaining extramural funding.

The President receives the recommendation for tenure and/or promotion from the Provost, who forwards the recommendation of the Advisory Committee and the Review and Appeals Board. For tenure cases, the President decides whether or not to bring the case to the Board of Trustees; only the Board awards tenure. For promotion to full tenured professor, the President decides whether or not to award promotion, in consideration of the recommendation from Advisory and the Provost.

Teaching and Advising

Wesleyan’s scholar-teacher model is made possible, in part, by its policies with respect to course loads and sabbaticals. In the Arts and Humanities (Division I), Social Sciences (Division II) and Mathematics, most professors teach four classes a year. (In certain language programs, full-time “adjuncts”i teach 5 classes a year.) Faculty in the Natural Sciences (Division III), who also maintain Ph.D. programs and active laboratories, generally teach 2 or 3 classes a year.ii

One of the features distinguishing Wesleyan from other liberal arts institutions is the presence of graduate TAs, although their use differs markedly from that found in much larger research schools. With very few exceptions, classes at Wesleyan are taught by regular faculty, and TAs are employed in lab and review sessions.

Faculty work with advisees who may be pre-majors, students in their courses, or majors in their departments or programs. The role of advisor changes slightly in each scenario. Effective advising requires both a broad understanding of the institution and a specialized understanding of the student’s program of study. (For more about advising, see Standard Four.)

Wesleyan’s pedagogical ethos stresses active participation by students as well as faculty. In many departments and programs, for example, faculty involve their majors in the design of curricula and/or serve as master teachers in the teaching apprentice program.

Part-time contingent faculty teach on a per-course basis; the full-time course load for non-tenure-track faculty is five per year, and the University avoids appointing per-course faculty to this full-time load. Contingent per-course faculty do not have a role in governance or advising. Faculty with one-year full-time visiting appointments (teaching five courses per year) have a limited role in governance: they are eligible to attend meetings of the assembled faculty and vote on legislation arising there; they are not eligible to stand for election to the standing committees of the faculty or serve as department chair. Full-time visiting faculty do advise majors.

Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity

Wesleyan has remained committed to preserving and enhancing its support of faculty scholarship and creative production over the past decade, though financial constraints have affected the kinds and amounts of support possible. A pillar of this commitment is the University’s sabbatical policy. Tenured and tenure-track faculty are eligible for a semester’s sabbatical with full pay after every six semesters of teaching, while adjunct faculty are eligible for a sabbatical after ten semesters.iii This policy compares favorably with peer institutions, which often require from seven to twelve semesters of teaching for each semester of sabbatical eligibility.

A second pillar of the University’s commitment to faculty productivity is its program of in-house grants. Wesleyan provides more than $500,000 annually in internal grants for faculty research and scholarship. Grants in Support of Scholarship are awarded on a competitive basis as follows: 1) up to $500 for general support; 2) project grants up to $2,500; 3) up to $1,900 annually to fund presentation of new research at scholarly meetings. In the fall of 2011, President Roth and Academic Affairs announced an additional $50,000 in support of student “internships,” where students participate in faculty research. Faculty may also apply for residential fellowships here at the Center for the Humanities (CHUM) and the College of the Environment.iv

Wesleyan’s faculty members, many of whom have gained national and international recognition, routinely seek and procure grants and fellowships in support of their research from external sources, often assisted in this effort by the University’s Office of Foundation and Corporate Relations. In the sciences, our faculty receive research support from federal sources such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Energy, as well as national organizations such as the American Heart Association, the National Cancer Institute, and so on. In disciplines outside the sciences, our faculty receive funding for research from institutions such as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the U.S. Department of Education. Over the last 10 years, Wesleyan faculty have obtained more than $6.2 million annually in grants and fellowships in support of research.

Wesleyan has also received institution-wide grants in support of faculty teaching, scholarship, and development. Extending its commitment to supporting research in humanistic disciplines, Wesleyan sought out and was awarded in 2011 a $2 million challenge grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to help endow the Center for the Humanities; the University is now committed to raising an additional $4 million in endowment funds over the next four years. Wesleyan also received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to support faculty research trips to the Middle East and a two-year grant from the Teagle Foundation to enhance student development of skill in expository writing. (See Standard Four.)

