James C. Scott, University of North Texas
Chair, Committee on Academic Leadership and Administration
During this last year, the Committee on Academic Leadership and Administration has focused its attention on the growing problem of administrative pressures on music programs to provide data-based, benchmarked information and ratings on faculty scholarly and creative accomplishments. While such data can be assembled in the sciences and engineering to some extent, and has been provided by corporations external to the academy, it simply does not exist in music in such terms. While the mandate for data does not align with our values of assessing artistic work relative to its own purpose, thus making comparisons especially distasteful, it has become clear that as a profession, we will be compelled to take part in these larger institutional efforts in some way.
To explore the problem and work toward both short and long-term solutions, CMS sponsored a two-day summit in Dallas in January, attended by over fifty leaders from institutions around the United States and Canada. As guest presenters from outside the field of music, we welcomed Angie Miller from the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP), Mary Lee Hummert (Associate Provost from the University of Kansas), and Michael Monticino, former President of Academic Analytics. Their perspectives were of immense value in helping the group chart a course. Participation by all members was vigorous, well-informed, and productive. There was a general sense that much progress was made with much more to be done.
A working group from the summit is preparing a document we hope to complete by the end of this academic year that will provide both philosophical underpinning for the arguments we need to make and a survey of existing sources for providing data that is in some way externally gathered and/or verified. The interplay between data gathered at the institutional level but verified externally, and the opposite was a particularly useful element of discussion for future work. Through an inductive process, we can make a case for reliable assessment, based on multiple measures. However, the widely varying sizes and natures of music programming will forever resist anything like a single ranking of music programs at a national level, even though such efforts continue unabated. A draft of a preamble to this document was embraced by the participants. While it does not get into the content that is being organized and refined at this time, its broad framework is perhaps worth sharing even now.
National benchmarking of artistic accomplishments can take the form of a nationally embraced statement of values regarding faculty work applied to a combination of both locally and nationally acquired evidence. Intrinsic quality of work is a value that cannot be converted to objective data in a meaningful way, and aspects of excellence should remain the province of institutional evaluation. However, for those institutions seeking to demonstrate accomplishments of national importance for their faculties, there are some key indicators provided in this document. Also provided are examples of critically important artistic work of faculty members that can contribute to the well-being of the institution and its region. The importance of this kind of work relative to that demonstrating national recognition will vary among institutions and music programs. These variations represent the health of the entire higher education enterprise and are not to be viewed as hierarchical.
Beyond this short-term advisory to be completed soon, the Summit’s continuing work will involve the exploration of a nationally based project, analogous to the highly successful SNAAP, for gathering data in a way that our music programs and our parent institutions will find appropriate, reliable, and defensible. This will be a project for at least five years, and the participants in the summit strongly urge the College Music Society to take a continuing leadership role in the effort. As the only national organization dedicated to fostering faculty work in all kinds of music programs, CMS is uniquely positioned to develop credibility and provide expertise for such an effort.
On a personal note, it has been an honor to serve for several years a Chair of the Committee on Leadership and Administration. We began with a request for doing work on an advocacy statement to be ultimately embraced by CMS as a whole, and this final project seems like a something of a continuation. Beyond advocacy for our art form and our profession, we are now advocating for reasoned assessment of the work of our faculties that recognizes the uniqueness of what we do.
Let me extend thanks to those committee members who have provided help over the years as well as those on the Steering Committee for this current and ongoing project. I look forward to continuing to work on it as we move forward in service to music in higher education.