Personnel File Questions
Please note that this document reflects policy changes as of July 25, 2005; revised October 2007]
1. How are Personnel Files Organized?
The official personnel record for faculty has several components. The Human Resources Office maintains a chronological record of employment including I-9 cards, visa status, applications for medical leave, and other job-related records. The HR file is not used in the merit or promotion process.
The Office of the Secretary of the Faculty and Academic Staff (CL 835) maintains the official personnel files used by those who make personnel decisions.
The Governance file contains a cumulative job record. Faculty do not directly submit documents to the Governance file. A backup of this file containing the original record of principal personnel actions is maintained by the Secretary as a safety measure. This “Personnel” file does not leave the SOFAS office.
The Professional Activities file contains annual professional activities updates, summary documents submitted for tenure or full professor review and any updates to the CV submitted at the time of hire. This file also includes evaluative letters in support of tenure or promotion to full professor. The University is required to maintain this record of professional activity, and faculty are required to submit these documents to the Secretary of the Faculty and Academic Staff for inclusion in their official file. These two official personnel files are essential for the tenure, promotion and renewal process. They are made available to review committees, and constitute the official personnel file for all faculty personnel decisions.
There is another file that is not part of the official personnel files maintained by the Secretary of the Faculty and Academic Staff. It is nonetheless a very important part of the merit, retention and promotion process, and faculty should take care in its development, organization and presentation. This is the Supporting Documents file:
The Supporting Documents file contains a faculty member’s documents submitted in support of merit and promotion. Typically this file includes course syllabi, CCQs, publications, grant proposals, "thank you" notes for service and other documents submitted as evidence of meritorious teaching, scholarship and service. As of July 2005, the Supporting Documents file is maintained by the individual faculty member who makes it available as required for merit and promotion review committees. (Budgetary units may decide they would prefer to maintain the Supporting Document file in program offices, in which case their decision takes precedence.) On completion of all personnel reviews, the Supporting Documents file is returned to the individual except following a negative personnel decision or an appeal of a personnel decision. In either of those cases the file will be held by the SOFAS and will not be returned until all appeals have been completed and statutes of limitations for appeals have expired.
It is in the best interest of faculty to see that their Supporting Documents file is complete and well-organized for all merit, retention and promotion reviews. The Governance file and the Professional Activities file are required for retention and promotion reviews. They will not normally be needed for merit reviews, so be sure to make two copies of the annual professional activities report--one to place in your Supporting Document file and one to send to SOFAS for your official personnel file. You will receive an annual reminder to do this. As a rule of thumb, take as much care with your annual professional activities summary and the organization of your supporting documents file as you did with your letter of application.
2. Who has access to the files?
The Governance and Professional Activities files are kept in the Office of the Secretary of the Faculty and Academic Staff (Cofrin Library 835). All documents for these official files are date stamped as they are received. The files are locked each evening. You are welcome to examine the contents of your files in our office during normal office hours. When required for personnel reviews, these files are removed for that purpose to an interdisciplinary office suite for consultation only of the review committee. Units must take care to secure their confidentiality and physical security while the files are in their care. The Wisconsin Public Records law and the UW-Green Bay Code make it clear that files are open during an open personnel review, and review committee chairs should keep that in mind when considering whether a meeting should be open or closed.
Administrators and unit chairs may have access to the official Governance files in the course of their duties. Upon request to University Counsel, others may have access to certain documents, according to the provisions of Wisconsin open records statutes. Questions regarding these statutes should be addressed to the Secretary of the Faculty and Academic Staff or University Counsel. Although it is not possible to summarize the law in this document, generally speaking information of a personal nature (e.g. home address, home phone, home e-mail address and social security number) may not be released without your permission. Performance evaluations, letters of recommendation and similar materials are not usually subject to release. In some cases, records may be released with advance notice to you offering the opportunity to challenge their release. If you would like to know more about this process which attempts to balance transparency and privacy, please stop by CL 835.
3. How should a faculty member prepare his or her personnel file?
With care and serious intent, obviously. We recommend that from the first day at UW-Green Bay, the Chair and/or mentor guide new faculty in building their personnel file. The Professional Activities file is the base for personnel reviews. Faculty must be sure to send a copy of their yearly professional activity update to the SOFAS for inclusion in the official files. Materials placed in the Supporting Documents file become the supporting evidence for your professional activities report, CV updates, and written statements for tenure and full professor reviews.
4. How may a file be used during a personnel review?
The Governance file and the Supporting Documents file are the bases for the review, and it is important, as a professional courtesy, that all members of the reviewing body be familiar with the contents of the files before the meeting. During the meeting, questions clarifying the file may be directed to the faculty member. At the time of notification of the date of the review (20 days prior to a renewal or promotion review), the faculty member must be invited to have the file ready for the review. This notification rule does not pertain to merit reviews, but unit chairs must be clear about when the review committee will require the supporting document file, and should give fair advance notice of reviews. Personnel reviews, according to UWGB 3.08 (1) (c) and (5) (a) “shall be open unless the reviewing committee, in accordance with state law and proper notification, authorizes a closed review. The faculty member under consideration has the right to attend reviews, whether open or closed.”
UWGB Code states that "oral evidence," that is, evidence not in the file, may be introduced by members of the reviewing body [UWGB 3.08 (5)(d)]. It is quite "proper and legal" to do so, but professional courtesy should be the guide. For example, if a member of the reviewing body wishes to augment evidence in the file, that is quite permissible -- "Yes, professor *** did an excellent job on that committee" but if out of the blue a member accuses the faculty member of drunkenness in class, that charge should be put in writing prior to the notice of the meeting to the faculty member. Obviously, there will be gray areas. For example, if a member says that the faculty member has failed to give final exams in a course when he said he did, that is "new evidence" but relevant to a review. In our view, such a remark by a member of the reviewing body is permissible as long as the faculty member can respond to it.