Technology in Teaching and Research

Wesleyan has been at the forefront of technological innovation among its liberal arts peers. A decade ago, Wesleyan was considered a pioneer in the development of Internet “portals” now used by many universities and colleges across the country. Wesleyan staff also helped create NERCOMP, the Northeast Regional Computing Program, a consortium that sponsors academic technology conferences and allows participating institutions to purchase software at reduced group prices.

(For more information on teaching and technology, see Standard Seven.)


Wesleyan has a strong tradition of collegial engagement, and faculty here have long been involved in governance, service, and deliberation on the University’s goals, policies, and practices.

Wesleyan’s collegial structure is grounded in its departments and programs, which elect their own chairs. The chair has responsibilities for curricular and budgetary oversight as well as for managing staff and hiring new faculty. Chairs are given course relief roughly in proportion to the size of their departments or programs. Together, department and program chairs are an essential body of consultation for the Provost and Academic Affairs.

Many faculty contribute to governance through their participation in elected committees of the faculty at large and through the Academic Council. Faculty members are selected by open elections, and committee membership takes into account the need to have representation across the academic divisions and to distribute the burden of committee service as widely as possible. In a given decade most faculty will participate, however unevenly, on at least one of the following standing committees:

  • The Advisory Committee of the Academic Council, a nine-member group of tenured faculty, is an essential part in the process of faculty tenure and promotion;
  • The Educational Policy Committee (EPC) oversees the core academic policies and practices of the University;
  • The Faculty Committee on Rights and Responsibilities (FCRR) adjudicates personal and professional disputes involving faculty;
  • The Honors Committee administers the program of student academic honors;
  • The Review and Appeals Board reviews recommendations from Advisory and hears appeals of negative decisions by Advisory.

(For more on faculty’s role in governance, see Standard 3.)

Evaluation of Faculty

Evaluation of faculty takes place in a variety of ways. Teaching is evaluated every semester through student teaching evaluations, which combine quantitative data with qualitative comments. Some departments also have senior faculty visit the courses of junior faculty to review their teaching. Teaching evaluations and other indications of pedagogical practices (such as syllabi) are examined in the second- and third-year reviews, which also provide assessments of a junior faculty’s developing research programs. The tenure evaluation, typically undertaken in the seventh year, examines a candidate’s record of teaching, colleagueship, and scholarship. Evidence for excellence in both teaching and scholarship is required, and the evaluation of the latter is assisted by letters elicited from outside referees. Cases for tenure are reviewed in succession by the candidate’s department, the nine-member faculty Advisory Committee, and the Reviews and Appeals Board, after which the President makes a recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who make the final decision.

Faculty compensation

The administration worked with the faculty Compensation and Benefits Committee to establish a group of 15 peer institutions for which compensation data is available and has sought to maintain compensation (salaries and benefits) at a level corresponding to the median of this group for each faculty rank. Benefits are harder to assess in this regard than salaries, since there are multiple dimensions of the former: including contributions to retirement and health care plans, college tuition offsets for faculty dependents, mortgage assistance, etc. Therefore, the University has focused on maintaining competitive parity with respect to at least the major benefits involving contributions to retirement and health care plans.


Hiring and Retention

The current makeup of the faculty is detailed on the Data First sheets for Standard 5. Most notable is a significant increase in women among the tenured and tenure-track faculty over the past four years, with the percentage of women climbing from 36% in 2008 to 42% in 2011. The results of Wesleyan’s determined effort to increase the proportion of women in its faculty are most readily seen in the percentages of women faculty by rank: 26% of full professors, 43% of associate professors, and 70% of assistant professors, a trend that also reflects national demographics in higher education and will dramatically change the gender proportions among associate and full professors in the coming years.

While the gains we have made in recent years in the representation of women among the faculty are gratifying, there is still much work to be done in this area. This remains a particular difficulty in the physical sciences and mathematics, though we have had some successes: for example, three of the five most recent hires in chemistry, math, and physics are women.

We have been much less successful in the hiring and retention of faculty of color. Based on 2011 data, Wesleyan has 4% Hispanic/Latino and 5% Black/African American faculty, 8% Asian faculty, 2% identifying in two or more racial/ethnic categories, and 73% white faculty. Disaggregating tenure and tenure track shows tenured faculty: 2% Hispanic/Latino, 4% Black/African American, 5% Asian, 2% two or more, and 83% white; tenure track faculty: 7% Hispanic/Latino, 6% Black/African American, 10% Asian, 1% two or more, and 70% white.

