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CAP Guidance: Accelerations

    Key Takeaways:

    • Accelerations typically occur due to extraordinary achievement, major award, outstanding recognition, or extraordinary productivity.
    • Dossier materials should provide detailed justification for the acceleration.
    • Accelerations are not used to correct a perceived inequity in rank or step.

    The possibility of an acceleration, or as The CALL puts it, “[a]dvancement in step in advance of eligibility or to a higher step than normal,” usually occurs after the candidate has produced some extraordinary achievement, won some major award, received some outstanding recognition in their field, or been extraordinarily productive. It is CAP’s inclination to look favorably on accelerations that are well-substantiated, demonstrating above-and-beyond contributions to research, the campus, and/or the wider academic community.

    An acceleration should not be proposed to correct a perceived inequity in rank or step, such as when a faculty member is considered to be achieving above their rank or has been inappropriately held back in the past. This is when a department should consider a Merit Equity Review (MER). An accelerated merit increase should only come up when the importance of recognitions and/or the exceptional rate of productivity in the current review period are deemed sufficient to request an interruption to the normal merit cycle.

    The review process for a proposed acceleration depends on the number of years proposed and the candidate’s rank and pattern of past accelerations. Accelerations of one year are almost always within the Dean’s final authority, with no CAP review unless the acceleration would lead to a rank or step that CAP would normally review, such as Professor, Step I, and Professor, Step VI. For Full Professors, a two-year acceleration is also normally within a Dean’s final authority, unless it is to one of the CAP-reviewed steps or the second two-year acceleration in a row. Proposed acceleration of three years or more will always be reviewed by CAP, regardless of the step involved. All accelerations to Initial Above Scale and Further Above Scale are rare and require CAP review. 

    In a best-case scenario, the review process should focus on a detailed justification for the acceleration at every step along the way, from the candidate’s self-statement to the departmental deliberation/vote to the Chair’s and Dean’s letters. Too often, acceleration cases are based on a shared sense of the “overall wonderfulness” of the candidate. While it may be true, the University already expects ongoing excellence as a matter of course for on-time merits. For an acceleration, CAP must make an assessment based on specific achievements and/or recognitions included in the dossier that are deemed to be extraordinary. Bear in mind, most CAP members will not be from your field, and each field has its own standards, benchmarks, and formal validations. For example, where one discipline might expect one article per year, another might expect five or more. As such, attention must be given to the descriptive detail and disciplinary context within which the achievements that are the basis for a requested acceleration are understood as extraordinary.

    The larger the acceleration, the greater the justification that must be provided. For example, a candidate’s achievements may prompt them to request not only early advancement to the next step, but also skipping a step. To illustrate, a candidate who is at Professor, Step III, might ask to come up for promotion after two years (rather than the normal three), and also ask to skip a step and request advancement to Step V. In total this would amount to a four-year acceleration (based on a dossier documenting two years of achievements). While such a request is not unheard of, it must be justified based on specific achievements placed in appropriate contexts. This means that it is incumbent upon the candidate to explain the rationale and make specific reference to items in the dossier that are the basis for the proposed acceleration. The problems for CAP occur when such justifications are not provided, or are thinly or off-handedly treated, or are taken for granted. For CAP, the question is simple and the same in each and every acceleration case: what specific achievements are the basis for the acceleration, and does the dossier support their recognition as truly extraordinary?

    Last Updated: February 28, 2023