Chair’sNovember 10, 2023 2023-11-15 8:53
Chair Roles and Responsibilities
The hierarchy of academic leadership within a university is structured from the Board of Regents downward, encompassing various administrative levels. Among these, department chairs are pivotal figures, actively involved in shaping and enhancing the academic landscape. They closely collaborate with faculty, driving the improvement of both graduate and undergraduate education and research. Department chairs often propose new academic programs, allocate teaching responsibilities, and serve as a crucial bridge between the faculty and higher administration.
In an environment fostering shared governance, chairs hold the responsibility to engage with faculty members, seeking consensus on departmental initiatives. While collaboration is key, academic administrators and chairs retain certain prerogatives in communicating policies and decisions to their faculties. For instance, decisions on faculty salary increases often rest with the university president, and in the faculty grievance process, the provost typically holds the final decision-making authority.
This document does not advocate for a significant overhaul in the role of department chairs. Rather, it aims to clarify the evolving responsibilities and expectations that accompany the increasingly complex nature of universities, less reliant on state funding and more attuned to public expectations. Departments are urged to align with this evolving model; any discrepancies in department or college by-laws will necessitate adjustments to maintain consistency.
The chair holds a dual role as the principal academic and executive leader within a university department, directly accountable to the dean, who serves as the chief academic and executive officer of the college. This is an eleven-month appointment, and the appropriate compensation for this commitment is determined by the dean upon appointment. Essential to this role is the ability to embody the academic ethos of the department and execute its administrative functions, including managing budgets and allocating resources. An effective chair not only fosters innovation within the department but also represents faculty members at various meetings, both locally and on a national scale.
The chair’s duties encompass a wide array of responsibilities. Following consultation with the faculty and in accordance with departmental by-laws, the chair recommends all faculty personnel actions to the dean, such as appointments, promotions, tenure considerations, dismissals, salary adjustments, and post-tenure reviews. They orchestrate faculty recruitment efforts and oversee the promotion and tenure processes, presenting an independent evaluation of each candidate along with forwarding faculty recommendations. Mentoring new and continuing faculty, ensuring academic integrity, and steering departmental planning and vision are also integral aspects of the chair’s role.
In situations where departmental disagreements arise, the chair plays a pivotal role in mediating and resolving conflicts with fairness and impartiality. Upholding respect and equitable treatment for all departmental personnel is an overarching expectation. Furthermore, the chair shapes the department’s relationship with students by contributing to the design and execution of academic programs, delegating responsibilities as needed, and making teaching assignments that align with the department’s academic responsibilities.
Regular individual faculty evaluations, discussions about performance expectations, and considerations for special recognitions or necessary improvements fall within the chair’s purview. Additionally, the chair advocates for the department’s needs and priorities to the dean, overseeing the department’s financial matters, annual planning, budget submissions, and ensuring the alignment of the approved budget with the department’s goals. Moreover, the chair supervises the department’s assessment processes.
Additional duties of the chair include:
In the broader framework of the college and university, the chair amplifies the department’s resources by actively engaging in securing grants and fundraising efforts from public and private sources.
Furthermore, the chair nurtures strong connections with vital educational stakeholders, such as the business or professional community, similar academic departments in other institutions, departmental alumni, and the wider public.
The chair also manages day-to-day departmental operations, which encompass various responsibilities such as class scheduling, student admissions, space allocation, oversight of departmental personnel, communication management, and facilitation of departmental meetings.
Selecting a Chair
The dean, in collaboration with the department faculty and in adherence to college regulations, will determine the commencement of a search for a chair and decide whether the search will be open to external candidates or restricted solely to current UH faculty members.
The search process will adhere to specific conditions. A departmental search committee, which may encompass the entire department, will be responsible for recommending one or more potential candidates to the dean. The dean reserves the right to request further exploration or, if no further investigation is necessary, appoints a candidate as the chair.
In the case of a search for an external chair, all standard procedures for appointing new faculty must be strictly followed.
Review of Chair
The chair undergoes regular reviews following the guidelines outlined in the college by-laws. If a chair decides not to continue in the role, no review process is initiated.
A committee, assembled in accordance with college by-laws, conducts the review. Initially, the committee discusses its findings with the chair. Subsequently, a confidential report is prepared for the dean. Typically, the dean utilizes this assessment to communicate positive feedback regarding the chair’s leadership, address any concerns raised, and propose improvement strategies. The evaluation might also outline specific actions the chair needs to take to maintain their leadership role. Finally, the dean meets with the faculty, independently of the chair, to discuss the evaluation outcomes.