Department Chair Survey Report
Ad Hoc Committee on Department Chairs
19 October 1998
Committee Members: Steve Braye (Chair), Janie Brown, Richard Haworth, Nancy Midgette, and Rosalind Reichard
1. What should the role of the department chairs be vis-a-vis the department
members and the
Although answers varied, the majority saw the role as that of representing the interests of the faculty to the administration, some even describing it as "advocate" or "conduit of information." In addition, most saw the position as a supervisory one, encouraging and mentoring faculty. The terms "leader" and "spokesperson" were used. This seems to indicate that the role is seen to be that of colleague rather than administration.2. Should there be a standard length of service for a department chair? If so, what should it be?
The length of service suggested was 4 - 6 years, in two year increments.
3. What are the most positive aspects of the chair position?
Most responders said that the most positive aspect is that of guiding/shaping department programs and curriculi. The rewards are intrinsic rather than extrinsic and the idea of working with faculty in helping, mentoring relationships is positive. There is some power in directing the department that is valued.
4. What are the most negative aspects of the chair position?
The most negative aspect was the big workload and particularly, endless paperwork. The amount of time required to do the job was a major concern. Tasks which cause additional stress include: faculty evaluation, student/administration/faculty conflicts, the battle to balance teaching and administrative demand/duties, and the sense of responsibility without accompanying authority.5. Should all department chairs be at the Associate Professor level or higher?
Overall, the respondents would like to see department chairs at the Associate Professor level or higher. They realize that in some cases this may not be feasible and that exceptions could be made. Reasons given for the need of this senior faculty status are:
Recruiting and interviewing new faculty would be easier.
Would have more experience.
Junior faculty should spend their time establishing themselves as teachers and scholars
A junior faculty member may be less accomplished than those he/she may be leading and evaluating
Would understand the PP&T process better
6. Should all department chairs have Professional or Tenure status?
The respondents would like to see department chairs have Professional or Tenure status. They saw the need for flexibility in certain situations and that exceptions could be made. Reasons given for their responses are:7. Should the chair's position rotate among department members, becoming a responsibility for
Inevitable disputes with administration would not be as career-threatening.
Brings clout to their position when dealing with administration
No one should have to face the heavy work load of a chair while clearing the hurdles leading to professional or tenured status.
Junior faculty should spend their time establishing themselves as teachers and scholars.
A junior faculty member may be less accomplished than those he/she may be leading and evaluating.
Would understand the PP&T process better
In general, the respondents did not mind the chair's position rotating among departmental members as long as appropriate criteria were adhered to for the position. These criteria would eliminate individuals who are not particularly suited for the role and rotation would bring a valuable appreciation of the position to all department members.
8. How should the authority of the position be adjusted in order to enhance your effectiveness?
The respondents want to feel trusted by the administration, trusted in their ability to make good judgments concerning curriculum, personnel matters, budgets and class scheduling, changes that would include increased training, release time and secretarial support.
9. What additional duties should chairs perform that are currently handled in another manner?
Three people suggested that department chairs should have more responsibility in the hiring process. Those making this suggestion indicated dissatisfaction with the manner in which the current administration works with departments. One person noted a seeming lack of trust on the part of the administration. There were no other suggestions about additional duties that department chairs should assume.
10. What duties are you currently performing that should be handled in another manner?
Almost unanimously, respondents indicated that more secretarial support is needed to handle "paperwork," although paperwork was not always spelled out. Specific mention was made of the following routine chores that a good secretary could handle: assembling information for documents requested by the administration (relative to accreditation, public relations, recruitment, etc.); preparing those documents; answering the phone and returning calls. In addition to specifying the need for secretarial assistance, two people suggested that a department chair could utilize internal committees to accomplish some tasks - scheduling, the departmental honor society issues, etc.11. What chair duties take most of your time? How much of your work week is taken up by chair duties?
The majority of respondents indicated that serving as department chair takes "at least" 50% of their time. One person said 90%, but also indicated she was a new chair. One person said 80% (HPEL), and one person said 30%. Matters that consume the most time can be divided into three categories. Routine demands such as scheduling, faculty evaluations, budget submissions, and year-end reporting can be predicted. Although they are time-consuming, appropriate time can be scheduled because of their predictable nature. Daily demands are another matter. Often they cannot be predicted and so they will consume time previously allocated for course preparation, research, or other chair duties. Such demands include impromptu visits from colleagues seeking advice, mediating disputes, answering phone calls (or returning them), visiting with students who want to major in your department or discuss their performance in a colleague's course, and addressing situations as they arise (death in the family of a colleague; physical plant needs advise on a confusing work order for your floor; admissions has someone in their office who wants to speak to you; the bookstore needs to inform you of orders missing from your department; a colleague from another department needs information about your department). Still a third category of duties are routine but unpredictable: completing non-scheduled reports requested by the administration; double- and triple-checking schedules; justifying earlier justifications for budget requests; attending impromptu meetings to which you have been summoned because you are the chair, etc.12. What impact do the chairís duties have on your teaching?
