Chair's Roles

As chairs and directors, you play a multifaceted leadership role in your departments and programs. You are resources for colleagues and students, mentors, supervisors of staff and student workers, department organizers, budget officers, and yes, even part-time administrators. You often take the lead in your department/program when we discuss broader institutional issues that individual faculty members may not need to think about in their daily lives, whether it be a matter of helping students and colleagues work through difficulties, ensuring that all our students are well served by the design of our curriculum, or helping colleagues to find appropriate balance between various responsibilities. I depend on you to communicate information from across the campus to your colleagues.

Here is a brief list of things that you may be called upon to do in your capacity as chair or director, with reference points for relevant guidance. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, but a suggestive beginning to thinking about your role. Please let the Dean’s Office know if you need help in any of these areas, and familiarize yourself with the Calendar for the year. Once the Planning Document is available, please review it as well.


  • Be available to consult with colleagues about problems.
  • Write chair/director letter for all faculty undergoing review. Please see pg 3 – 51 of the faculty handbook for guidelines.
  • Evaluate sabbatical requests, sign the request, and provide a realistic coverage plan
  • Sign faculty travel requests before they are sent to the Dean
  • Work with your colleagues to make decisions on the curriculum, assessment plans, and any scheduled program reviews. Our agenda for the year will include WASC, possible Liberal Arts Foundation revision, workload and section analysis, a review of units needed to graduate, and May Term Implementation. I would also like to review the work faculty—especially department chairs—are often asked to do during the summer.
    •  Develop your department’s/program’s course schedule for the next year and update the Four Year Schedule of Instruction. Some things to bear in mind:
      • The bottom line: don’t start with what individuals want to do, but with what your department/program needs to offer our students, both majors and non-majors.
      • Make sure sections are offered at appropriate times (not just for the convenience of a faculty member) – e.g., a good spread of times and days for courses, using all the days of the week, different times of day, etc.
      • Equitable assignments to different courses – how are decisions being made about staffing the courses you need to offer? Is the process fair to all?
      • Work with other departments/programs (including interdisciplinary programs, Johnston, Liberal Studies, etc.) to ensure appropriate coordination of course offerings.
  • Check to see that your department/program colleagues are doing what our students need:
    • Available to students (e.g., sufficient office hours)
    • Providing syllabi - we are supposed to collect these in the departmental office. For specific requirements of what should be in them, see Catalog p. 22.
  • Familiarize yourself with university policies that colleagues may ask you about:
    • Releasing information about students’ academic performance to third parties - we don’t release information except in specific, need-to-know instances; information about academic progress or performance does not go to any third party (including parents) without written permission from student on file with the Registrar’s Office. 
    • Associate Dean Fred Rabinowitz manages all petitions in the Dean’s Office, including ARB petitions.
    • Helpful input from faculty is more than just “signing off” – don’t lead students to think that just because a faculty member agreed it is approved.
    • Overloads – distinguish the good cases from the bad (i.e., be willing to say no when that is the best answer); know that we almost always say no to first-year students and to requests for overloads in Interim; students should expect to pay excess units fee unless they are doing something we require them to do.
    • LAFs for courses that do not have that designation – if you are requesting this for an individual student, we will ask why the entire class should not have it, and if so, will you present the request to the Curriculum Committee. In some cases it makes sense for this to be done as an exception, but in others we won’t approve unless the request is made for the course as a whole.
  • Department/Program Self-Study and Annual Report:
    • Ensure the department/program works together on and completes its self-study in a timely manner. The self-studies are mandated by faculty policy and WASC.
  • Mentoring new faculty, including Visiting Faculty :
    • New faculty members have an assigned mentor outside the department/program.
    • Within your department/program, you (or an assigned designee) help them find their place within the department/program and adjust to our context at UR.
    • Help them match their interests in teaching with the department’s/program’s needs.
    • Help them pace their work: not to try to do new courses, service projects, and research all at once the first semester, but also to make sure they have adequately addressed these areas by tenure.
      Help them learn the standards and personal attention expected at UR.
    • Help them learn resources for faculty development, such as the Hunsaker Teaching Programs, as well as providing information about Faculty Events such as the Faculty Club Forums, concerts, art openings, theater performances, athletic events, and our wide range of lectures and special events.
  • Mentoring and Supervision of adjunct faculty. There will be a link for adjuncts on the Dean’s webpage, too.
    • Contracts are written in the Dean’s office after we receive a request from you and confirm the available budget. Please provide the Social Security number and a CV to Chris Deyo in order for a contract to be issued).
    • Please use Adjunct Request form for new & returning adjuncts.
    • Inform adjuncts about the following expectations: office hours; syllabi; meeting classes; following the printed exam schedule unless permission is granted from Dean’s office to change it; preservation of the 4-6 time slot for athletics, music ensembles, and student organizations; and the academic honesty policy.
    • Timely orders for the Bookstore.
    • Plan a classroom visit as a routine for your adjuncts (this could be shared with other faculty in department/program). Make sure you follow up with a conversation - the point is not simply to sit in judgment, but to help them become more effective teachers of our students.
    • Do they know of relevant resources to help them out of class – e.g., Student Services, tutoring, counseling services, etc.? Hunsaker Teaching programs are also available to adjuncts.
    • Be available for problems, questions, etc. Check in with them from time to time to let them know that we know they exist.
    • Make sure they have course evaluations scheduled; read the evaluations after the semester is over and review other evidence when considering rehiring.
    • Be thoughtful about including adjuncts in the life of your department/program. Invite them to department/program functions where appropriate (speakers, etc.).
    • Help connect them to the Johnston Center Director and Johnston Registrar for Johnston specific concerns. 


