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Academic Policies

Faculty Merit Evaluation Process Overview

Faculty Merit Evaluation Process Overview

Rationale and Philosophy 

We, CalArts faculty, are highly productive across many fields, earning high profile awards on par with other leading institutions, and routinely innovating and adapting academic programs that attract top students to our programs. The distinguished role our faculty and programs hold among national arts institutions is, in part, related to our rejection of a traditional tenure model based in rank and hierarchy, in favor of an alternative model of radical pedagogy developed over many generations of faculty, making CalArts an exceptional presence in higher education. In this way, CalArts faculty have elaborated a creative and cooperative community of artists that values process and production and actively resists efforts to standardize our teaching and creative practices. Free of a fixed tenure clock or seniority rule, CalArts faculty are emboldened to take risks outside of traditional practices, innovate experimental genres in advance of their wider recognition, and approach the creation and delivery of our academic programs through collaboration and shared governance to the benefit of the Institution. 

The comprehensive Faculty Salary Advancement Plan (FSAP) reflects the values of collectivity and collaboration by providing sustained salary progress through a step system that ensures the progress of at least one step with each contract renewal, or every three years for faculty with longer contracts. This step is in recognition of faculty merit and is part of our merit-based advancement for faculty. 

Additionally, faculty may pursue further salary step increases, at each contract renewal or three year interval, through a transparent merit application process. Merit awards can increase faculty salaries by one or two FSAP steps. The peer-driven process of faculty merit evaluation is designed to be flexible enough to encompass the many types of work with distinction that exist within each of the schools and programs. The criteria for merit advancement reflects the work that we as faculty value most: innovation and excellence in teaching; service toward cooperatively building and adapting the dynamic programs that define our Institution; eclectic creative and professional practices within arts communities both large and small; and creating and sustaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive learning environment for our students and community. The FSAP graduated salary structure and merit advancement with transparency, minimal bureaucracy, and a commitment to our community values enables all faculty to see their wide-ranging efforts reflected in routine and flexible salary improvements at levels that are responsive to established market ranges, while maintaining CalArts commitment to a more cooperative and egalitarian model of faculty careers. 

Merit Application Process 

Applying for merit review is optional and initiated by the individual faculty member. In addition to moving up one salary step automatically upon contract renewal (or every three years for those with longer contracts) faculty are also eligible to apply, at the same time, for another one or two step advancement for distinguished work during the period since their last merit award (minimum of three years) in one of, or any combination of the following categories: teaching, service, professional practice.

The purpose of the merit program is to recognize the specific and noteworthy achievements of individual CalArts faculty beyond the routine levels of activity expected in each of these category areas. While it is anticipated that most faculty will attain merit recognition at some point in their career at CalArts, it should not be expected each time a faculty member is eligible. 

The core purpose of a merit award is to allow the distinguished accomplishments of faculty to be documented and acknowledged, even as we belong to a larger Institute faculty who routinely perform at a high level of accomplishment. It is an assessment process to determine when faculty have substantially evidenced a record of distinguished work in one or more of the four category areas. Provost Office will notify faculty of their eligibility to apply for merit and, according to a specified schedule of submission deadline(s), the faculty may initiate their merit review through the following steps: 

1. Faculty applicant submits: 

  • A cover letter identifying the merit category(ies) they are applying within, 

  • how many step advances requested, and a narrative of rationale for consideration, along with 

  • all relevant documentation to evidence the specific achievements and the specific impacts this work has had for the period under consideration. Application will go to the faculty merit committee and to the School Dean simultaneously, then to the Provost Office. 

2. Review by Committee

The Institute Merit Review Committee will meet to discuss and review the application and supporting documentation, applying the relevant merit guidelines (see below), and one committee member will write a brief statement incorporating the committee’s collective assessment and recommendation or non-recommendation. 

3. Review by Dean

The Dean will likewise independently review the application and write a separate statement of recommendation. All applications, along with both statements, will advance to the Provost Office for final review, regardless of whether they have the support of the faculty committee and/or Dean. 

4. Review by Provost

The Provost’s Office will review the applications and accompanying statements from the committee and Dean. The Provost may request further information or documentation from the applicants, and will request review by the Institute Merit Appeal Committee, a subcommittee of the Academic Council, when there is disagreement between the Institute Merit Review committee and the School Dean. The Provost will review all previous statements, perform an independent review, and make a list of recommendations. 

5. Approval by the President

The recommendations from the Provost are sent to the President for final approval.

