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Standards & Guidelines » CAA Guidelines

Guidelines for Retention and Tenure of Art and Design Faculty

Adopted by the CAA Board of Directors on April 24, 1993; revised on October 27, 2002; October 24, 2004; October 23, 2011; and May 1, 2016.


CAA has established the following standards respecting art and design faculty, a copy of which will be sent to each accrediting body in the United States and to institutional members of CAA under cover of a letter from the current president of the association urging the said accrediting body to recognize the standards as appropriate to any collegiate art and/or design program. These standards are to be updated or approved by the appropriate CAA committee in a timely manner.

CAA encourages institutions to maintain their diverse and unique departmental missions while also complying with the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) standards with respect to normal time frames of academic advancement.

CAA notes that this set of standards represents national norms and thresholds and is intended to provide a framework for supporting individual and institutional purposes. The standards should not appear to be obligatory or required; specific needs and missions of institutions need to be respected. CAA urges art and design units to put specific guidelines and criteria in writing, and to consider attaching CAA standards to institutional guidelines. CAA also strongly recommends that art and design faculty become familiar with and adhere to the promotion, tenure, and retention policies and protocols of their respective institutions and collective bargaining agencies where applicable.

These standards should be considered in conjunction with other CAA Standards and Guidelines including:

Status of Art and Design Faculty

All art and design faculty on full-time annual appointments other than visiting artists, critics, artists-in-residence, and/or other alternative nonstandard titles are to be regarded as having regular faculty status including eligibility for academic rank, promotion to all academic ranks, tenure, retirement, and other benefits, and participation in college and university governance. The title “artist-in-residence” should not be used as a construction to circumvent normal hiring practices. Appropriate and equitable access to institutional support for scholarly work and professional development is essential for regular faculty status. Art and design scholarship and/or creative activity should be evaluated by appropriate means and valued in a manner consistent with academic activity in other disciplines:

  • Exhibitions, art commissions, design commissions including commercial and/or client-based work, and/or peer-reviewed creative activities are to be regarded as analogous to publications in other fields
  • Art and design faculty should be provided with safe, secure, and appropriate studio teaching spaces
  • Freedom of expression and inquiry must be supported and protected
  • Faculty status implies that artists and designers will not be expected to provide professional art or design services other than those directly related to their appointments without proper additional compensation or an adjustment in assignment

Terminal Degrees and Other Qualifications

CAA affirms that the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) is the terminal degree in studio art practice. The Master of Fine Arts (MFA), the Master of Design (MDes), the Master of Art and Design (MAD), the Master of Graphic Design (MGraph), and the Master of Architecture (MArch) are among the terminal degrees in design practice. These are the terminal degrees for practitioners and educators in studio art and design and share a requirement of a minimum of two academic years of full-time graduate study, with a minimum of sixty semester hours or ninety quarter hours.

In theoretical, historical, and/or pedagogical subjects, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), the Doctor of Education (EdD), and comparable doctorates are the appropriate terminal degrees. CAA also recognizes the existence of the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Fine Arts (DFA), Doctor of Visual Arts (DVA), Doctor of Studio Art (DA), and other doctoral degrees that incorporate art and/or design practice.

In some cases a significant record of professional achievement in areas such as creative activity, research, and publication is an indicator of qualifications, productivity, and professional awareness, and may be considered as a significant credential in lieu of an earned terminal degree. Hiring institutions should clearly state terminal degree expectations at the time of and for each position announcement.

A terminal degree and/or equivalent professional achievement—and in the case of interior design and interior architecture, professional licensing—is regarded as the appropriate qualification for appointment to professional rank, promotion, or tenure. Degrees in education and related fields shall not be required except for faculty appointed specifically to teach courses in education. Similarly, education degrees should not be regarded as constituting appropriate preparation for teaching studio art or design. Degree requirements for tenure and promotion should be made clear—in writing—in the letter of appointment; expectations should not change during an individual’s probationary period.

Listings for Faculty Positions

Detailed information (beyond the position listing) regarding responsibilities and departmental policies should be available for any job candidate requesting such material.