Teaching and Advising

A variety of studies indicate that teaching continues to be one of the great strengths of Wesleyan. Surveys of graduating seniors regularly show that more than 95% are satisfied with the “overall quality of instruction” and about the same are satisfied with “the level of intellectual excitement” (though this latter question is asked less often). However, levels of student satisfaction vary across divisions. Satisfaction with the overall quality of instruction in the arts/humanities and social sciences is typically in the mid-90s, while satisfaction with instruction in the natural sciences and mathematics, which has historically been lower, has climbed from 72% in 2006 to 81% in 2011.

Student surveys also indicate a desire for more faculty-student collaborations in research or performance.v The creation of the fund for faculty-student research internships in fall 2011 was a direct attempt to provide more opportunities for such collaborations.

Satisfaction among seniors with advising within the majors rose from 76% in 2006 to 85% in 2009. But satisfaction with pre-major advising, while improving, continues to lag far behind, though it has risen somewhat from a rate of 54% in 2006 to 63% in 2010.

[For more on advising, see Standard 4.]

Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity

Wesleyan continues to provide strong institutional support for external grant applications, and faculty success in qualifying for grants remains impressive. Our internal support of sabbaticals on a regular basis for productive scholars continues to be of great importance. Conversations about the criteria for receiving sabbaticals have become more pointed in recent years, with greater enforcement of limits on the number of faculty in a department who may be away at one time. Eligibility for sabbaticals is earned, but sabbaticals are not entitlements. Administrative policy in this regard has been emphasized more clearly to faculty, beginning this past year in the annual memo to chairs on submitted sabbatical requests.

Technology in Teaching and Research

Like many universities and colleges, Wesleyan faces new challenges brought about by continuing advances in technology. Chief among them are those related to Wesleyan’s libraries. Faculty and staff are actively engaged in discussing such matters as the digitization of library sources, the role of the “virtual library,” the transformation of reading habits among undergraduates, and the best way to integrate academic computing with the services traditionally provided by the University’s libraries. [See Standard 7.]

The Academic Technology Roundtable serves as a forum for discussion of issues concerning teaching and its intersection with technology. Although participation of faculty in the roundtable has diminished somewhat in recent years, Wesleyan has hired a CIO who may be able to re-energize this activity. [For more on the Academic Technology Roundtable, see Standard Four, footnote vii.]


In recent years, the administration has made ample use of special committees and task forces to investigate areas of potential reform or innovation. These bodies have been useful in responding to issues from within and without the University. By and large, these have been predominantly composed of faculty, together with some relevant administrators. Significant contributions to campus evaluation and planning have been made over the past few years by faculty-led committees and task forces charged with the following:

  • Review of Tenure and Promotion Procedures (2008)
  • “Making Excellence Inclusive” Initiative (2010–)
  • Evaluation of Nontraditional Scholarship in Tenure and Promotion (2010–11)
  • Evaluation of Teaching for the Purposes of Promotion and Tenure (2009)
  • Evaluation of the First Year Initiative (FYI) Program (2010–11)
  • Relations between ITS and the Library (2010–11)
  • Instruction of Languages and Cultures (2010–11)
  • Prospects for an Education Program (2010–11)

Given the intense amount of self-study and review of many aspects of the academic endeavor conducted by faculty in recent years, it is probable that fewer (though more regular) task forces will exist in the coming years.

As a self-governing body grounded in the scholar-teacher model, Wesleyan faculty are expected to make contributions to service, teaching, and scholarship. Inevitably, contributions vary by individual, and perceptions of inequity sometimes arise from:

  • uneven individual contributions produced by elections for committee service or selection for duty by the administration (which tries to have diverse voices represented) and the effects of service on faculty scholarship;
  • disparities in the number of students that an individual faculty member has to teach and/or to advise;
  • the burden of chairing that comes with the rotation model, and the disparity in this burden for different departments;
  • frequent election of some faculty members to the most onerous committees and tasks.

Perceptions of inequity can come to seem especially important when merit-based salary increases are being considered. Efforts are currently being made to track advising and teaching loads with an eye toward finding ways to distribute these burdens more equitably. Also, the awarding of future faculty positions might take such disparities into account and work to increase staffing in programs and departments with the strongest enrollment demands.

