Peer evaluation should be the primary factor determining decisions affecting academic careers. The CAUT publication What is Fair? outlines recommended peer review policies and procedures that ensure that judgements are made by qualified persons, according to fair procedures, and for sound academic reasons. Equity considerations are central:
Peer evaluation must be free of bias, and not discriminate against marginalized groups who have historically been excluded from full participation in the academy. This requires that the composition of peer committees are inclusive of diversity and equity, and that members receive appropriate information and training to assist in understanding and achieving equity.31
Committee procedures must include mechanisms for ensuring that those responsible for evaluating candidates do so fairly. Bias can be present in the review of resumes, in reference letters, assessment of publications, teaching and service.32 Associations should ensure that individuals charged with evaluating candidates receive proper training in order to ensure that their judgements are not compromised by discriminatory assumptions, stereotypes, and beliefs. While several agreements include an equity representative on committees, QUFA’s agreement also requires all non-student members of appointments and tenure and promotion committees to receive training:
24.2 Appointments and Personnel Committees
24.2.1 Persons (excluding students) chosen to serve on Appointments Committees for Faculty, Librarian or Archivist positions, or on Personnel (Renewal/Reappointment, Tenure/Continuing Appointment and Promotion) Committees and administrators with a recommendatory or decision-making role in an appointments or personnel process may only carry out such functions after successfully completing within the previous ten (10) years, a familiarization and training workshop which shall cover the principles, objectives, recent history, best practices, and rules and institutional expectations with respect to employment equity. The program of such workshops shall be agreed between the Parties, with advice from the Equity Office.
24.2.2 While all Appointments Committee and Personnel Committee members shall adhere to the principles of employment equity, one (1) Member (normally with tenure) of each such Committee shall be designated as the Equity Representative and shall have explicit responsibility for the Committee adhering to the rules and expected practices that assure equity, and for data collection and reporting per Article 24.4. The Committee member charged with this responsibility shall be selected by the Committee, and shall be a person who understands and is sympathetic to the objectives of this Article. Persons with this responsibility will require training in excess of that foreseen in Article 24.2.1 unless waived by the Parties.33
Some associations have negotiated language to provide candidates from Indigenous and equity-seeking groups the opportunity to ensure that committees include individuals able to assess their work appropriately. For example, at Dalhousie University, Aboriginal or African Nova Scotian applicants for reappointment, tenure, continuing appointment, and promotion can elect to have an Aboriginal or African Nova Scotian non-voting representative on their Department-level Committee.
The representative will be chosen by the Member, in consultation with the Committee, and must be arm's length and have an academic appointment at Dalhousie University. The role of the representative is to provide advice to the Committee on any aspect of the Member's application that may be a reflection of the Member's heritage and/or identity. The representative may prepare an independent report to add to the Member's file.34
Committees assessing the work of candidates engaged in traditional Indigenous scholarship must be qualified to recognize Indigenous knowledge production, dissemination, learning and languages. The CAUT advisory on Bargaining for Indigenization of the Academy advises that:
Language should be negotiated to ensure Aboriginal community involvement, as identified by the candidate, in the assessment of Aboriginal academic staff traditional or dual scholarly activity for the purposes of recruitment, regularization, tenure and appointment committees. The persons chosen need not be academics, and should be seen as peers. In the case of some Elders and traditional people, it may not be possible to obtain written assessments, in which case a personal visit and interpreters may be required.35
31 What is Fair: Q&A on Procedures and Standards in Peer Review. CAUT, 2017. https://www.caut.ca/sites/default/files/what_is_fair.pdf
32 https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2018/06/19/study-finds-recommendation-letters-inadvertently-signal-doubt-about-female; https://hbr.org/2016/03/the-unintended-consequences-of-diversity-statements.
33 Collective Agreement between the Queen’s University Faculty Association (QUFA) and Queen’s University at Kingston (May 1, 2019 – April 30, 2022).
34 Collective Agreement between the Board of Governors of Dalhousie University and the Dalhousie Faculty Association (July 1, 2017– June 30, 2020) Articles 11.7(b), 12.12(a)(i), 13.03(a)(i), 14.15(c), 15.20(i), and 37.03(c).
35 CAUT Bargaining Advisory on Bargaining for Indigenization of the Academy (January 2020) https://www.caut.ca/sites/default/files/caut-bargaining-advisory-bargaining-for-indigenization-of-the-academy_2020-01.pdf.