Serving as department chair clearly has an impact on one's teaching. Only one person indicated that it did not. Respondents indicated that they had not been able to be innovative, they feel less prepared (often time set aside for preparation is consumed by last-minute chair duties), and have reduced the range of courses that they teach. It seems to be particularly problematic late in fall semester and at the end of winter term. Two respondents indicated that research and writing opportunities suffered negatively even more than teaching.
13. What training did you have before coming the chair?
14. What training have you had while chair?
All answered that they received little or no training before becoming chair or while serving as chair.15. What kinds of training should the college offer for all incoming and ongoing chairs?
One indicated having served as departmental coordinator for one semester before becoming chair and sharing responsibilities with the chair at that time. Also, lunchtime support sessions were provided for one semester.
One indicated having some conversations with the previous chair and attending a workshop on writing evaluations.
One indicated having attended a leadership workshop at Seven Lakes and participating in workshops provided by the academic deanís office.
One indicated having attended a workshop on evaluation and going to a national conference of chairs in the field.
One indicated working with the former chair and attending a session held by the dean to orient new chairs.
Training was suggested in the following areas:
Types of training sessions were suggested:
- faculty evaluation
- time management
- relating to the dean
- mechanics of the job (scheduling, assigning advisees, budget management, etc.)
- basic management skills
- small group behavior patterns
- psychology of human relations
- apprenticeship with the outgoing chair
- support group for on-going chairs
- meetings as a group with the dean
- workshops on faculty evaluation
- workshop on how to work most effectively within the existing administrative structure
16. What role in the evaluation process (for salary, retention, promotion, professionalization, tenure, etc.) should chairs play?
The role of the chair in the evaluation process was generally characterized as being important and central to the promotion and tenure decisions. Overall, though, the feeling was that chairs should not be actively involved in salary decisions. Specific comments included:
- chairs should represent the interests of the faculty members to the administration
- written evaluations by chairs should be given greater weight than other
- chairs should be part of a collaborative process with the other administrators
- current input on salary decisions is appropriate, though chairs prefer not to be
- the decision maker on salaries
- chairs should have a great deal of input on tenure and promotion decisions
- chairs should not be part of salary discussions
- chairs should have the strongest voice in faculty evaluation
17. How should department chairs be evaluated?
Consensus was that the dean and department members should evaluate the chairs annually, but upon some clear criteria. Many mentioned the ability to enhance the curriculum, handle day to day tasks, and provide inspiration and support to faculty. Many argued that comments from both groups figure equally into the evaluation, and others argued that the deans should use comments from the department in supporting the evaluation. One argued that these evaluations should not be used in promotion and tenure evaluations, since this might stifle chairs.
18. In what ways should chairs be compensated for their work? Should chairs in different
departments receive different compensation?
There is clear agreement that different department chairs should be compensated in different ways. Again, the college should determine what the criteria are for compensation, by looking at the factors which demand time from the chair. This may include FTE, # of programs, and accreditation demands, as well as size of faculty. Nearly every response focused upon release time during the academic year. They clearly argue that money will not get the job done. Only time can do that. They also agree that summer stipends are appropriate for summer work. Amazingly, nearly every person mentioned that a minimum course release should be two courses per academic year.19. What changes would make the department chair position more attractive?
A number of compensations ideas came up again and again. The most common was that chairs and deans had to be invested with authority, so that both would not need to rely upon the VPAA before acting. This would also entail clearly defining the responsibilities of the chair and dean. Clerical support and compensation were also mentioned. The idea of authority came up over and over. Clearly, the chairs believe they have little power.20. What other opinions about the position of chair would you like to share with us?
While some expanded here on earlier responses, I will list only the new ideas that were mentioned here.
- What impact does being chair have on professional development? Is this addressed by the college?
- Chairs should not teach Winter Term. It is one time they can actually get work done.
- Chairs should receive a sabbatical after completing at least five years in office.
- Administration needs to quit adding responsibilities without compensation.
- Donít micro manage. Give chairs authority to make decisions where appropriate.
- Chairs should never teach overloads. It defeats the purpose of giving release time.
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