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2.15 / Chair Policy and Procedures

The six undergraduate degree-granting colleges are organized by departments and schools headed by chairs or directors. A statement of University-wide policies and procedures on the role, selection, review and evaluation of department chairs has been adopted by the University faculty. Throughout this policy, any reference to "chair" also applies to directors, and any reference to "department" also applies to schools. 

Title of the Office:
The term "chair" as opposed to "head" is used herein to suggest consultative and open administrative procedures.

Role of the Chair:
Appropriate functions of the chair include the following duties:

1.  Academic Leadership

  1. To inspire and to facilitate departmental staff action that identifies and moves effectively toward the realization of goals of the department.
  2. To create and maintain an environment conducive to continuous departmental development by employing carefully considered and highly selective recruitment practices and by encouraging and facilitating professional growth in all members of the staff.
2.  Representation
  1. To represent to appropriate groups beyond the departmental staff, such as students, college administration, University administration and the general public, the academic, professional and economic needs and interests of the department and its staff.
  2. To represent to the staff the interests of identified relevant groups beyond the departmental staff, such as university administration, college administration, students, the academic discipline and the general public.
  3. To act on all budgetary matters of the department in consultation with representative staff and the dean.
  4. To act on personnel problems of the department, and, in consultation with representative staff, to make decisions on or transmit to the dean recommendations regarding:

    1. assignment of staff
    2. evaluation of staff
    3. level and equity of financial reward
    4. tenure
    5. promotion
    6. nonrenewal of employment
The role of the chair is important to the well being, morale and development of the professional staff and to the operation of the University. The departmental staff, the dean, the Provost and Senior Vice President and the President all share an interest in developing and following procedures to facilitate the selection of chairs who will foster the highest standards of professional performance, or when necessary, infuse new life into a department. The following procedures will be utilized in the selection, appointment and evaluation of chairs.

Eligibility for Chair:
No eligibility requirements as to age or length of University service are recommended. However, in no instance may a nominee for the position of chair be of a rank less than assistant professor, but the electorate may by majority vote establish a policy further limiting eligibility requirements.

Term of the Chair:
The term of the chair shall be set by a majority of the departmental electorate at not less than three years nor more than five years. The chair may serve more than one successive term on the vote of a majority of the departmental electorate. A chair shall have the prerogative of resigning the office at any time, with reasonable notice. The departmental electorate may, by a petition signed by a majority of the total electorate, ask the dean to consider removal of the chair, but in no instance shall such request be made prior to the first annual evaluation of the chair. If so requested, the dean shall initiate a hearing. If an agreement cannot be reached, procedures stated under "IMPASSES" below shall be followed.

The dean may request, at any time, for good and sufficient reason, that the department consider removal of the chair. When removal is considered, the chair shall be accorded an opportunity for a full hearing, before the electorate and the dean, on his or her alleged shortcomings and have opportunity to respond.

A majority vote of the department electorate is required to support removal from office. If an agreement cannot be reached, procedures stated under "IMPASSES" below shall be followed.

Nothing in this document shall preclude the President from removing a chair from the position and/or appointing an interim chair if the President is convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that the integrity of the University and its effective functioning requires such action and if the President has explored the situation, insofar as time permits, with faculty members and the chair of the department involved, and with the dean and appropriate committees of the college in which the department is housed. In keeping with the consultative spirit of this document, it is recommended that in reaching such decisions the President also seek the advice, insofar as practicable, of representatives of faculty and administration.

In the event of termination of a chair (due to completion of the term of office, resignation or removal), he or she shall be accorded the same professional rights as any other faculty member of like academic status.

If it is necessary to appoint an acting or interim chair for longer than one semester, the dean shall make the appointment, except that on petition of a majority of the departmental electorate, he or she shall institute the same selection procedure as is used in naming a chair for a full term. If the appointment of an interim or acting chair is for a semester or less or for serving for a chair who will return to his or her position, the dean and the regular chair shall decide on the interim appointee.

Electorate:
The electorate for nominating a department chair shall, as a minimum, include all those serving as full-time (1.0 EFT) professors, associate professors, assistant professors and tenured instructors, who provide at least 50 percent of their University duties within the department. This group may, by majority vote, establish as a policy the extension of the electorate to (but no farther than) all those in the department enfranchised to vote under the Faculty Senate Constitution.

Administrators, as defined by the Faculty Senate Constitution, are excluded from the electorate for the purposes of voting for a chair. A faculty member who has resigned or who is serving in the last year of a terminal appointment shall also be excluded from the electorate for the purposes of voting for a chair.

In departments with an electorate of five or fewer persons, departures from the stated procedures may be made. In such instances, the dean shall utilize methods that conform to the spirit of democratic and consultative procedures implicit herein.

The dean shall ensure that the electorate is convened only after due notice. On convening, the electorate shall choose a presiding officer to serve until the selection of a chair is completed.

The electorate, as defined above, may, by majority vote, assign to a committee of its choosing the function of nominating a candidate or slate of candidates for chair. In the final selection of a nominee for chair, the total electorate shall be accorded the right to vote. In all votes provided for pursuant to these procedures, measures shall be taken to ensure the anonymity of each voter.

The electorate of a department recommends a nominee to the dean of the college. The dean, with the concurrence of the Provost and Senior Vice President, unless there is an impasse, may proceed to appoint the individual as chair of the department.

In the event that a new department is created and has no staff, the dean shall have the prerogative of appointing the initial chair for a term not to exceed three years.

Impasses:
In the event of an impasse between the dean and the departmental electorate over the selection or removal of a chair, the dean shall meet with the entire departmental electorate, give reasons for and discuss his or her position regarding the decision, and respond to questions and discussion from the faculty. An attempt shall be made to find a mutually acceptable solution.

Failing a solution, the departmental electorate shall proceed through the nomination procedure a second time and make a nomination or nominations to the dean.

If an impasse persists, the issue shall be submitted for fact finding and mediation to an ad hoc committee of five faculty members. This committee shall consist of one person named by the dean, one person named by the departmental electorate, and three persons named from the full-time teaching faculty of WSU, by the two previously appointed representative members. If the fact-finding and mediation activities of the committee do not resolve the impasse, the committee will transmit its findings of fact and its recommendations, which shall be made public, to the dean, to the President and to the Provost and Senior Vice President for their action. In addition, a vote by secret ballot shall be conducted among the department electorate to determine the number that support or oppose the recommendation of the dean. The record of this vote shall accompany the recommendation. Any member or group of the electorate shall be accorded the opportunity to make a statement in writing, support or opposing the recommendation, to the Provost and Senior Vice President.

Evaluation of the Chair:
There shall be an annual, anonymous, written evaluation of the performance of chairs instituted by the dean and conducted by the electorate of the department as previously defined. The evaluation instrument used by the departmental electorate shall include questions submitted by the dean, by the chair and by representatives chosen by the departmental electorate from its membership. The results of the evaluation shall be available to the dean and to the chair; on the initiative of the chair, the results may be made available to others as designated by the chair.

Revision Date:
March 15, 2006
November 15, 2011

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