Department Chairs

Bill 13-A-10 - Revising "Department Chairs" to establish a policy section (Failed)



Approved by the Faculty Senate
February 13, 2013

BRIEF SUMMARY: This bill specifies the policy portion of the existing Faculty Handbook section on Department Chairs (Chapter 1, Section F9).


BE IT RESOLVED THAT: subject to the passage and approval of both this bill and its companion bill establishing a corresponding "procedures" section, Chapter 1, Section F9 of the Faculty Handbook be amended by replacing the existing content with the following "policy" section (with the companion "procedures" to follow it in the Handbook):

Department Chairs Policy

The role of the department chairperson is recognized as a primary leadership position in the University. As the foremost departmental administrative officer and representative of the academic discipline, the chairperson serves in the unique position of exemplifying the highest standards in both faculty and administrative responsibilities, maintaining standards of the discipline, and meeting the expectations of the department. The maintenance of balance between these responsibilities requires careful attention by the department chairperson, departmental colleagues, and administrative officers. It suggests the need for considerable latitude in the leadership style utilized by the chairperson while performing within institutional guidelines, departmental constraints, and limitations imposed by the availability of resources.

The department chairperson is responsible for leadership which provides educational purpose and direction for the department. The chairperson is the faculty member of the department authorized to speak for and on behalf of the department, and links the department to the office of the dean of the college and other appropriate University administrative offices. The department chairperson must not only represent the legitimate interests of individual faculty members and the department to other members of the administration, but also must present accurately and fairly to colleagues in the department the positions of other administrators while interpreting the established policies of the University.

To provide effective leadership in the department, the chairperson must cultivate and retain the respect of colleagues. A successful chairperson leads the department through consistency, openness, candor, decisiveness, and fair and equitable treatment of all department members. As the departmental administrative leader, the chairperson is expected to evaluate issues with a broad point of view, analyze questions, and perceive consequences of decisions with clarity and accuracy. Regular consultation and open communication should be used in weighing and deciding questions before the department. Whether consultation is by private counsel, committee recommendation, or other means, the department chairperson assumes responsibility for those decisions assigned to the department by University policies and procedures.

From a faculty perspective, the department chairperson is a colleague who acts on behalf of members of the department in the administration of departmental activities. Administratively, the chairperson carries out duties assigned to the office. This is accomplished with the advice and judgment of the faculty when making recommendations concerning such matters as curriculum development, budgetary requests, and faculty recruitment, hiring, promotion, tenure, and termination. The chairperson is both a member of the department and a liaison between the department and the rest of the University. As a member of the department, the chairperson provides leadership in the common pursuit of departmental goals. As a departmental liaison, the chairperson represents the best interests of the department to the college and University administration.

While considerable diversity exists in the operation of the various academic departments, there is a common core of responsibilities assumed by the department chairperson. The leadership of the chairperson, however, cannot be viewed in isolation, for members of the department assume broad responsibilities and share accountability for departmental programs, operation, and personnel actions. The general responsibilities of the department chairperson are grouped under the following major categories: Administrative Functions, Faculty-Personnel Functions, Liaison Functions, Student-Related Functions, Leadership Functions, and Operational Functions. While these categories provide a basis for grouping functions, many are interrelated. They are presented, however, as a guide to chairpersons in providing academic leadership and to departments as colleagues participate in the assessment of department chairpersons.

Administrative Functions
The chairperson is the chief departmental administrative officer and the primary representative of the academic discipline. Among the specific administrative tasks for which the chairperson assumes responsibility and accountability are:

  1. Communicating department goals and needs to the dean and, when appropriate, to the Provost;
  2. Communicating and interpreting college and University decisions to the faculty;
  3. Maintaining open lines of communication among specializations within the department and encouraging appropriate balance;
  4. Encouraging the development and improvement of the departmental curriculum and seeing that the proper curriculum materials are submitted;
  5. Ensuring the preparation of catalog information and schedules of class offerings in accordance with established procedures;
  6. Supervising the departmental budget, support staff, record keeping, and the requisition of supplies, equipment, materials, and other instructional needs;
  7. Scheduling regular departmental meetings and distributing minutes to appropriate individuals;
  8. Serving as the chief spokesperson for departmental curriculum proposals and ensuring that requirements are consistent with University policies;
  9. Assigning and evaluating support and clerical personnel in the department;
  10. Developing and following procedures to assign faculty to classes, laboratories, studios, and other responsibilities;
  11. Reporting undesirable or potentially hazardous conditions with respect to the physical plant;
  12. Providing appropriate information and reports as requested by the dean and other administrative offices;
  13. Facilitating and encouraging grants and contracts from extramural sources;
  14. Coordinating and supervising the development of departmental five-year plans, accreditation and departmental evaluations, and other reviews; and
  15. Administering the departmental budget within established guidelines.

Faculty-Personnel Functions
Among the most important responsibilities of the chairperson are those relating to the faculty. The success of the department is frequently dependent upon the abilities of the chairperson in this regard. Among the specific tasks for which the chairperson assumes responsibility and accountability are:

  1. Exercising leadership in recruiting and retaining capable faculty;
  2. Evaluating faculty performance and the development of procedures for assessing faculty accomplishment;
  3. Exercising independent judgments and making recommendations relative to faculty employment, continuation, promotion, tenure, termination, salary adjustments, and leaves of absence;
  4. Encouraging improvement of faculty performance by fostering effective teaching and stimulating research, scholarly performance, and creative activity;
  5. Promoting faculty professional development and enrichment, and encouraging faculty in their service to the University, the community, and professional organizations;
  6. Maintaining faculty morale by preventing and resolving conflicts and by arranging for the effective and equitable distribution of faculty responsibilities;
  7. Orienting new faculty members to department, college, and University policies and procedures;
  8. Serving as a role model in the performance of teaching, scholarly, and other faculty responsibilities; and
  9. Coordinating the departmental sabbatical leave review and recommending candidates to the dean of the college.

