Merit – What is average?

by Faculty Association | Filed under September 2011.

The assessment process will be in full swing this Fall meaning academic staff will be receiving notification of what their Head is recommending their merit increment will be. But what a merit increment represents and how it is related to a faculty member’s every day work performance is often misinterpreted.

The merit pool is established based on 1.2 increments per full-time equivalent academic staff member in the Faculty, and the Deans must fully distribute the entire increment allocation to academic staff in their respective Faculty or unit. This means that the arithmetic average for merit increments is 1.2. (As an aside, the Deans often hold back a small number of increments to deal with appeals and FPC discussions, so the amounts given to the Heads may not equal 1.2 per member.) However, receiving the arithmetic average increment does not necessarily reflect that average work has been performed.

The definition of what merit increments represent is set out by the General Promotions Committee (GPC). Notably, the awarded increments are interpreted by GPC as a 0.0 increment rating “unsatisfactory”, 0.4 increment rating “Satisfactory Career Progress (CPA)” and anything above a 0.4 increment rating “Meritorious”. Technically, it is true that anything above 0.4 is meritorious. That being said, the use of the word “meritorious” in this context would mean anything above the minimum requirement of the position.

There are also instances where a Head indicates that the “average increment” in the unit is 1.0. However, the word “average” is imprecise. The problem, of course, is that so many academic staff members are performing above what would be a normal expectation. So, if a Head is recommending a 1.0 increment for individuals who are performing at an “average” level, it may be true that this is a 1.0. Certainly a 1.0 increment reflects good performance.

If an academic staff member decides to appeal his or her assessed increment it is important to remember that an increment can only be appealed at GPC if it was first appealed at the Faculty Promotions Committee (FPC) level or if the FPC changed the increment amount. Also, the Department Head (or equivalent) is required to provide the appellant a copy of the assessment and an opportunity to meet. Any assessed increment amount can be appealed to the FPC.

Finally, any Department Committee (or the like) that is involved in the assessment process is only advisory to the Department Head. Recommendations regarding assessment are required to be made by the Department Head (or equivalent).

For more information please consult the APT Manual and Faculty Guidelines. If you require further information or assistance please do not hesitate to contact our office by email, faculty.association AT, or by phone, (403) 220-5722.

(Note that references to “Head” above means the person who prepares the initial assessment of your performance report – it could be an Associate Dean, area chair, or some other individual.)

Click on the graph below to see an analysis of the distribution of increments for 2007 provided to the Faculty Association by Human Resources.


Note:  The assessment process is currently established by the General Faculties Council through the Appointment Promotion and Tenure (APT) Manual. The above answers are the Faculty Association’s interpretation of how the process works based on our reading of the rules and the precedents established over the years.

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