Note: This document uses the context of a traditional academic department in the General University, with leadership vested in a “department chair,” reporting to a Dean. However, there are a variety of academic structures within the institution, including centers and institutes, units at and reporting to the Health Science Center, units at the campuses at Keyser and Beckley, as well as the Extension Service. Some of those units may require variations from the detail of the present document, but in general the concepts to be applied are the same. Such variations must be vetted by the Provost’s Office.
Role of Department Chairs
The Chair is both an accountable leader and manager, responsible for focusing the energies of the entire faculty of the unit to best align its mission with that of the college and university. The Chair represents the department at the college and university levels, and works closely with the dean to represent the needs and expectations of the department. The Chair is also a member of the college and university administrative team, communicates college and university goals, and guides the development of department vision in planning for the future of department programs that align with the goals and objectives developed by the College and the University. Chairs play a key role in representing their department to external constituents and alumni.
The Chair makes final decisions at the department level on such matters as operating budget allocations, faculty teaching assignments, course offerings, assignment of non-teaching responsibilities, and annual performance reviews, and makes recommendations for promotion and/or tenure for faculty and advancement of staff. The Chair must deal effectively with all personnel issues. If a department member does not meet performance expectations or contribute in a positive and collegial manner to the work of the department, the Chair must work with the Dean to determine and implement appropriate corrective action(s).
The Chair’s immediate supervisor is the Dean or the Dean’s designee (where appropriate). Chairs and Deans must recognize that their relationship is an essential partnership of shared responsibility and accountability for both effective leadership and efficient management. They must keep each other informed regarding important issues affecting the department and College. Chairs are to work with the Dean before they take any policy, budgetary, personnel, or other action/issue to the Office of the Provost, the Vice President for Health Sciences, other high-level University administrators, or outside constituents. Chairs must meet all deadlines and requests originating from the Office of the Dean in a timely fashion.
Appointment of Chairs
Chairs are appointed by the Dean for terms of up to five years, which can be renewed and serve at the will and pleasure of the Dean. Normally, the chair holds the rank of Professor, and is a tenured or, in some Health Sciences Center units, a clinical-track faculty member. Chairs normally hold 12-month (rather than 9-month) appointments.
A vacancy may occur when a Chair has elected not to continue in the role, leaves employment or assumes a new position, is not reappointed or has been removed by the Dean. When a vacancy occurs, the Dean, in consultation with the Provost or Vice President of Health Sciences, authorizes a search for a new Chair, and in consultation with the Department, determines the parameters of the search process, including whether to do an internal or external search and selection of a search committee. A Chair or Associate Dean within the College will chair the search committee. Upon submission by the committee of the strengths and weaknesses of the interviewed candidates, the Dean makes the final selection.
An Interim Chair is appointed when, in the Dean’s assessment, such an appointment is in the best interests of the Department, its programs, students, and faculty. Interim Chairs shall have the same responsibility and authority as other Chairs, but usually will not serve more than two fiscal years.
Chairs serve primarily in an administrative capacity (in the General University 60-80% of the assignment will be in this role, whereas at the Health Sciences Center it may be less, due to clinical and other necessary assignments). Renewal is possible following five-year 360 degree reviews with input from faculty and staff in the department, college and university administrators, and other important constituents to the department. The portion of work assignment a Chair devotes to teaching, research, and other service activities will be assigned in consultation with the Dean, and evaluated annually by the department or school-wide faculty P&T/annual review committee.
Chairs typically will not be considered for sabbatical leaves during the first term of their appointment, and any such future consideration is at the discretion of the dean, to ensure that it does not adversely impact department and college operations, research, clinical, and/or educational programs.
Duties of Chairs (and Academic Program Directors)
Although many of these duties may be delegated, the Chair has ultimate accountability for implementation and outcomes.
Departmental Administrative Structure and Governance
The Chair appoints and oversees the responsibilities of any other department administrators, including but not limited to Associate Chair, program coordinators, chairs of standing committees, section chiefs (School of Medicine) and administrative assistants, as appropriate, unless specified by university or college guidelines. Membership on faculty evaluation committees is subject to the stipulations of the WVU faculty evaluation document.
The Chair holds regular department meetings as appropriate within the organization of the department.
The Chair works with faculty and staff in an effort to achieve consensus on decisions facing the Department while respecting and representing the goals of the Department, College, and University. In some cases the Chair must make decisions without strong consensus.
As appropriate, the Chair contributes to the formulation and execution of College, University, and WVU Medicine policies and regulations.
The Chair is expected to ensure an inclusive environment for all faculty, while demonstrating awareness of, and sensitivity to, the experiences of faculty in under-represented categories. A critical part of the Chair’s responsibility is to create a culture of inclusiveness in which unit practices, including but not limited to hiring and evaluation, are reflective of such a culture.
Budget and Facilities
The Chair develops budget requests in consultation with and approval of the Dean, and is responsible for managing the department budget allocation.
As administrator of the department budget, the Chair works closely with the Dean’s Office to develop a comprehensive and coordinated budget plan. Effective budget planning requires but is not limited to the understanding of department accounts, including their history, current status, and appropriate use; recognizing University and College budget priorities; overseeing budget operations, meeting all deadlines, and maintaining financial records; establishing and strongly advocating department budget priorities in collaboration with the Dean and in consultation with faculty and staff; implementing specific procedures for monitoring the department budget on a continuous basis; and communicating plans, potential reallocations, progress, problems, needs, and related issues to the Dean and faculty/staff as appropriate.
