Best Practices: Service

Service has been a matter of some heated discussion in the College of Arts and Letters over recent years. Tenured women are often eager to serve on major committees and are sought after for administrative positions, thanks to a genuine desire in the upper levels of the University and College administration to achieve representational gender equity and to move more women into the leadership ranks. Yet the comparatively smaller percentage of women faculty at senior levels means that women are often unduly “taxed” with committee service for the sake of equal gender representation. In spring and fall 2006, the College Council twice discussed the issue of service, and a set of guidelines emerged from these discussions which has now been incorporated into the “Service” chapter of the “Faculty Development” section in the Reference Guide for Arts and Letters Chairpersons and Faculty (found on the College of Arts and Letters faculty resources page).

The guidelines articulate how service is defined in the College and lay out the service expectations of faculty at the assistant, associate, and full ranks. These guidelines are intended to serve the dual purpose of encouraging faculty to take their professional citizenship duties seriously and meet service expectations and, at the same time, protecting individual faculty members from excessive service burdens.


The following are some basic principles articulated in the service guidelines and throughout the Reference Guide:

  • All faculty members are required to perform basic duties inherent to their employment, such as attending departmental meetings and presentations by
    candidates for faculty positions in the home department; and all faculty members are expected to provide service to the university
  • Service is evaluated alongside research and teaching in faculty members’ annual performance evaluations and plays a significant role in chairs’ annual salary recommendations to the Dean (with appropriate weights assigned to each area depending on individual teaching assignments and service obligations)
  • If faculty fail to reflect professional standards or to support the department in conducting their service obligations, this must play a role in salary recommendations
  • Service is considered in cases for reappointment, tenure, and promotion and may sway a case in one direction or the other, although research and teaching are the primary considerations
  • In evaluating service, the quality and impact of a faculty member’s contributions may be more important than the number of committees
  • It is considered a best practice for chairs to compile a list of the service obligations (including teaching-related service obligations, such as the advising of senior theses and serving on dissertation committees) of all departmental faculty at the start of each academic year, so that all faculty may see the distribution
  • Chairs should assign service assignments within the department with attentiveness to an equitable distribution; some roles may be elected, but others should be appointed in order to achieve this goal
  • It is considered a best practice for a chairperson to recognize that when a faculty member is involved in a particularly heavy service role, either internally or externally, he or she might be temporarily excused from other demanding service roles
  • Persons on leave, especially assistant and associate professors, should be counseled to take their leaves seriously and refrain from service
    contributions during this period
  • Administrators should beware of overburdening women and minorities with excessive requests for service or service obligations
  • Junior faculty should also be protected from excessive service demands
  • Administrators should give committees clear charges in writing so that they can conduct their work efficiently and meaningfully
  • All departments should have a departmental pattern of administration that outlines continuing committees and other administrative aspects of the department that transcend the specific regulations governing Committees on Appointments and Promotions (CAPs)
  • Faculty members at all ranks, and especially assistant professors, should ideally consult with their chairpersons before accepting service assignments outside their primary academic units.


The service guidelines in the Reference Guide also specify some useful qualitative and quantitative guidelines for the service obligations of teaching and research (T&R) faculty at each rank:

Instructors: The service load should be kept to 5% of the total workload: department chairpersons may ask the individual to serve on one or two committees that have a limited number of meetings. Instructors should refrain from all College and University service until the dissertation has been completed and defended.

Assistant Professors: Service plays a role in tenure and, thus, service is expected of assistant professors, but quality is more important than quantity; when tenuring a faculty member, the University wants to have confidence that the person will be able to contribute to the flourishing of the university and professional community and, ideally, exhibits the potential for future leadership; service contributions also help socialize assistant professors into the roles that they will play later in their academic careers. Assistant professors’ service load should be kept to 10% of the total workload: department chairpersons may ask the individual to serve on one or two departmental committees. The College recommends that assistant professors not participate in College or University committee work unless the individual has a particular interest in the specific committee, and the nature of the work would not be overly time-consuming. Assistant professors may not be asked to serve in a major departmental administrative position without the permission of the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Professional Development.

Associate Professors: When the University tenures a member of the faculty, it makes a commitment to the individual and expects the individual to make a reciprocal commitment to the University. Associate professors are expected to devote 20% of their workload to service. They should expand their service to their department by assuming a significant departmental position, e.g., member of the Committee on Appointments and Promotions (CAP), member or chairperson of a search committee, Director of Undergraduate Studies, or Director of Graduate Studies. At this point in an academic career it is expected that faculty members will also extend their service contributions to the College and University. A minimal service load for an associate professor would be two significant departmental or center responsibilities and one College or University committee. The rule of thumb is that an associate professor’s service load should be roughly twice that of an assistant professor. Faculty members at this stage should also begin to assume some leadership roles in professional societies or editorial boards in order to establish national visibility in their field (an important consideration for promotion).

Full Professors and Endowed Chairs: The intellectual and administrative leadership of the College should rest squarely on the shoulders of the full professors and endowed chairs. Faculty members at these ranks should set the example for the rest of the faculty and should also be active in many of the less formal ways expected of senior leaders, as mentors to junior faculty members and as substantial contributors to the collegial atmosphere. Like associate professors, full and endowed professors are expected to devote 20% of the workload to service (with the percentage adjusted higher for those serving in major administrative positions). Whereas associate professors might serve minimally on one College or University committee, professors and endowed chairs might more regularly serve on more than one such committee. Stronger quality contributions are expected for full than for associate professors. Full professors should also provide departmental leadership; the College attempts whenever possible or desirable to restrict appointments to department chairperson to full professors or endowed chairs. Some committee assignments are restricted to full professors, such as membership on the Provost’s Advisory Committee (PAC). Full and endowed professors should assume leading roles in their professional societies, on editorial boards, and in the organization of conferences.

(NB: The above service guidelines do not apply to the case of Special Professional Faculty. Rank does not curtail service for SPF’s as strictly as it does for T&R faculty, since the same research expectations do not apply, and all SPF instructional faculty are expected to devote 20% of the total workload to service. Still, SPF service contributions to College- and University-level committees should increase with rank, as is the case also for T&R faculty; the service of assistant SPF’s should be primarily devoted to matters related to teaching.)

These guidelines are intended to protect faculty from overextending themselves and hurting the development of their careers and to encourage all faculty to assist with the development of the University and academy as well as society. Obligations will vary as faculty members advance through the ranks. Individual preferences will also play a role. For these reasons, faculty members have the option to adjust their service commitments in consultation with their chairperson.