A couple of thoughts and observations in response to
Cal Pryluck's question about review of creative projects
in the academic promotion and tenure process.
I'm talking from the perspective of a faculty member at
Penn State University, where it is not uncommon for
faculty members in the College of Arts and Architecture
(Art, Music, Architecture) or the School of Communications
(which includes film, video, etc.) to present as part of
their resume creative projects.
At this university, each department is charged with
defining fairly specifically the sorts of activities
and the levels of attainment appropriate for each
academic rank (assistant prof., assoc. prof., prof., or
the equivalent for librarians, researchers, extension, etc)
in each of four categories: (1) teaching; (2) research and
creative accomplishment; (3) scholarship and professional
activities; (4) service.
Category (3) includes such things as convention papers,
professional activities, and so on.
It is in category (4) that Cal's question applies. Here
we include such things as publication of books, articles
(refereed distinguished from non-refereed), fiction,
poetry, films . . . or whatever is regarded as the appropriate
activity. Creative activities are obviously appropriate to
some faculty more than to others, and they are usually quite
explicitly named as appropriate in the department's written
document on criteria for tenure and promotion.
There are difficulties, but I'm not sure the word "bias" is
appropriate. I've served terms on the tenure and promotion
committees of my department, college, and university -- each
one a broader level than the one before. It is clear from
these experiences that the system is better designed to allow
for evaluation of published scholarship (scholarly books
from university presses, refereed journal articles) than it
for the evaluation of a performance or a painting or a film.
In the case of such creative activities in lieu of research
publications, in my experience, it is important (1) that there
be a clear departmental document, approved by the faculty and
by the dean, as to what counts as creative activity; (2) that
in the particular tenure/promotion case, the department head
and appropriate faculty committee make sure that the activity
is clearly and specifically described, and that care be taken
to secure, if possible, published reviews of the activity;
(3) that in the normal process of getting external letters,
care be taken to assure that the external reviewers comment
quite specifically on the level of accomplishment and the
consequent reputation of the work, including not only its
excellence but its potential to influence the field.
These things will always be problematic in a large university,
where p&t is best designed to evaluate on the model of
science and scholarship, but a lot of problems can be avoided
by clear procedure. And I'd want to add that it isn't only
artists who have problems, sometimes, in specifying their
contributions. In some areas of physics and chemistry these
days, a scholarly article may have 20 authors; it is sometimes
very hard to make clear the contribution of an assistant professor
to a 20-author team assembled from several universities, often
from more than one continent.