Chairs ensure there is a precise and timely departmental record-keeping process. Administrative assistants and other staff dealing with budget transactions are supervised by the Chair. Contingency plans must be developed to maintain smooth operations during times when the primary budget person is away from the department. Chairs continuously assess the effectiveness and efficiency of their financial operations and use these assessments for improvement of the department. Outcomes and operational procedures producing these outcomes need to be regularly assessed. The ultimate objective for the Chair is maximizing the effective use of all resources for serving students, supporting faculty, and enhancing programs.
Chairs must be proactive leaders in acquiring necessary funds to execute the mission of the department. Competent Chairs do not assume a reactive posture by relying merely on annual central allocations and supplementary funding from the Dean. Working within the University and College funding structure and with appropriate administrators (e.g., College Development Office) and faculty, Chairs develop strategies to acquire external funds from alumni, external grants, industry partnerships and entrepreneurial academic programs (e.g., summer school and online courses). Chairs promote appropriate fundraising activities in coordination with the Dean and the College Office of Development.
The Chair supervises the use and assignment of allocated Departmental space (excluding general classrooms), facilities (including office, laboratory, and research space assignments), equipment, and supplies.
Chairs monitor the physical conditions in their buildings and notify Dean’s office staff when significant problems arise. Chairs work with department personnel, the Dean, and appropriate administrative offices in planning renovation of physical facilities for the department.
As part of the development of long-term plans, the Chair provides leadership in constructing a department plan identifying disciplinary areas of relative strength and weakness. Based on this and information about upcoming resignations and retirements, the plan includes justified needs for additional or fewer faculty and/or staff. This plan should be used for recruitment strategies and hiring decisions.
The Chair hires and is responsible for the oversight of all support staff in the department and is responsible for annual performance reviews of staff members, seeking input from department faculty members as appropriate. The Chair also should work with the department staff to identify and act on professional development opportunities appropriate for their responsibilities.
The Chair ensures College and University guidelines are met regarding the recruitment, retention, evaluation, and promotion of faculty. Chairs are responsible for administering the approved procedures of annual peer review in the department as well as the policies and procedures of promotion and tenure reviews and recommendations. Furthermore, Chairs are responsible for seeing that these policies and procedures are communicated properly within the department and, whenever necessary, updated to conform to changes in College or University policy.
The Chair orients new faculty members to departmental policies and procedures.
Chairs are responsible for administering faculty workloads based on individual abilities of faculty members and department, College, and University needs. Periodic appraisal and planning of workload assignments and faculty development are required at least annually.
The Chair is expected to be an informal mentor for all faculty members in the department, although the level of the Chair’s mentoring involvement will vary according to the seniority and needs of individuals. The Chair is responsible for the department’s mentoring process for each faculty member. To the extent possible, senior members of the Department assist the Chair in this important task.
The Chair has primary responsibility for dealing with personnel problems in the department. If a faculty or staff member does not meet performance expectations or violates department/ College/University policies or procedures, the Chair will meet with the individual(s) to discuss the situation. The Chair should retain a written record of that meeting. The Chair also may initiate such a meeting following complaints from stakeholders. In consultation with the Dean, the Chair may place a letter in the faculty or staff member’s file and/or move to further corrective actions. Personnel actions must be supported by good record keeping.
For hospital-based departments in the Health Sciences Center, elements of practical direction of Chairs originates in the hospital.
Curriculum and Program Development, Enrollment and Student Retention
The Chair ensures that a balanced and appropriate offering of courses at all levels is made each term and works closely with faculty and with other administrators toward appropriate enrollments. Health Sciences Center Chairs must manage educational requirements that provide specialized accreditation-mandated instruction on an ongoing basis.
Chairs are responsible for the planning and initiation of changes in the curricula (including Extended Learning) for their department—and for ensuring the timely update of information in the undergraduate and graduate catalogs.
Chairs work with the department, the Dean, and appropriate administrative offices in planning enrichment programs, such as lecture series and colloquia, for majors and other interested students, faculty, and members of the community.
Units in which programs are the responsibility of a Program Director or in which curriculum and curriculum development are the responsibility of the curriculum committee will have somewhat different expectations of the department Chair.
Research and Outreach
Chairs oversee research programs under departmental auspices or involving department resources, and are responsible for encouraging an appropriate and balanced program of research among the department faculty that involves graduate, undergraduate, and postdoctoral students, wherever possible. Chairs help guide the faculty toward identifying research focus areas by building on existing strengths and leveraging new opportunities.
Chairs oversee service/outreach/extension programs under departmental auspices or involving Departmental resources, and are responsible for encouraging an appropriate and balanced program of service/outreach/extension activities among departmental faculty.
Chairs are expected to engage in regular professional development activities for administrators and participation in these activities will be an aspect of the Chair’s annual evaluation. Professional development includes both on and off campus opportunities. The Dean may provide travel funds for administrative professional development, assuming adequate funding is available in the College budget. The amount and purpose of funding must be approved by the Dean prior to travel.
Evaluation of Administrative Service
The Chair’s annual review is conducted by the Dean (typically at the end of the academic year or in early summer). Evaluation is based on an annual report submitted by the Chair (covering department priorities and personal leadership development goals) and observation of the Chair’s performance by the Dean and the Dean’s leadership team.
As part of the annual report Chairs should submit evidence of professional accomplishments and leadership effectiveness. Evidence may include but is not limited to documented progress toward Department goals in alignment with college and university goals, initiatives, or priorities, department productivity indicators, actions taken to strengthen department conditions, and professional and leadership development experiences.
The Dean will meet with the Chair to discuss the outcome of the annual review. This meeting should be a participative process culminating in the identification of priorities and goals for improving the Department as well as the Chair’s professional development. The results of this meeting will be documented in an annual evaluation letter for the Chair; this letter should include progress toward attaining goals/objectives from the previous year and the setting goals/objectives for the coming year; at the discretion of the Dean, it could also include input from faculty.
Provost's Office, 10/6/2017