Notification and Appeal or Grievance

After  final approval, the Provost will notify the faculty of their merit decision. The Provost’s Office will provide each applicant with a decision on their merit application that includes the statements from the faculty merit committee and the Dean.

Applicants who feel either the process or application of criteria was in error may initiate an appeal of the merit award decision to the Provost Office, who will send it to the Institute Merit Appeal Committee for a recommendation. See details on procedures for Appeals and Grievances below.

Merit Review Process Guidelines 

Eligibility: Regularized and Technical Faculty will be eligible to apply for merit at designated 3 year intervals, timed with contract renewal when possible. 

If a faculty member chooses not to apply in their appointed application time, they must wait until their next merit review period to apply. 

Only work completed during the period since submitting the application for the last successful merit award can be included in the merit application. E.g., a work completed in 2018 that was included in a successful merit application submitted in 2019 cannot be included again in subsequent application in 2022. However, if the application was not successful, or the faculty member did not apply for merit in 2019, the 2018 work may be included in the 2022 application. 

Only faculty in good standing, who have met the requisites of contract renewal, may apply. If a faculty member is subject to disciplinary action, their merit review will be delayed until the matter is resolved. In the instance of such a delay, the merit review will resume once the matter is resolved, even if their designated merit eligibility window has expired. 

Institute Merit Committee:

Merit will be reviewed by the Institute Merit Committee. This committee will be composed from the Academic Council, either by its members or their designees. In years with a large number of applications, there may be multiple committees formed. Each committee will:

  1. Have a representative from every school with applicants.

  2. Committee membership should rotate yearly and should exclude faculty with an application under review. Faculty can, with approval from the AC, serve on the committee multiple years but the committee must be reconstituted every year

  3. Faculty under review can not serve on the committee reviewing their application

  4. The process of review and the materials reviewed are confidential

  5. Committee members must inform the Director of Faculty Affairs of any conflict of interest they have with any of the applicants; applicants will be told the composition of their  committee

  6. The work of writing the one page summary evaluation of the applicant should be divided and shared among the committee (i.e., each statement written by a different member)

  7. written statements should respond to the applicant’s provided evidence. 

Institute Merit Appeal Committee

This committee is constituted from the AC or its designees. It will review applications

  • At the request of the Provost, when the original review committee and the Dean differ in their assessment or recommendation.

  • When an applicant appeals their decision.

This committee must be constituted with different members than the ORIGINAL Institute Review Committee that reviewed the applicant’s material.


Faculty merit review applications and decisions are confidential. Faculty review committee members must refrain from discussing individual merit applications outside of committee meetings. 

There will be no public announcements made about merit award decisions. 

The statements written by the faculty merit review committees and Deans will be provided to faculty applicants, but will not be used in future merit reviews or contract renewals. 

Previous merit award decisions may not be considered when faculty submit new merit award applications. Yearly reports on the overall results of merit applications (without names) will be provided to the Academic Council for ongoing review (see Ongoing Assessment section, below), along with reports on any salary adjustments made outside the merit review process. 

Because committees are not conducting a full review of all aspects of an applicant’s work, the statements of the committee must be understood narrowly to comment only on the specific criteria identified in merit review and therefore cannot be used as, or in place of, a performance review. 


Applicants will be notified of their upcoming merit review deadline the semester before the application will be due. 

Before review begins, the Dean and Provost establishes that faculty is in good standing and has satisfied the requisites for contract renewal. 

If during the time of merit review the faculty member is subject to disciplinary action, the merit review process will be paused until the disciplinary matter is resolved. 

The Faculty Merit Review Committee’s and the Dean’s recommendations and accompanying statements should be forwarded to the Provost Office by March 30th.

 The Provost Office, and Institute merit committee if applicable, will complete review decisions and statements by April 15th. 

The Provost will notify the faculty who have been determined to not meet the standard for merit in order to give them [2 weeks] to appeal and provide any additional information. Appeals will be decided before the end of Spring semester(See Appeal/Grievance Process). When appeals are completed, the Provost gives a final merit recommendation list to the President, who makes final decisions and formally awards merit by the end of spring semester. 

Appeal and Grievance Processes 

Applicants may write a letter of appeal if their merit application is not approved, in which they can provide clarification and/or further evidence of merit in support of their original application. The Institute Merit Appeal Committee will review the appeal letter-- along with the initial decision and write a brief statement of review to the Provost. The Provost will then review and recommend to the President’s Office for review and approval. This process should be completed by [insert date]. 

