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Conducting a salary review

Topics/tags: Overcommitment

As long-time readers may recall, a few years ago I wrote a series of musings in which I discussed [1] Grinnell’s process for post-tenure salary reviews and then presented drafts of my various statements for the review.

Normally, the chair of the department conducts the salary review. This year, my chair is up for review. That means someone else has to do it. I’m on sabbatical. I had hoped that would mean that I could avoid doing the review. But I’m the only other tenured member of the CS department, and it’s not clear that someone outside the department can appropriately assess teaching or scholarship in the department, nor discuss the particular complexities we’ve faced over the past few years. So writing the review fell to me.

No, I’m not going to put Jerod’s review in a public document. But I thought I might write a bit about the process and the time involved. I believe I asked a colleague whether or not I should agree to write the review and they said something like, It doesn’t take that much time.

I must admit that I likely approached the review differently than some other folks do [2]. Salary reviews determine your salary for the next three years [3] so I think they deserve some care and attention.

So, how much time did I spend on the review?

For the review, we are supposed to attend between one and three classes. I attended three. As I said, I think reviews deserve some care and attention. In general, the first time you attend a class, the class behaves differently because there’s someone else in the room. Attending a second class helps ameliorate that effect. So I wanted to attend at least two classes. But Jerod is only teaching CSC 211 this semester, and CSC 211 has both normal class sessions and lab sessions. So I wanted to attend both. I believe I spent five hours in class, more or less.

I had to read the instructions from the Dean’s office. I had two documents to read: a two-and-a-half-page document entitled Guidelines for Three-Year Salary Reviews, which had the document name Three-Year Salary Reviews, 19-20.pdf, and a five-page document entitled Faculty Salary Rubric, which had the document name Fac Review Guidelns 2019-2020.docx.pdf [4]. I had thought that we were supposed to vote on the rubric, but I don’t recall that vote happening yet [6]. I also had a link to follow but that led me to one of those documents. Let’s say between fifteen and thirty minutes to read and understand the documents [8].

The instructions say that,

The department chair or designated reviewer, after meeting with the colleague to discuss accomplishments and goals set forth in the Faculty Salary Review form, will provide comments as indicated on the form.

I believe it took me about thirty minutes to read Jerod’s statements and between fifteen and thirty minutes to put together notes for things to talk about. I didn’t time our meeting [9], but I believe I spent about forty-five minutes talking through things from the class and the form.

Unfortunately, it appears that I had not made a sufficiently detailed list, so I spent another fifteen to thirty minutes doing Web searches for various things, such as the acceptance rate for ICDAR 2017 (12.7%) and the policies for creating Significant Bit talks.

I spent an hour or so on emails related to the process. It’s amazing how administrivia creeps into everything we do.

I spent about an hour looking at Jerod’s EOCE scores and comments [10]. I did not make the detailed notes that I would for, say, a tenure review. Still, I considered it important to see how the things I saw in class related to things students said about his teaching in general.

Writing the first draft of my three sets of comments took about two hours. I thought it would be less. It may have been a bit more. Why so long? There were a lot of issues to discuss and I tried to be relatively concise [11]. I’ve currently written 773 words on teaching, 359 on scholarship, and 407 on service. That’s about three single-spaced pages, six double-spaced pages, or slightly longer than this musing [12]. Three pages in two hours is slightly slower than my standard spewing rate of one page every thirty minutes, but I’d expect a review of this form to take a bit longer.

Did I need to write that much? I’m not sure. I’d like to be able to assume that the Salary Committee knows about my department and my discipline, such as the complexities of having only two tenured faculty members and multiple tenure-line faculty and visitors. However, given my interactions with some folks in Administration, it feels like I should spell things out.

I haven’t done my final edits yet, and I owe it to the Faculty Salary Committee to do those edits. Balancing appropriate details with concision will be hard. Let’s assume that I’ll spend between thirty minutes and an hour on that task.

Where does that leave us? It seems like I spent between 11.5 and 12.75 hours on this process. Is that a lot? It means that the salary review was not a trivial task, but it’s not meant to be.

I can’t recall if I logged how much time writing up my own salary review form took two years ago. I’m guessing that the time was similar. Let’s hope that the Salary Committee is much more efficient, particularly since they have forty or fifty of these to read, score, and respond to.


[1] And ranted about

[2] That shouldn’t be surprising; I approach many things differently.

[3] More precisely, salary reviews help determine your merit score, your merit score determines your annual raises, and your annual raises along with your current salary determine your future salary.

[4] Why does the file name for the rubric use guidelines [5] and the guidelines document not use the term? I have no idea.

[5] Or, more precisely, Guidelns.

[6] There’s no Handbook language that suggests that the faculty have to approve the salary review rubric. If I recall correctly, in past years, the Faculty Salary Committee [7] generally wrote them on their own.

[7] Or is that Faculty Budget Committee?

[8] I was good. I didn’t go and look for additional information on practices in past years, at least not at this point.

[9] I didn’t time any of this stuff.

[10] For this process, the Salary Committee only gets the responses for questions 2 (The instructor helped me to understand the subject matter of the course) and 6 (I learned a lot in this course). The Review Chair gets a copy of the scores that the Salary Committee will get. Last year, we voted to only use those data to identify outliers. But no one gave me the College-wide distributions, so it’s hard to tell whether or not something is an outlier [11]. The Department Chair normally has the full end-of-course evaluations, and the comments and other scores for those evaluations are therefore available to them.

[11] I did not succeed. I’ll likely do another round or two of editing before I submit.

[12] Apologies to the Faculty Salary Committee. I’ll definitely try to trim.


Version 1.0 of 2019-12-13.