For compliance, all of the following information should be available upon a candidate’s request:

  • A thorough description of the position, including rank and whether the position is tenure track, nontenure track, visiting, term appointment, etc.
  • A brief statement of departmental mission or philosophy
  • Relevant course descriptions, numbers of sections, and maximum number of contact hours per week. If these items are unknown at that time, or are to be shaped to the candidate’s strengths, that too should be stated
  • A description of responsibilities related to advising, supervision of graduate students, gallery responsibilities, shop and classroom maintenance, office hours, etc.
  • Availability of studio space for the faculty member
  • Availability of office space for the faculty member
  • Availability of support for creative activity, research, and professional development through the department, the college or university, the community, etc.
  • Relative weights of research/creative activity, teaching, and service (as they apply to institutional evaluative standards for renewal, promotion, tenure, etc.)
  • Being discipline-specific, brief comments regarding the kinds of professional activities and honors that are considered important for regular progress toward renewal, promotion, tenure, retention, salary increases, etc.
  • Brief descriptions of procedures and evaluation processes used in making decisions of professional advancement (examples: periodic meetings with chair or dean, written peer reviews, external referees or reviewers, classroom visitations, etc.)
  • Clarification as to whether credit toward tenure will be awarded for existing teaching experience at the time of appointment
  • Information regarding institutional benefits and other human resources programs

Academic Advancement

The criteria for promotion, retention, and tenure for art and design faculty should be professional achievement, teaching effectiveness, and service to the unit, institution, community, and/or profession. The criteria should be introduced to candidate during the interview process and presented in writing to new hires prior to the starting dates of their appointments. Evaluation of professional achievement and teaching effectiveness shall be carried out with the participation of other art and/or design professionals. Whenever possible, art and/or design faculty should be represented at the first stage of promotion, tenure, renewal, and retention recommendation procedures.

Institutions and their respective art and design departments should present all matters of renewal, retention, promotion, and tenure as clearly as possible in writing to all members of the department. These matters should be made as specific as possible, making every effort to recognize a broad context for discourse and practice in contemporary art/design and taking into consideration that an artist/designer may or may not work in a discipline-specific fashion. Conferences between the appropriate administrator(s) and the candidate (for promotion, tenure, etc.) should be held regularly. At the time of hiring or reclassification of an art and design position within a program (e.g., moving from part time to tenure track), the institution should provide the faculty member a written account of the range of types of research/creative activity, teaching, and service activities that will count toward retention, tenure, and promotion.

In discussing the professional activities related to research or creative activity, the relative importance of activities under those headings should be made clear in writing to the faculty and appropriate administrators. Issues of national, regional, and local recognition must be clarified at institutions that make those distinctions, as these expressions do not hold universal meaning. Should outside referees or reviewers be part of the decision processes for professional advancement, they too should be informed of the standards and definitions used by the candidate’s institution. In addition, outside reviewers should be given a profile of the institution’s weighting of teaching and service responsibilities in tenure, retention, and promotion consideration.

Should institutional or departmental standards and criteria be changed, faculty members should be notified promptly of such changes and be allowed either to continue with the standards under which they were initially employed or be given a minimum of three years to comply with the new standards. If the candidate chooses the latter, the need for a period of adjustment should be taken into consideration in regard to the normal timetable related to renewal, retention, promotion, or tenure. Faculty on the tenure clock should have the opportunity to develop a plan with the department head or other officially designated mentor who is responsible for renewal, retention, promotion, and tenure to move from the old standards to the new if so desired, and that reasonable time be given as per the standards. Should an unexpected opportunity or personal circumstance require a leave of absence, full consideration should be given by the institution to stop the tenure and/or promotion(s) clock for the requested period of time.

Teaching Loads

The full-time teaching assignments of artists/designers should not exceed eighteen contact hours per week consistent with practices across the institution. A maximum teaching assignment of eighteen contact hours per week and twelve contact hours per week, in alternating academic terms, is suggested for faculty expected to have exemplary records of achievement in teaching, research/creative activities, and service.

Many institutions assign lower teaching loads as to accommodate greater research or service expectations. Appropriate reductions in teaching loads are warranted to support research/creative activity; managing and maintaining classroom, studio, and/or gallery facilities; and administrative responsibilities.