If the applicant feels there were flaws in the process of their merit review, they may submit a Grievance to the Institute Merit Review Committee which specifically outlines their critique. The Committee will review the case and write a response which goes to the Provost for adjudication. Grievances must be made within [xx time] after receipt of the initial merit review decision, and resolved within [yy time] after they’re submitted. 

The members of the Institute Merit Review Committee will rotate every 2 years, along with other Academic Council appointments.

Ongoing Assessment of Merit Process and FSAP 

There will be a yearly assessment of the merit process conducted collaboratively between the Provost Office and Academic Council. By November of each year, Faculty Salary Committee, a subcommittee of the Academic Council, will receive a report of the results of the number of applications and decisions from the year before, as well as a report if any adjustments have been made to individual faculty salaries outside of the merit review process. This will allow the Faculty Salary Committee to assess the merit program as a vehicle for allowing most faculty to achieve salaries beyond the minimum introduced by FSAP over a long career at CalArts. Academic Council, Deans, and Provost Office will also continue to review and hone the criteria descriptions for the four categories of merit, along with revisions of the accompanying school-specific guidelines. It is expected that in the early stages of implementation, there will be changes and improvements toward the goals of transparency, clarity of criteria standards, equity and inclusivity in the process, and discernment within the committees in applying the standard of distinction. Any changes to the merit criteria and/or process will be subject to approval by Academic Council and the Provost’s Office. It is also necessary to routinely complete comparative market studies against peer institutions every five years. (With the last Faculty Compensation Study completed in 2015, a new updated study should begin in 2020.) 

Merit Criteria:

The merit review system allows a faculty member demonstrating excellence in teaching, service, and/or professional practices to apply for an accelerated progression through the salary step system. 

The award of merit will be based upon a standard of distinction in the merit category(ies) selected. The applicant must provide a persuasive narrative in their cover letter, along with supporting documentation that evidences the impact of the meritorious work. As the Institute Committee, Deans and the Provost consider the merit application, they should practice discernment in holding a standard of distinction: productive activity in the areas of the merit category are expected by all faculty, awards of merit are for those faculty whose activity is both noteworthy and demonstrates a substantial and impressive impact as a result. Rather than strict metrics, we intentionally leave the criteria open so that faculty can most fully represent their unique approaches to teaching/mentoring, service, and professional practice with the expectation of substantive and discerning engagement by their peers in the in-school committees, their Dean, and their Provost. 

Significant and evidenced impact around Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access are of primary importance to the Institute and will be considered within any of the three above categories.  

Faculty who advance and augment recognition, knowledge and implementation of improved, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) activities should be acknowledged through merit awards and other avenues. As with any educational institution, building and sustaining an active culture of equity, diversity, inclusion, and access at CalArts requires ongoing change at the systemic level of the Institute. Faculty contributions to a culture of greater EDI are essential to the CalArts mission; such work addresses past and present inequities, grows our capacity to include new and different voices, and is intrinsic to the radical and visionary aims of CalArts. 

Equity describes providing individuals the access and tools they need in order to be successful. Diversity refers to categories including race, gender, sexuality, class, geography, ability, language, national origin, world view and other variations. Actively building a diverse community and pedagogy at CalArts brings crucial heterogenous experiences and histories to the forefront of art practice and education. Inclusion actively addresses policies, pedagogy and institutional practices to remedy gaps and oversights in equity and diversity. All three categories of EDI address historical and contemporary imbalances in academic, artistic and professional access in U.S. society. This work will be recognized in all three of the merit categories.

Faculty work toward diversity, equity and inclusion can occur in the areas of research, creative work, teaching, mentorship and service. It is critical to note that merit in the EDI category does not reward general awareness of EDI issues but rather active programming that specifically addresses its concerns.

Guidelines and Evaluation: 

Though the work of review is qualitative and evaluative, it must also adhere to the established guidelines: only the criteria named in the application can be considered, only activity in the specified window of eligibility, and the standard of distinction with evidence of impact must be maintained and applied without preference. 

Below are examples of the types of activities that might reach the standard of distinction with evidence of impact according to criteria within each of the categories. 

It is expected that these criteria guidelines will routinely be revised to best represent the range of faculty activity considered distinguished by our broad CalArts community of artist faculty.


