To strengthen the role of the arts at the university and to attract nationally and internationally known artists to the faculty, Duke should establish a new tenure track for visual and performing artists, a faculty committee reported to the Academic Council Thursday.
The special pathway in the report would be part of the university’s normal appointments, promotions and tenure (APT) process and would allow for appointments (external or internal) of tenured full professor or professor of the practice to attract the most outstanding candidates. Most of these artists will not hold a Ph.D., although many hold masters of fine arts or similar degrees in the arts.
Committee chair William Johnson, the Trinity College Schiff Family Dean of Humanities and the Arts, said he expects that the new pathway will raise Duke’s reputation for “producing outstanding knowledge in the performing arts.”
Tenure standards for the performing arts, the report said, “should be analogous to tenure in other fields, insofar as tenure is awarded as acknowledgement for contributions of new knowledge to the field, along with recognized professional stature and national and international impact.”
To that end, the report articulated specific and exacting standards for tenure in each of the visual and performing arts at Duke: visual arts/design/film; dance; theater studies; creative writing; and music.
Faculty in these fields who seek tenure not for performing art but through traditional scholarship will continue to be assess according to current APT standards.
The faculty committee built upon the work of two previous university committees. In 2018, one faculty committee evaluated tenure standards to ensure they reflect the entirety of the academic work being done at the university. In the following year, a special arts committee reviewed tenure processes in the arts at peer institutions.
The council is scheduled to take a final vote on the recommendations at the February meeting.
Following the arts discussion, new Graduate School Dean Suzanne Barbour spoke for the first time before the council and discussed her vision for the school and trends in graduate education at Duke.
Barbour succeeded outgoing school dean Paula McClain in September, having served as graduate school dean at both the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
She noted that the culture of each school was greatly different from the others, evidence, she said, “that when you’ve seen one graduate school, you’ve seen one.”
While the education and training of graduate students is focused within the schools and the departments, that core mission is supported by a variety of essential services largely overseen by the Graduate School. These include financial support, wellness, equity, promoting cross-disciplinary partnerships, career development and mentoring.
The major trends in graduate education are affecting many of these services, Barbour said.
For example, traditionally Ph.D. students represented the majority of the students in graduate programs. But with Ph.D. enrollment declining and master’s degree enrollment on the increase, the school is changing to better address a different set of concerns for master’s students.
Likewise, international student enrollment continues to rise. “It’s clear we need to do more to support them,” Barbour said.
In addition, growing numbers of Ph.D. students are seeking careers outside of academe after graduation, a trend that started more than a decade ago and shows no sign of stopping. “This trend is happening across all disciplines,” Barbour said. “Our students are selecting a wider variety of career paths now, and we need to broaden our professional development opportunities to reflect that.”
In other council news, Trina Jones, Jerome M. Culp Distinguished Professor of Law, and Manoj Mohanan, associate professor at the Sanford School of Public Policy, are the candidates for the Academic Council chair.
Both have long records of university service. Jones, whose scholarship focuses on racial and socio-economic inequality, has been on the Duke faculty since 1995 and has served six terms on the Academic Council. She held seats on the University Priorities Committee, several trustee committees and co-chaired the Academic Council’s University-wide Task Force on Diversity.
Mohanan is a microeconomist focusing on health and development economics. He has spent three terms on the Academic Council and has also served on trustee committees, the Sanford executive committee and other faculty governing boards.
The election will be held later this month.