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School of Arts and Sciences Department Chair Job Description

Chairs of academic departments are vitally important in promoting and advancing the quality of teaching, scholarship and service in the School of Arts and Sciences. The president of the University appoints all department chairs.  In practice, however, and in the spirit of shared governance, the president delegates responsibility to the provost, deans and departments for recommending suitable chair candidates to the president in the manner prescribed in the Guide to Faculty Governance.

Chairs are responsible to the dean for the normal operations of the department, including scheduling of classes, assigning of instructors, preparing annual budgets and completing recommendation of employment, promotion, tenure and salary increases of faculty members in their departments. Chairs represent their departments to the administration, as well as in the School of Arts and Sciences Academic Council and the University Senate, and are expected to keep their departments informed of actions of both of these bodies.

The major responsibilities of department chairs in the School of Arts and Sciences include:

Direction of academic program

  • Serving as the public spokesperson for the department and representative of the department to the dean;
  • Leading the department in setting both short- and long-term goals, in establishing and executing assessment efforts and in using assessment results to promote continuous program improvement;
  • Promoting the attainment of department, school and university goals;
  • Submitting the department's annual report.

Oversight of teaching and advising

  • Building a two-year schedule in cooperation with other departments and programs;
  • Scheduling departmental courses and assigning instructors to these courses in cooperation with the dean's office;
  • Monitoring course registrations and making appropriate adjustments in course schedules and instructor assignments in cooperation with other departments and programs and with the dean's office;
  • Ensuring the timely development, approval, offering and review of appropriate courses;
  • Overseeing departments’ involvement with off-campus programs, including study abroad and internships;
  • Identifying faculty capacity for advising undeclared students, facilitating the assignment of faculty to major student advising, working with the Academic Advising office to reassign majors for faculty members that will be on leave, and expediting the handling of drop/add and transfer-credit requests as well as other requests that require departmental approval;

Professional development of faculty and staff

  • Mentoring faculty and staff;
  • Conducting annual reviews of faculty and staff, and attending in this and other ways to the recognition and development of departmental faculty and staff, especially in relation to their teaching, scholarship and service responsibilities;
  • Preparing cases and making recommendations regarding the employment, retention and promotion of departmental faculty and staff;
  • Directing approved personnel searches at the departmental level in cooperation with the dean's office, other academic programs and Human Resource Services;
  • Supervising administrative assistants, directors, lab managers and other support personnel;

Management of department resources

  • Preparing budgetary requests, overseeing the maintenance of facilities and equipment and overseeing the use of other departmental resources;
  • Allocating departmental travel funds;
  • Making Arrangements for and/or hosting lecturers, pre- and post-doctoral fellows, visiting professors and events, or seeing that such arrangements and hosting are handled in an appropriate manner;

Facilitation of departmental relations

  • Serving as central figure available to address questions and concerns from students, faculty, staff, parents and others with the expectation of resolution of issues at the department level;
  • Seeing that the department's social relations and activities among faculty, students and staff contribute toward the achievement of the academic objectives of the department, school and university;
  • Serving a critical role in the mediation of conflicts among constituencies in the department

Timetable of Responsibilities

The regular ongoing responsibilities of department chairs are fulfilled day to day throughout the entire year. However, some responsibilities are periodic rather than continuous. Specifics will vary from department to department and from year to year, but a general timeline of such periodic responsibilities is available.

Training and Development

Each department chair in the School of Arts and Sciences will typically learn the particular responsibilities of the office from former and current chairs, will have ready access to the dean and associate deans and will be encouraged to request from them any necessary information or desired forms of support. The dean will announce off-campus conferences and workshops that promise to be useful for individual chairs. To the fullest extent possible, the dean will support participation by chairs in such conferences and workshops. The dean may also arrange on-campus training opportunities from time to time, and is open to suggestions about such opportunities. Finally, chairs may request discussion and advice at Academic Council meetings on any matters pertaining to the fulfillment of their responsibilities.

Support and Recognition

In fulfilling their responsibilities as directors of academic programs and leaders of the faculty, chairs have the support provided by their own departmental budgets and the opportunity to request additional resources through the office of the dean whenever such support could make a crucial difference to student experience, program quality or faculty development. Such additional support may be made available, at the discretion of the dean, either to insure a margin of excellence for the department as a whole or to provide timely assistance to one of its faculty.

In recognition of the time it takes to fulfill the responsibilities of the chair, chairs will typically receive reassigned time from the nominal teaching load in the School of Arts and Sciences. The extent of reassigned time may vary annually depending on circumstances in the department and the size and complexity of the department’s programs.

Also, in recognition of the time it takes to fulfill the responsibilities of the chair, it seems appropriate that the University's Committee on Committees, the Arts and Sciences Nominating Committee, and the president, provost, and dean should try not to appoint Arts and Sciences chairs to major school and university committees, and even more, not to appoint them as chairs of special ad hoc committees.

Chairs will be recognized and rewarded for the quality of their service to their department and to the School of Arts and Sciences.  Department colleagues will assess the chair’s work in the second year of every three-year term, using the form and procedure approved by the faculty of the School of Arts and Sciences. This formal evaluation as well as annual performance evaluations will provide the principal means by which the dean will be able to attend, in the annual review process, to the unique contributions of each individual chair.

As a final sign of recognition of the year-round responsibilities of the chair, the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences provides a stipend and a professional development fund.

Endorsed by the Arts & Sciences Academic Council -12/5/95
Revision endorsed by the Arts & Sciences Academic Council – 9/5/06
Revision endorsed by Arts & Sciences Academic Council – 4/6/10
Revision endorsed by School of Arts and Sciences Faculty – 4/26/10