Governing Body

Job Description - Head of the Department

The chair of an academic department (head of the department) in a college is the putative head of the department. Although not necessary the most senior or most well-respected member of the department, the department head is usually a track member of the faculty and someone capable of understanding the department's structure and needs. Duties will vary depending on the needs of the department, but most chairs have a set of similar duties.
Schedule Classes
Chairs are responsible for supervising the development of the slate of classes offered each semester. This can include coordinating with members of the department to make sure core classes have been assigned instructors; reading descriptions of the classes being proposed to make sure their subject matter does not overlap; and drawing up the schedule of classes.
Represent Department
The chair is the figure primarily responsible for representing the department to outside figures, including students, alumni, non-departmental faculty, administrators and people unaffiliated with the school. This can include making speeches, issuing mailers and press releases and authoring papers and reports that describe the department's function, goal and needs.
Mediate Disputes
Often, disputes can arise between members of the same department, between different departments within the same university or between administrators and faculty. For example, two professors of a single department may wish to teach the same class: one may cite his expertise on the subject matter, while the other may cite her seniority. One of the duties of the department head is to arbitrate such disputes and, when appropriate, render a final decision.
Although not solely responsible for hiring and firing faculty and staff, the chair will generally be the point person with regard to decisions concerning personnel. When considering taking on a new member of the faculty, the chair will often listen to the opinions of department members and issue a recommendation to the relevant administrator.
Many chairs are required to submit a regular report to the provost in which they apprise administrators on the status of the department. This can include detailing the makeup of the department, including professors and other faculty on staff, its accomplishments, its finances, its goals, its concerns and its needs.
In coordination with the dean, the department chair must also help draw up and implement a budget for the department. This includes the salaries for professors and adjunct staff, as well as funding for facilities and equipment. The chair will generally attempt to lobby for the departmental funding, explaining to those holding the purse strings why additional funds constitute a good investment.

Specific functions

  • Engage in scholarly activities including publishing and presenting papers at academic conventions
  • Provide service to the department, college, university and community

Supervising activities concerning faculty affairs

  • Assign faculty responsibilities such as teaching, research and committees
  • Evaluate faculty performance on a continuing basis; conduct formal faculty evaluations and planning at the end of the calendar year; conduct a planning and review session at the beginning of each Fall semester
  • Initiate tenure recommendations
  • Participate in grievance hearings
  • Make merit salary recommendations based on evaluation of teaching, research and service 
  • Adjudicate student/faculty conflicts

Supervising activities concerning student affairs

  • Recruit and select students for undergraduate programs
  • Advise and counsel students
  • Select advisor to work with student groups
  • Oversee and actively participate in resolution of academic and non-academic code of conduct violations (e.g., cheating, class disruption)

Managing internal and external communication

  • Communicate department needs to the principal, and interact with upper-level administrators
  • Coordinate activities with outside groups
  • Process department correspondence and requests for information
  • Initiate and maintain liaison with external agencies and institutions

Monitoring and managing department budget; seek additional funds

  • Administer department budget within allocated funding 
  • Encourage faculty members to submit proposals for contracts and grants to government agencies and private foundations
  • Seek outside funding
  • Set priorities for use of travel funds

Supervising office staff and maintaining resources

  • Manage department facilities and equipment, including maintenance and control of inventory
  • Supervise and evaluate clerical and technical staff in the department
  • Maintain essential department records, including student records

Encouraging professional development of faculty

  • Foster the development of each faculty member’s special talents and interests
  • Foster good teaching in the department
  • Stimulate faculty research and publications
  • Promote affirmative action
  • Encourage faculty members to participate in regional and national professional meetings
  • Represent the department at meetings of learned and professional societies