Class Size

CAA encourages class sizes appropriate to the format and subject matter of each course with regard to such considerations as a) space, materials, and equipment requirements; b) safety; and c) the balance between student and faculty time necessary to accomplish the goals and objectives of the class. Studio classes in art/design generally should not exceed twenty-five students. Experience indicates that a class size of twenty or fewer is educationally more effective. In some cases, safety considerations and specialized equipment limitations will require class limits of fifteen or fewer.

Effective instruction can be achieved in lecture and/or online classes with larger enrollments than are acceptable in most studio or seminar courses; however, sound educational practice indicates that such large classes should be supported by small discussion or tutoring sessions, or other opportunities for students to engage in dialogue with the instructor.

Retention, Promotion, and/or Tenure Reviews

The review process:

  • Candidates should be told at the time of appointment whether the institution or the candidate is responsible for costs associated with assembling the dossier and distributing it for external review, if applicable (return mailing, methods of delivery, etc.)
  • Candidates should receive in advance—preferably at the time of appointment—a timetable for the review process with all deadlines and clarification about the party responsible for meeting each deadline

Documentation for the teaching review:

  • Information to be included might typically include but not be limited to documentation of teaching effectiveness, including but not limited to student evaluations, peer reviews of teaching, course syllabi, lists of courses taught, teaching awards, innovative pedagogy, teaching portfolios, student portfolios and achievements, and student awards.

Documentation for the creative activity, research, and/or other scholarly activity review:

Information to be included might typically include but not be limited to:

  • Current curriculum vitae in the format required by the institution
  • Documentation of work products might include but not be limited to artworks, media works, design works, client-based consulting, commissions, retainers, consultancies, art or design articles, papers, books, book chapters, reports, inventions, discoveries, presentations, demonstrations, workshops, exhibits, grant applications, fellowships, residencies, situated art and/or design works, online work, curatorial work, etc. When documenting collaborative art and/or design works, and if applicable, materials should be consistent with institutional guidelines for presentation and include clarification and identification about the candidate’s role in the collaborative efforts. Such clarification may take the form of letters submitted by collaborators to the applicant and/or unit administrator, defining each participant’s contribution to a particular project.
  • Documentation of dissemination might include but not be limited to exhibitions, collections, performances, commissions, publications, conference proceedings, presentations, symposia, broadcasts, marketplace data, academic and/or popular press accounts, etc.
  • Documentation of quality, significance, scope, complexity, and/or impact might include but not be limited to awards, citations, client-based work, collections, commercial successes, commercial work, curatorial letters, data about viewers/users, funding/grant awards, human welfare data, impact studies, legislation, licensing, peer reviews, periodical references, press releases and/or media attention, policies, prizes, quality of life measures, regulations, etc. In some fields of art and design, paid professional practice—and in particular, client-based commissions resulting in widely produced and/or viewed work—is considered an indicator of quality and significance.
  • Documentation about selection processes (e.g., peer reviewed, juried, blind reviewed, editor reviewed, invited, nominated, commissioned, crowd-sourced, competitive, self-initiated, etc.), when available, might include measures of the quantitative selectivity (e.g., an acceptance rate of ten out of one hundred). It should be noted that the majority of dissemination opportunities in art and design are within venues wherein impact is determined by numerous, varied, and nuanced considerations. Accordingly, venues are not ranked in a manner consistent with or parallel to scholarly publications in certain academic disciplines where widely accepted and distinctly ranked orders of importance and impact might exist. (As an example, there is no accepted preeminent art/design award or gallery in the United States.) Pertinent factors for evaluating the impact of an art/design venue should align with the unit’s and the institution’s mission, be written into pertinent promotion and tenure documents, and might include but not be limited to: its role in shaping contemporary critical discourse and/or practice in the field; the opportunities for significant, critical peer review; a record of advancing a particular form of art and/or design production; the ability to attract regional, national, and/or international public audiences; a reputation for innovation and originality in exploring new ideas and modes of production; a resonant and/or imaginative geographic or cultural context for the project; etc.

