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Standards & Guidelines » CAA Guidelines

Guidelines for Addressing Proposed Substantive Changes to an Art, Art History or Design Unit or Program at Colleges and Universities 

 Adopted by the CAA Board of Directors on October 28, 2018  

(Approved by the Professional Practices Committee on Tuesday, October 2, 2018) 

CAA developed these guidelines in response to many high-profile reductions or closures of arts and humanities departments, institutions, or faculty positions by colleges and universities. Over the past years, CAA has tracked these changes in higher education through the organization’s own research efforts and through narratives relayed directly from our members. The guidelines provide a path for open communication between faculty and administration. The “Guidelines for Addressing Proposed Substantive Changes to an art, Art History or Design Unit or Program at Colleges and Universities” call for a deeper understanding of the factors and issues that have precipitated the action to close a department or program. 

CAA has established the following guidelines for addressing proposed changes to visual arts unit or discontinuance of degrees at colleges and universities (“institutions”) which are subject to change including:  

  • The elimination of an undergraduate or graduate program and/or degrees in an art or design related field (e.g. studio art, design, art history, museum/curatorial studies, criticism, art education, visual culture studies, art and design research and scholarship); 
  • The elimination of a studio art, design or art history department; or
  • The merger of a studio art, design or art history department with another academic department.
  • The removal of more than 10% of a fine art library’s holdings presently located on an institution’s campus to another location which is generally inaccessible to the faculty and student body. 
  • The merger or elimination of a university or college museum or art gallery with formal ties to academic programs or appointments; or 
  • The deaccession or permanent relocation to an inaccessible site of more than 10% of works of art at a college or university museum, or collection. In particular works that serve a pedagogical purpose and benefit to the institution. (see CAA Statement Concerning the Deaccession of Works of Art) 


Action Steps by Faculty and Staff 

Faced with the possibility of a proposed change to a visual arts unit, library or discontinuance of degrees, faculty and staff should engage in focused discussion with stakeholders and institutional leadership that includes the following: 

  • Using their depth of knowledge in the field, craft a statement specifically tailored to the individual institution, setting forth a well-reasoned rationale as to why visual arts, art history and related programs are important to the institution, the region, state, nation, and is of particular importance to developing an informed global perspective. The statement should articulate why a population educated in humanities is advantageous to our culture and the development of a skilled workforce. Input from constituencies including, but not limited to: students, alumni, community stakeholders, etc. should be sought at this juncture. 
  • Understanding the factors within the institution that are bringing about the intention to make the proposed change. 
  • Understanding the motivating factors which will persuade the institutional leadership not to make the change. 
  • Approach the conversation with institutional leadership in a balanced, nonadversarial manner, avoiding placing blame on individuals or departments. 
  • Emphasize that a primary faculty role is responsibility over curriculum (andcurriculum related teaching materials, such as library collections) and that inclusion of faculty in the center of these conversations strengthens the institution, not weakens it. 
  • Explore and suggest alternatives and solutions to the problems that the proposed change were designed to address. 
  • If needed, refer to American Association of University Professors (AAUP), or equivalent international organization such as the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) in Canada, policies and guidelines that indicate a process for working with faculty to develop clear and transparent decisions about closing a unit when financial exigency is claimed1. 

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Action Steps for the Institution 

If the above discussion between faculty and institutional administration are ineffective in creating alternative solutions to the proposed change to the visual arts unit, institutional administration should take the following actions: 

  • The institution’s Office of Institutional Research, or equivalent, should provide documentation of properly resourcing the academic unit for five consecutive years. Examples of proper resourcing an academic unit include, but are not limited to: 
    • Active recruitment efforts to attract and enroll prospective new students, and to retain current students; 
    • Providing financial resources to the visual arts unit to maintain marketplace competitiveness including: 
  • Maintaining a faculty and staff contingent whose aggregate individual qualifications enable the unit and the educational programs to accomplish their purposes. 
  • Allocation of adequate and appropriate classrooms,studios, offices, work spaces, facilities, equipment, and maintenance. 
  • Allocation of adequate financial and other resources, on anannual basis, to allow theacademic unit or library to attract students and flourish. 
  • Provide a written explanation of how the proposed change is consistent with the educational purposes of the institution, including pedagogical focus, curricular programs, educational philosophy, and research mission.  

    In making said written explanation, the institution should consider: 

    • Evaluating factors other than cost. 
    • Evaluating the impact that the proposed changes will have on the educational and artistic advancement of existing and future students at the institution. 
    • Evaluating the impact that the proposed changes will have on individuals who received degrees from the institution in the past. 
    • Evaluating the impact the proposed changes will have on the research mission of the institution and the scholarly and creative depth and breadth of the current and future faculty. 
    • Evaluating the impact that the proposed changes will have on the community and cultural engagement of the institution. 
    • Commissioning a written report outlining the pros and cons of the proposed action, along with an analysis of other pertinent factors such as an assessment of past resourcing of affected units and/or programs. The report should be produced by unaffiliated art and design evaluation professional — ideally a currently-active NASAD-trained accreditation site visitor — and should be shared broadly with all impacted students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
  • Fully engage the institution’s approved curricular process and receive a final recommendation via this process.
  • Fully engage, and receive approval from, the faculty governance body atthe institution.
  • Fully engage, and receive approval from, the institution’s Board of Trustees, or equivalent administrative body.
  • Wait a period of two years after the completion of all steps outlined above before implementing the proposed change to allow for student and faculty transition. 
  • Develop a plan that ensures currently enrolled students will be able to matriculate towards degree in a timely manner.
  • Offer existing faculty and staff employment at other areas of the institution; commensurate with their skills and training.

Authors and Contributors: 

CAA Working Group for Guidelines for Addressing Proposed Substantive Changes to an Art, Art History or Design Unit or Program at Colleges and Universities: Tom Berding, Michigan State University; Brian Bishop, Framingham State University (Chair, CAA Professional Practices Committee); James Hopfensperger, Western Michigan University (CAA Board President); Charles Kanwischer, Bowling Green State University; Karen Leader, Florida Atlantic University; Richard Lubben, College of the Sequoias; Paul Jaskot, Duke University; Hunter O’Hanian, CAA Executive Director.