Paperless Promotion and Tenure Process?

Stack of PapersAnyone who works in higher education here in the second decade of the 21st century knows that the late-20th-century idea of the “paperless office” is still a long way from reality. In particular, whenever materials need to be reviewed for an award or for promotion & tenure, print is still the medium by which those materials need to be shared–on many campuses, not all of them. Having had to generate these kinds of materials a number of different times, I can testify to the expense and tedium that characterizes the process: buying the right quality 3-ring-binders, punching holes in all of my documents, buying divider sheets and carefully adding labels to them, printing and printing and printing and printing… Replacing the toner cartridge, then printing and printing and printing and printing…

And now that I’m on a few peer review committees, I’m seeing things from the other side: there’s only one copy of each candidate’s file, locked up in a file cabinet in a conference room, and if I or other committee members need to review it, we can’t take it out of that conference room. These are confidential procedures, of course, and it’s important to maintain the candidates’ privacy. However, I can’t help thinking that there has to be a way to turn this into a digital process. Doing so promises to make the process much less burdensome for candidates and committees alike.

Surely other campuses have implemented digital workflows for this sort of thing that manage to be more efficient and more convenient than the paper-based workflow described above while still retaining the security and privacy features that characterize that particular workflow, right? After all, our paychecks, our HR records, and our students’ records are all purely digital. Heck, when we are looking to hire new people, they submit all of their materials digitally. We know that it’s possible.

Yesterday, I sent out a query on Twitter and received some useful responses:

These responses provided me with a number of useful leads, but I’m sure there are more possibilities.

So if you’re on a campus with a digital workflow for the promotion and tenure process, please describe how it works. Is there a particular networked platform that you use? What kinds of security features are in place? How did your campus successfully move from a paper to digital environment? Are you happy with the workflow? Do others seem to be happy with the workflow? Please explain in the comments!

[Creative Commons-licensed flickr photo by Jenni C]

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