The names and number of categories of salary increments have changed some (though not drastically) over the years, as has the type and amount of material reviewed by the President, Dean, and FPC. Here's a description of the current system:

Merit Merit is given for special achievement in one or more areas, e.g., especially strong teaching evaluations, a publication or two, outstanding service, etc. (A sizable number of people receive such raises each year.)

Standard Fully acceptable job performance. The person is carrying out their teaching, scholarly/creative activities, and service in a responsible and generally successful way. (The majority of faculty receive a standard raise.)

Needs improvement A sign to the faculty member that there is a significant problem needing attention in one or more of the three areas. (This category would result in a raise, but below the standard amount. Such designations are relatively rare.)

Serious concern Serious and/or persistent concerns about job performance in one or more areas. (This category would result in no raise; very rarely invoked.)

And there is one further category that works a little differently:

Exceptional achievement A special award reserved for recognition of exceptional accomplishments, often the culmination of several years of work. National recognition, or some other indication of wide impact, might be a signal of such work. Some years there might be a handful of people in this category, in other years no one. One could have a distinguished career at Knox and never receive this award. The award consists of the same raise to salary base as for "merit," plus a one-time cash award. Recipients of the award are announced publicly in the fall.

So what does it take to get a merit increase?[*] The three areas of faculty responsibility are looked at (teaching, scholarship, service), and a special achievement in any one of them will generally result in a merit raise. The evidence for teaching is generally a set of stellar course evaluations for the year, although some other special accomplishment might do it as well (e.g., launching a new program). An article published (that is, in print, not just accepted) in the previous calendar year usually results in a merit raise. (Here too judgments have to be made: an article in a major peer-reviewed journal--a definite yes; a short essay in a newsletter--not likely.) Outstanding service will also be rewarded with a merit.

But there's not a simple calculus. The most difficult decisions are usually one of two types:

1) What to do when a person has a level of achievement in one area that would put them in the "merit" or "exceptional achievement" category, but a sub-standard level of achievement in another area?

There is no simple answer here. Some examples:

If a person has a terrific teaching year, but hasn't had a publication in several years--or even an active research agenda--the lack of scholarship will probably be overlooked and the teaching rewarded. Though if the person is untenured and needs a clear message about the importance of scholarship in professional development, a merit increase is less likely.

If a person has published an article, but has seriously sub-standard teaching, the person may or may not get a merit raise. A judgment might be made of how significant the particular article is in that person's career. If this is the first article they've published in a number of years, and they're in a field where it's unlikely another one will come out soon, it may be important to recognize the scholarship when it occurs. But if there's more in the pipeline, the merit might not be given this year. Or if the person is untenured, and the teaching has been consistently problematic, a merit might not be given, in order to be sure the person receives a clear message about the importance of teaching in professional development.

The absence of significant institutional service has not generally interfered with someone receiving a merit increment for either teaching and/or scholarship.

2) What to do when a person has made a significant leap ahead in one area, relative to their past performance, even though this still puts them below what would usually be rewarded with a "merit" in this area?

Usually merit increments are given for achievement relative to the faculty as a whole. But occasionally a merit increase is given to a person for achievement relative to their own performance record. So it might be for a significant improvement in teaching over a year or two, even if the teaching is not yet up to what would normally be recognized with a merit increase. Or it could be for a very significant increase in research activity, even if that activity has not yet come to published form.

How to find out more about the grounds for your raise If you received something other than a standard raise, a brief description of the grounds of the decision will be included in salary letter than comes from the President in early summer. If you have any questions about the grounds for your salary decision, or if you just would like to talk over the perceptions of your job performance, the Dean is the person to see--he's a good person to go to for a check on perceptions and to get some advice about professional development.

[*] Faculty just completing their first year almost always receive a standard raise. Since salary decisions are made on the basis of the previous calendar year's activities, and a new faculty person will only have been here one term in the year under consideration, it is difficult to establish in such a short time a record ample enough to give grounds for a merit increase.