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What kinds of language for evaluating computer-related work did we add to our TP&R guidelines?

The language that we added to our TP&R guidelines is of three sorts. First, we added a paragraph to the introduction (the text of which, in the TP&R guidelines, may be linked to here), the intention of which was to make clear that,

in accordance with the MLA "Guidelines for Evaluating Computer-Related Work in Modern Languages" (See Appendix), the Department believes that computer-related work, like other forms of scholarship, teaching, and service, should be evaluated as an integral part of a faculty member's accomplishments. Therefore language related to teaching, scholarly/creative activities, and professional service throughout this document also refers to computer-related work. As stated in the MLA Guidelines [which may be linked to here], "faculty members who pursue computer-related work as part of their formal assignments should be prepared to make explicit the results, theoretical basis, and intellectual rigor of their work, as well as its relevance to the discipline."

In adding this paragraph the committee's intention was to make clear that, while we are not yet prepared to offer highly specific criteria for evaluating computer-related work as part of a candidate's work towards tenure and promotion, we, as a department, regard that work as serious academic work. It should therefore be evaluated insofar as it is "an integral part of a faculty member's accomplishments." However, since we do not yet have highly specific criteria for evaluation, it is incumbent on the faculty member to make the case for how his or her work is an integral part of traditional research, teaching, and service activities. Implicit in this statement is that senior members of the department have agreed to work with their pre-tenure-and- promotion colleagues to help frame and test appropriate arguments for specific activities. So, although the burden of argument falls on the candidate, the candidate will receive active support from department members in making a case for the particular value of his or her computer-related work--where "particular value" means `the value of a computer-related activity within one or more of the traditional categories of research, teaching, and service.'

Second, and largely as a rhetorical gesture, we added brief statements to the discussions of research, teaching, and service, indicating that, in each case, computer-related activity is now to be considered along with other, traditional activities.

Computer-related work in any of the three areas listed above will be evaluated in accordance with the MLA "Guidelines" and attachments in the Appendix.

(A list of links to points in the full TP&R document where this statement or variations on it are used is appended here.)

This sort of language, placed regularly throughout the TP&R guidelines, helps keep the reader aware that computer-related activities will be evaluated integrally with other activities, and will be evaluated with an eye to the MLA "Guidelines for Evaluation."

Third, along with appending the MLA "Guidelines for Evaluating Computer-Related Work in the Modern Languages" to our own TP&R guidelines, my colleague and fellow committee member Kevin Stein composed a prefatory statement emphasizing that the MLA "Guidelines"

offer a starting point for our Department's dialogue on the matter. These guidelines constitute a gathering of useful suggestions -- not the definitive prescription -- for arguing how one's computer related work contributes to teaching, research/creativity, and service. As technology and its applications evolve, so will the means of presenting and evaluating how faculty apply that technology in their professional lives. Current guidelines will no doubt give way to future guidelines revised and renewed to reflect evolving standards.

This prefatory statement goes on to explain that the burden of argument for evaluating computer-related work rests primarily on the candidate for tenure and promotion; and to suggest ways in which the candidate might go about making arguments in support of the value of computer-related activities by showing how they are comparable to, support, and/or promote traditional activities in Research, Teaching, and Service.

The committee added this departmental statement on the MLA "Guidelines" to make clear that those guidelines, as well as other language about computer- related work in our TP&R guidelines, are provisional language, adopted, first, on the basis of current particular needs (as discussed in the section on "the particular circumstances that drove us to revise our guidelines now"), and, second, with the understanding that these new guidelines for evaluation are both flexible and in no wise the final word on the topic. The statement is also intended to make clear to the candidate that the department understands that, in trying to arrive at adequate ways of evaluating computer-related work, our language and criteria are likely to be provisional for awhile. The emphasis of our efforts to evaluate computer-related work for tenure and promotion should be on cooperation between the candidate and all other members of the department. Once we build up a body of actual examples of computer-related activities and their evaluation (case law, as it were) we will revise the document to make it more explicit by including specific examples (as discussed in the section on what we plan to do in the future to further revise the language we have just accepted).

In revising our TP&R guidelines to include language about computer-related activities, we have, as a department, made one assumption: we have taken as given, that any computer-related (or non-computer-related) activity that might be construed as falling under more than one of the traditional categories (Research, Teaching, Service) may be credited to more than one category--e.g. creating a Web site that becomes an important resource for the larger profession may be credited as both research and service. This assumption will, we hope, allow for greater flexibility in revising evaluation criteria in the future.

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Last revised February 6, 1997