More generally, there is some concern among more active faculty members regarding colleagues who do not share as fully in the burdens of governance. Faculty are always caught between the demands of their individual teaching and scholarly activities and the need to help with collective self-governance. There are no easy solutions to this conflict, but a recent suggestion has been to accumulate information about contributions by individual faculty members to University governance. This “snapshot” of contributions could help in determining merit pay, course relief, and other issues of compensation. At the request of the Chair and the Vice Chair of the faculty, the Provost convened a committee of faculty in the spring of 2011 to consider inequities in faculty service.

Evaluation of Faculty

Since its 2007 mid-cycle reaccreditation self-study, Wesleyan has taken a number of steps to review and improve its practices with respect to evaluation of the faculty’s teaching and scholarship, particularly as this involves the assessment of cases for tenure and promotion. As a first step, the Academic Council voted in February 2008 to create an ad hoc committee to study Wesleyan’s procedures in evaluating cases for tenure and promotion. In its final report, issued a year after its commission, the committee made four primary recommendations for improving Wesleyan’s tenure and promotion procedures:

  1. To increase the transparency of the tenure and promotion process and promote understanding of the rationale underlying the key aspects of Wesleyan’s procedures:
    1. departments and programs should work with the Provost’s office to develop written statements of their expectations for tenure and promotion;
    2. the Provost’s office should meet each spring with chairs of departments scheduled to bring tenure or promotion cases before the Advisory Committee in the next academic year, to clarify the department’s role;
    3. the Advisory Committee should clarify and document its expectations concerning departments’ preparation and presentation of promotion and tenure cases, as well as its procedures for assessing these cases.
  2. Council should establish a committee to clarify and document University-wide expectations for the evaluation of teaching in the promotion and tenure process, and to develop and propose more comprehensive and effective measures of teaching excellence.
  3. Council should establish a mechanism for tenure or promotion candidates to appeal negative decisions by Advisory to the Review and Appeals Board (RAB).
  4. The President should clarify the criteria to be applied in making an independent judgment regarding the merit of a case, and should provide an account of his or her deliberations in such cases.

The committee’s recommendations have been discussed by Academic Council, and all of the suggested changes listed under the first recommendation above have been adopted. The second recommendation has also been adopted and is discussed further below. In response to the third recommendation, the Advisory Committee proposed a rule change to make it mandatory for the RAB to review cases in which Advisory reverses a department’s positive recommendation for tenure. This proposal was adopted by Academic Council at the end of the 2009-10 academic year.

An ad hoc committee to study the evaluation of teaching was created in 2010 in response to the second recommendation noted above. The newly established committee reviewed the current practices for the evaluation of teaching at Wesleyan, examined these practices at a cohort of similar institutions, and made eight recommendations. These recommendations were broken down into two areas as follows:

Evaluation of Teaching

  1. The Student Evaluation form should be amended to solicit more pertinent information about student learning, and the rating scales for quantitative evaluation should be improved. The form should also include a question about expected grade.
  2. Academic Affairs should make available to every faculty member (through e-portfolio) comparative data showing the average scores for both course and teaching for the University as a whole and broken down by division and course format.
  3. Departments and programs should be required to employ the same procedures and standards in all cases.
  4. Written departmental/program statements concerning tenure and promotion should be amended to address explicitly what procedures and standards will be used in evaluating teaching.
  5. The Advisory Committee and Academic Affairs should review official documents in which the evaluation of teaching is discussed and ensure that they are consistent.
  6. An ad hoc committee should be established to devise a protocol for peer evaluation that would build on existing practices and conform to the standards being developed by experts in pedagogy and peer evaluation around the country.
Fostering and Supporting Teaching Excellence
  1. A clear distinction should be drawn between mentoring of teaching and evaluation of teaching, ensuring that all mentoring observation and advice is kept strictly confidential. Mentoring of teaching should be fostered for all faculty, not only for those in the probationary period of their contracts.
  2. More broadly, faculty at all ranks should be supported as teachers and more effort should be directed to the improvement of teaching at all stages of faculty careers.