Documentation for the service review:

  • Information to be included might typically include but not be limited to documentation about service to the unit, institution, community, and/or profession at the local, regional, state, national, and/or international levels including meeting minutes demonstrating contributions, written products of service activities, data on outcomes of service activities, and/or letters from individuals or agencies benefitting from such service.

The appeal process:

  • Candidates should be informed at the time of hire about the appeal process and policies regarding the addition of new information to the dossier or file during the appeal process

External review:

  • The use of external reviewers is a common and respected method for evaluating the work of colleagues for promotion and tenure. Institutions using external reviewers should describe in writing—for everyone involved with the review, including the candidate and external reviewers—the role and the minimum number of reviewers required for the process
  • Candidates should be provided written information in regard to their role in identifying potential external reviewers. If the candidate is allowed to play an active role in the selection, he or she should be informed in writing of the nature and limits of permissible communication with the external reviewers
  • External reviewers should be in, or closely aligned with, the field or discipline of the candidate
  • External reviewers selected from academia should hold an academic rank higher than that of the candidate; external reviewers who are not in academia should similarly be of higher professional status than the candidate
  • External reviewers should not be current or former instructors, students, or collaborators of the candidate under review
  • Reviewers should be provided sufficient time, at least one month, to review the dossier and complete a report
  • Potential reviewers should be asked about their willingness to serve as an evaluator several months before receiving a dossier
  • Reviewers who agree to serve should be asked to provide an up-to-date curriculum vitae when they accept the request to review
  • Evaluators should be given explicit directions as to what aspects of the candidate’s professional activities should be addressed in their review; they should also be clearly informed of the deadline for the receipt of the review letter
  • Evaluators should be informed of the particular standards and definitions used by the candidate’s institution, including defining terms like “regional,” “national,” and “international” recognition
  • Reviewers should be informed of the extent to which their letters and comments are made public or kept confidential, and their own obligations of confidentiality with regard to the content of their review
  • Payment for writing a review is not a universal practice; payment or its absence should not in any way affect the evaluator’s opinion; contributing external evaluations constitutes an important service to the field

Other CAA Recommendations

When art and design programs define their standards of excellence, they should be founded upon realistic criteria. Research expectations should be commensurate with teaching and service loads, professional support, geographical setting of the institution, availability of studio space, changing financial conditions within the institution, etc. Teaching expectations should be commensurate with class size, facilities, teaching loads, etc.

Professional expectations should also take into consideration changes in academia, the art and design marketplace, the faculty member’s expressive medium(s), the availability of appropriate venues for public presentation of the medium(s), and so on. For some, the commercial gallery may not be a suitable indicator of excellence or national recognition.

Authors and Contributors

Committee on Guidelines for Retention and Tenure of Art and Design Faculty (2016): Jim Hopfensperger, Western Michigan University (chair); Holly Cline, Radford University; Carma Gorman, University of Texas; Minjeong Kim, Indiana University; Sarah Lawrence, The New School, Parsons; John Richardson, Wayne State University.

Committee on Standards for Retention and Tenure of Visual-Arts Faculty (2011): Jim Hopfensperger, Western Michigan University (chair); Carolyn Cardenas, Utah State University; Dana Clancy, Boston University; Andrea Eis, Oakland University; Amy Hauft, Virginia Commonwealth University; Janet Hethorn, University of Delaware; Robert Hower, University of Texas at Arlington; Patricia Olynyk, Washington University in Saint Louis; Sergio Soave, Ohio State University; Adrian Tio, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth; Star Varner, Southwestern University.

Committee on Revising Tenure Procedures (1993): Michael Aurbach, Vanderbilt University (chair); Emma Amos, New York; Phillip Blackhurst, University of Kansas; Jon Meyer, University of Dayton; Larry Scholder, Southern Methodist University; Gregory Shelnutt, University of Mississippi; Victoria Star Varner, Indiana University; Barbara Hoffman, CAA counsel.

Revised in 2002 by the Professional Practices Committee, with D. Fairchild Ruggles, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (chair).

Revised in 2004 by the Professional Practices Committee, with Kristi Nelson, University of Cincinnati (chair).