CalArts teaching extends beyond one’s course load and merit assessment enables all forms of mentoring and student enrichment to be articulated, valued and rewarded. Merit for teaching is awarded to recognize faculty who exemplify the kind of innovation, excellence, and transformative pedagogy that CalArts values. Distinction in the realm of teaching should be measured by the impact that an individual faculty member’s teaching and mentoring has on student learning, development, and work, both within and outside of the faculty member’s metier. 


  • Courses taught (including Winter Session and independent studies)

  • Mentoring (student reviews, etc)

  • CalArts production work involving students

  • Significant initiatives focused on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access within a program or school’s curriculum or pedagogical culture

  • Specific leadership roles in promoting dialogues around anti racist teaching and curriculum within the school

  • Technical instruction 

  • Reference and research instruction 

  • Course integrated instruction 

  • Curricular planning. 

Examples of evidence to demonstrate distinction in teaching include (but not limited to): development of outstanding courses that generate high demand and student engagement, documentation of high impact practices that demonstrably enhance student learning, initiative and innovation to expand research practices and information literacy, collaboration with students, use of new technologies in teaching to improve student learning, demonstrable efforts to increase Inclusion, Diversity Access and Equity within the classroom, curriculum or student learning environment, including but not limited to introducing curricular or pedagogical diversity into the program.


Merit for service is awarded to recognize faculty leadership at the program, school, and Institute level. Distinction in the realm of service should be measured by the sustained positive impact that an individual faculty member’s leadership role has had on their program, school, and/or Institute. Though the work of some of these roles comes with a stipend, the specific activity and accomplishments within these roles are still eligible for merit consideration, depending on the applicant’s ability to produce evidence of impact. 

Institutional Service: Leadership and evidenced impact through participation in

  1. School committees: meetings, search committees, admissions, recruitment 

  2. Program development or assessment 

  3. Institute committees: Academic Council (and subcommittees), Diversity and Equity, Faculty Development Fund, etc. 

  4. Administrative leadership roles: Program Chair, Associate Dean, Academic Council Chair, etc. 

  5. Creation of new initiatives that increase the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access in the Institute or in a specific school

Examples of evidence of leadership impact may include (but not limited to): the creation of new programs or restructuring of curriculum within programs; leadership of a successful program review process; specific work to improve programs or schools in sustained ways e.g.recruitment and yield of new students, evidenced and substantial work towards creating or facilitating new initiatives around Inclusion, Diversity, Access and Equity, creation of support structures (organizations and clubs) for students, particularly ones that support underrepresented students, substantive revisions to curriculum, initiatives to improve outcomes for students; Institute level leadership of all kinds, specific leadership around anti racist or EDI initiatives; stewardship of new and/or revised policy, etc), leadership roles in programming, particularly programming that expands the diversity and inclusion of an individual school or the Institute. 

It is also possible for applicants to articulate and evidence work that they have done in serving specific communities of students through practice or identity, including unofficial demands such as additional mentorship outside the program, student support or other often invisible demands as made to faculty of color or underrepresented identities.

Professional Practices: 

Merit for professional practices is awarded to recognize faculty who create substantial works either independently or in collaboration with other artists that are met with substantive engagement beyond the community of CalArts. Distinction in the realm of professional practice should be measured by the impact that this external professional work has within the field(s) and audiences it is addressed to at the regional, national, or international level. 

Professional Practices: 

  1. Individual or group artistic work or research 

  2. Exhibition, publication, or performance 

  3. External awards and honors

  4. Work with external organizations or conventions 

  5. Worked professionally to increase Access, Diversity, Inclusion and Equity in their professional field or creative community 

  6. Work with external communities and social justice organizations

  7. Other as specified by applying faculty 

Examples of evidence of distinction in professional practices include (but not limited to): invited or public performances, peer reviewed publications by presses or journals relevant to your field; invited, juried, or public exhibitions, honors/awards; roles in professional organizations/festivals (boards, leadership in national organizations, editorial work for press/publication, curatorial work); recognition for community based initiatives or efforts, specifically those around social justice, inclusion, equity, diversity of community or access; selection of work for presentation at conferences or festivals. It is important that eclectic creative and professional practices within arts communities both large and small are recognized and given full consideration. 


 1FSAP refers to the automatic progress through steps along with availability of more selective merit application. CalArts faculty created and developed this plan with the current number of regular faculty at CalArts in mind. If regular faculty are dismissed (subject to fair practices as outlined in the Faculty Handbook) or retire, the regular faculty line must be maintained within the school and filled in a timely manner with another regular faculty member of the same FTE.