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May 30, 2008

evaluating community projects

(At Fordham in New York City for the day) Here is a further reflection on the "Tenure Report" from Imagining America, which I summarized on Wednesday. I think if I were involved in campus politics or administration, I might advocate one strategic reform to promote "engagement." I would argue that projects undertaken in communities ought to be assessed on a par with peer-reviewed publications for the purposes of hiring, tenure, and promotion. Standards for evaluating such projects should be rigorous and stringent, so that most would not be deemed fully successful. Launching a community project is no more commendable than opening Microsoft Word and starting to type; in either case, one is accountable for the quality and impact of what one achieves. An impressive community project should be:

  • Generative: producing a substantial array of performances, events, programs, exhibitions, curricula, experiments, organizations, institutions, policies, maps, research instruments, data, peer-reviewed publications, college courses, and/or graduate student work.

  • Intellectually ambitious: driven by challenging and innovative hypotheses, narratives, or methodologies and designed to test the organizers' own presumptions and biases.

  • Coherent: capable of being summarized in one story about its purposes, activities, and results. (Although a project should be flexible over time and should include diverse people and agendas, the whole should be worth more than the sum of its parts).

  • Ethically responsible: sustained (no "drive-by scholarship"), accountable to relevant people inside and outside the academy, transparent, including real dialog with all the participants.

  • Effective: demonstrating real outcomes appropriate to its own objectives at a reasonable cost in terms of money, time, and political capital.
  • Methods of assessing the quality of projects will vary, but one should at least consider using portfolios and peer reviews by independent, reliable community members.

    May 30, 2008 9:31 PM | category: academia | Comments


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