Liaison Functions
The department chairperson has primary responsibility for representing the department and the discipline to the college, the University, and the community at large. Among the specific areas for which the chairperson assumes responsibilities and accountability are:

  1. Maintaining liaison with other departments and support units;
  2. Encouraging public relations activities and enhancing the departmental image and reputation on and off campus;
  3. Promoting interdepartmental and interdisciplinary cooperation in the development and maintenance of academic programs; and
  4. Cooperating with departments, colleges, and other units in the accomplishment of their tasks.

Student-Related Functions
The recruitment and retention of outstanding students is often dependent upon how wisely and effectively the departmental chairperson responds to student needs. Among the specific areas for which the chairperson is responsible and accountable are:

  1. Coordinating the academic advisement process and monitoring the process to ensure that it is responsive to changing student needs and aspirations;
  2. Encouraging student clubs and organizations which foster achievement and professional development;
  3. Following procedures for resolving student complaints about faculty, courses, and programs;
  4. Promoting the establishment of scholarships and fellowships for students in the department;
  5. Informing students of special departmental registration procedures and enrollment criteria, etc., and administering those procedures when appropriate; and
  6. Encouraging student participation and involvement in department activities.

Leadership Functions
The precise nature of leadership is difficult to define. There are different styles and techniques for carrying out the responsibilities of the chairperson. There are, however, a number of qualities that are important to the leadership of a department. Among them are:

  1. Judging people fairly and thoughtfully;
  2. Initiating and sustaining action toward defined goals and encouraging the initiative of others;
  3. Demonstrating interpersonal relations that foster a professional working atmosphere;
  4. Working with committees and promoting their effectiveness;
  5. Engaging in consultation and participatory decision-making;
  6. Being open to fair criticism; and
  7. Demonstrating objectivity.

Operational Functions
The fulfillment of leadership responsibilities balances the specific tasks completed with the manner in which the assignments are accomplished. In this respect, the chairperson assumes responsibilities for:

  1. Involving departmental faculty in decisions on program development and operational procedures;
  2. Recognizing the advice and judgment of the faculty in making curriculum, budget, and personnel recommendations;
  3. Providing guidance and leadership in formulating department academic and operational policies;
  4. Consulting with the faculty in assigning teaching loads, instructional responsibilities, and academic schedules;
  5. Representing the department effectively and responsibly in college and University-wide meetings;
  6. Consulting with the faculty in the preparation and administration of the budget;
  7. Working with department members in formulating faculty personnel procedures and making employment-related recommendations; and
  8. Reporting to faculty members and the dean recommendations made that differ from actions taken by faculty in the department.

The Review of Department Chairpersons
As a department chairperson, a faculty member assumes broad leadership roles that have specific functions and raise certain expectations. The review of a chairperson represents the ultimate in the collegial process, for it encourages faculty participation in departmental governance and effectively balances administrative decision-making responsibility. While the review of a department chairperson systematically focuses primarily on one person, the assessment of one's performance cannot be separated from the responsibilities assumed by all colleagues in the department. Similarly, administratively assigned tasks must be kept in their proper context. Colleagues in the department share in the responsibility for maintaining this perspective, as do deans, in making their recommendations to the Provost.

There are commonly accepted procedures in place for the appointment of department chairpersons and the replacement of department chairpersons for due cause. The review process described in this document is viewed as a constructive process. Its primary focus is gaining insights from the various constituencies that relate to the department chairperson so constructive advice may be given and recommendations made to improve the overall effectiveness of the department chairperson in providing departmental leadership.

The assessment of a department chairperson is made possible through both formal and informal review mechanisms and periodic and extraordinary review cycles. Each of these is designed to provide input to the department chairperson in assessing individual performance and for suggesting areas that might be strengthened.

Formal and Informal Reviews
Throughout the academic year, departmental colleagues and administrators share a responsibility informally to provide insights to the department chairperson that may improve his/her overall leadership effectiveness. Annually, the dean will meet with the department chairperson for the purpose of discussing administrative performance. A written summary of this meeting will be shared with the individual chairperson and the Provost.

Periodic Department Chairperson Review
A newly appointed department chairperson will be reviewed during the third year of service concurrent with his/her appointment at the University. At the beginning of the third year, the dean will inform the Provost and call the department together for the purpose of initiating a review, discussing the process, and agreeing on the specific procedures to be followed. All departments will follow the general procedures along with mutually determined approaches at the department and college levels. The continuing appointment as chairperson will be subject to this review. The normal periodic review for individuals continued will be within a three- to five -year cycle as recommended by the dean and approved by the Provost.

Extraordinary Department Chairperson Review
An extraordinary review of the department chairperson may be initiated at any time by a majority vote of the members of the department in accordance with departmental procedures. The respective college dean or the Provost may also initiate a review at any time. Upon receipt of a request for extraordinary review, the appropriate college dean will call the department together as described in the periodic review cycle. The general procedures and instrument described in this document will be followed. Special attention may be focused on the timing of the review and areas of special concern resulting in the extraordinary request.

The Review Process
The entire review process will be conducted within the context of the responsibilities of the department and its individual members and the functions of the department chairperson. Emphasis will be placed on the nature and focus of the review, along with the following guidelines and procedures. Throughout this entire process, the department chairperson retains his/her right to resign the position.


Action Date
Introduced to Senate 1/30/2013
Second Senate Meeting 2/13/2013
Faculty Senate Vote 2/13/2013
Board of Regents Approval
Posted to Faculty Handbook