Administrative Guidelines for Academic Department Chairs

Section Two – The Role of the Department Chair


The Role of the Department Chair – 2:1

Information on the role of the Department Chair, including Responsibilities of the Department Chair, Authority of the Department Chair, Appointment and Term of the Department Chair, and The Collective Role of the Department Chairs, are reproduced below from section 1.1.3.2 of the Faculty Handbook (online at: www.gustavus.edu/facultybook/).

1.1.3.2 Department Chairs
The department chair serves as the principal liaison between the department and the rest of the college. The department chair is typically a full-time faculty member who serves in this additional capacity by appointment of the Provost. This appointment carries responsibilities for departmental leadership and management and for liaison to administrative offices, faculty groups, and students. The authority of the chair derives from the mutual confidence expressed by his/her recommendation by election of the department faculty and by the appointment of the Provost. The chair’s appointment is recognized by access to a department chair fund and/or released time for administrative duties.
All department chairs share a common set of responsibilities to their colleagues, administrative staff, and students. In addition, the position description for the chair of each department carries specific responsibilities and conditions that may be unique to that department and which constitute a part of the chair’s and College’s contractual agreement for the position. Each department is responsible for developing and following a collegial model of internal governance, consistent with the Faculty Handbook and Manual and with all applicable laws and regulations.

1.1.3.2.1 Responsibilities of the Department Chair
The department chair serves as the principal interface between his/her department and administrative offices, other departments, outside agencies and organizations, vendors of goods and services, other academic institutions and employers, and students. In his/her role in the leadership and management of the department’s affairs, the chair carries principal responsibility for carrying out or delegating the following tasks:

  1. Facilitating the academic and pre-professional programs of the department
  2. Promoting the academic quality of the department and discipline
  3. Conducting searches for faculty positions
  4. Evaluating faculty
  5. Mentoring junior faculty
  6. Supervising and evaluating support staff
  7. Developing the departmental budget request
  8. Monitoring the departmental budget
  9. Submitting department course schedules to Registrar
  10. Managing the program for faculty leaves
  11. Managing the work-study program within the department
  12. Supervising departmental assistants
  13. Processing paperwork for various committees and offices (January term proposals, area proposals, course proposals, etc.)
  14. Following regulations and guidelines from all manner of sources
  15. Managing external grants, special programs and development projects
  16. Conducting periodic departmental reviews
  17. Managing specialized facilities, laboratories, equipment
  18. Organizing and presiding at department meetings
  19. Encouraging faculty professional development
  20. Providing liaison, information, and evaluations to administrative offices
  21. Providing liaison and information to faculty committees, ad hoc committees, accrediting organizations, and other groups
  22. Providing liaison to other departments
  23. Representing the department at the meetings of the department chairs
  24. Responding to student petitions, degree applications, complaints, requests, etc.

The dual role of the chair includes both administrative and departmental leadership functions. The chair functions as a member of the academic administration when acting on behalf of the College in carrying out assigned management responsibilities such as recruiting, supervising, and evaluating faculty and staff. The chair functions as a first among equals when acting on behalf of his/her department in carrying out internal management and liaison responsibilities such as allocating resources, submitting course schedules, managing facilities, and communicating department views.
In order to carry out these responsibilities on behalf of the department and college, the chair will be kept informed by all administrators, committees, and other groups and individuals who share responsibilities for the efficient management of the college’s programs. Those offices, groups and individuals requesting the department chair’s assistance need to be mindful of the fact that the chair is a member of the faculty with his/her own teaching, research, professional responsibilities and other commitments. Academic departments have very limited support staffs and typically operate on the academic calendar.

1.1.3.2.2 Authority of the Department Chair
The department chair has the primary responsibility for communicating the department’s views to the college community and college community concerns to the department. Because the chair acts on behalf of the department, the chair must distinguish between personal views and those that reflect the consensus of the department. In consultation with departmental members, the department chair has the primary responsibility and authority for:

  1. Formulating and communicating recommendations for hiring, tenure, promotion, retention, and evaluation of faculty and departmental support staff
  2. Establishing departmental budget priorities and allocations
  3. Recommending teaching assignments to the Provost and regulating faculty workloads
  4. Recommending leaves and special assignments to the Provost
  5. Developing and articulating departmental goals

1.1.3.2.3 Appointment and Term of the Department Chair
The department chair is appointed upon recommendation of the department faculty. The recommendation of the department for the appointment or reappointment of a chair is determined by a majority vote in an election conducted by the Provost or the Provost’s representative. A majority vote of regular and joint appointment department faculty will constitute the recommendation of the department. In those cases in which a recommendation reflecting departmental consensus cannot be achieved, the Provost will make an offer of appointment to a member of the faculty. The term of the chair is normally three years and chairs may be reelected for successive terms. The meeting of the department to elect the chair should be held during the last year of the current appointment.

  • 1.1.3.2.3.1 Special Chair Assignments
    The Director of the Library carries an appointment directly from the Provost, and also serves as chair of the professional librarians. The Chairs of the Department of Education and the Department of Nursing have specialized administrative responsibilities that extend beyond those listed above.
  • 1.1.3.2.3.2 The Provost carries a special obligation to encourage effective and independent leadership of departments through the chairs, while at the same time maintaining a sensitivity to the needs of all faculty. In those unusual cases in which the department chair is clearly unwilling or unable to represent a department and manage its affairs in a professional manner, or where conflicts within a department have become irreconcilable, the Provost may appoint a new chair or make other arrangements for the temporary management of the department’s affairs.

1.1.3.2.4 The Collective Role of the Department Chairs
The department chairs acting as a committee of the whole will advise the Provost on matters affecting the academic programs of the college. The department chairs shall have the status of a standing committee of the faculty for purposes of bringing motions and reporting to the faculty at faculty meetings following consultation with other faculty committees where appropriate.

Mandatory Reporting – 2:2

Anyone wishing to report or discuss sexual harassment or misconduct incidents should be aware that employees on campus have different reporting responsibilities and different abilities to maintain confidentiality or privacy, depending on their roles at the College. In this capacity, Department Chairs are considered "responsible employees." As such, Chairs are required to provide official notice to the College by making a formal report to the Dean of Students.

Further information on these reporting responsibilities is provided in the Student Sexual Misconduct Policy (https://gustavus.edu/deanofstudents/policies/gustieguide/sexual-assault.php#misconduct).

Please also refer to the Policy Against Harassment and Sexual Harassment for additional information (https://gustavus.edu/facultybook/allcollegepolicies/#Anchor-Sexua-60443).


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Last modified: 16 August 2013 by Shanon Nowell