    These recommendations have been considered by the relevant University bodies and are in general being addressed in a timely fashion. Recommendations (1) and (2) involve technical changes to the Student Evaluation form and the e-portfolio; the first of these will be put before Academic Council when completed by Academic Affairs and Academic Computing, and the second has just been implemented. Recommendations (3) and (5) require specific legislation to be passed by Academic Council to change the language of the Faculty Handbook; this legislation is being prepared for (3) and has been acted upon with respect to (5). Substantial progress has been made with respect to recommendation (4), as departments and programs are in the process of codifying their standards for all the areas considered for a case of tenure and promotion, including those for teaching. The committee recommended in (6) has yet to be established. Recommendations (7 and 8) obviously are quite broad and require a change of institutional culture that is beyond the realm of that possible from legislation. A number of departments have addressed the issue of teaching mentorship at all career levels and come up with novel approaches, and Academic Affairs is in the process of analyzing these approaches to choose elements that can serve as a model for the entire University.

    Finally, in light of broader changes in the way that new scholarship is produced and disseminated, an ad hoc committee was created in November 2010 for the evaluation of nontraditional scholarship in tenure and promotion. New forms of scholarship, including public scholarship, web-based scholarship, and the like, “increasingly blur the boundary between academic and public life or between academic scholarship and related forms of professional activity, including teaching, service, and colleagueship.” The committee found that Wesleyan, as well as a majority of its peer institutions, lacked explicit protocols to guide departments and programs in the evaluation of its faculty’s nontraditional academic work. While reaffirming the centrality of qualified peer review in judging academic scholarship of any form, the committee acknowledged the need for departments and programs to consider and establish procedures for assessing forms of scholarship in which publication and dissemination is not premised on systematic peer review, and recommended that these procedures be reflected in the Faculty Handbook.

    Faculty compensation

    Wesleyan has recently fallen short of its goal of competitive parity for faculty salaries. To address this shortfall, the University plans to allocate an additional $600,000 over the next three academic years (2012–13 to 2014–15) for faculty compensation.


    Wesleyan faces important external challenges to its efforts to maintain and expand support of faculty scholarship. Funding is becoming harder to obtain in many areas, especially the natural sciences. We have long had success with external grants far beyond what might be expected of a school our size, but this is endangered in an era of diminishing resources. Expensive technology is often required to compete for grants in the sciences, and this poses challenges for a relatively small school in a time of financial constraint. In the shorter term, there are some issues with regards to governance that we expect to address. Faculty meetings, while often lively, are not always well attended. More efforts will be made to increase faculty attendance. We will find ways to increase the percentage of eligible faculty who serve on standing committees and even out the advising loads so that faculty in departments with popular majors do not have a disproportionate share of advisees. 

    Institutional Effectiveness

    Faculty have the crucial role in showing Wesleyan students the relevance and power of a liberal education, and the institution periodically evaluates the support it gives to faculty as well as their effectiveness in teaching and advising, scholarship and creative activity, and service. For example, studies have been completed in recent years on tenure and promotion policies, evaluation of nontraditional scholarship in tenure and promotion, and the evaluation of teaching for purposes of promotion and tenure.  A premise of Wesleyan's teacher-scholar model is that the best teachers are actively engaged in research, and the University dedicates resources to supporting faculty research in addition to assessing pedagogical practices.



    i “Adjunct” at Wesleyan refers to faculty with long-term renewable (but non-tenured) appointments; many are language pedagogy specialists or musicians. Contingent faculty are given “visiting” appointments.

    ii With one exception, there are no faculty with a higher teaching load because of an inactive research agenda.

    iii Wesleyan faculty may supplement their sabbaticals with unpaid research leaves, which are commonly supported by external grants or fellowships. To encourage faculty to seek external support for research, beginning in 2007, Wesleyan allows faculty who are on unpaid research leave and are funded by external fellowships that are less than the faculty member’s salary (at least 40% of the beginning salary of an assistant professor) to apply for a stipend to cover the difference. Per year, only one faculty member, on average, takes advantages of this program.

    iv Recent faculty participants have come from such departments as Government, Science in Society, Religion, Astronomy, and Anthropology, illustrating the broad conceptualization of the “Humanities” here and the way its discourses cross sectarian lines. The Center is especially interested in projects that connect research to pedagogy, and pedagogy to particular problems of culture and society.

    v In the 2010 Senior Survey, 69% of Wesleyan seniors were generally or very satisfied with “opportunities to participate in research with faculty,” placing us 15th among the 17 colleges (83% satisfaction at the top school) and 21st among the 23 universities (93% satisfaction at the top school).