  • Assigning advisors when students select a major, keeping in mind both equitable loads for faculty members and responsiveness to student preferences
  • Academic Honesty Policy:
    • Though chairs do not have a formal role in regard to the Academic Honesty Policy, they are sometimes called upon to help colleagues work through the appropriate responses to situations. Make sure you know what the policy asks faculty to do and what it does not allow them to do (e.g., imposing their own sanction without reporting it to the Registrar, or imposing a sanction at all in a case which is a second offense). See Catalog, pp. 13-20.Grade disputes and other conflicts with faculty
      • If students want to dispute a grade, they will come to you after discussing the issue with their instructor; you are their next level of appeal. You do not have the right to overturn a faculty member’s evaluation of a student, but you play a role in finding an informal solution through mediation where this is possible. Sometimes a conversation with the colleague or with both colleague and student together can help individuals see a situation from a new perspective. If the dispute is not resolved at this level, the student may appeal to the ARB. Informal resolution is clearly preferable, and, in fact, we have very few actual grade disputes that reach beyond chairs. See Catalog, pp. 11.
  • You are also the appropriate mediator in cases where students feel something inappropriate is happening with faculty. In most cases informal discussions can sort things out. Sometimes you need to consult the Dean’s Office or the EEO Officer about behaviors that appear potentially more serious.
  • Ensuring that the department/program is doing programming beyond courses
    • Developing a department/program community of scholars/artists that includes students
    • Programming (speakers, events…)
    • Coordinate or delegate departmental honors societies and activities
    • Coordinate or delegate co-curricular planning with Student Life, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and student organizations
    • When appropriate, coordinate or delegate departmental efforts to aid students with internships, externships and career planning.

Budgets, Communication, Planning, Supervision of Administrative Assistants and staff

  • Oversight of Department/Program Budget:
    • Make sure monthly expenses are properly charged.
    • Watch for inappropriate expenditures (e.g., excessive photocopying or phone usage by one person).
    • Consult the Dean’s office if you have an unusual situation that requires funding beyond your allocated budget. Do not just overspend your allocation.
    • Timely submission of requests for equipment, budgets, faculty searches, etc.
    • Each faculty member is assigned $150 for instructional aids.
  •  Communication and Oversight of planning requests from the Registrar, IT, Facilities,
    • Please attend monthly Department Chair and Program Director meetings. If you are not able to come, please send a substitute. Disseminate information from the meetings to you departmental colleagues in the forms that best suit your departmental/programmatic practices.
    • Familiarize yourselves with the University’s Cabinet approved marketing and public relations guidelines/style sheets. These are to be used for external communication of events and programs. You do not need to send them to the Dean for prior approval except in cases where you want to use the services of our Marketing Department. Requests for help to Marketing need to go through the Dean’s Office in order to coordinate University wide projects.
    • Continue to designate a Web contact person (Red Dot trained) for your department/program.
    • When the Dean’s Office is asked to collect faculty feedback for planning, you determine the best way to do this with the department. Recent examples include: Development requests for “aspirational” goals, IT master plan, physical plant master plan, Sightlines. Dean’s Office initiatives, catalog copy for the Registrar
  • Supervision of Secretaries and other staff:
    • Work with other chairs when a staff position is shared.
    • Keep the Dean’s office informed about secretary/staff schedules, vacation time, etc.
    • Understand and follow University policy regarding overtime.
    • Make sure priorities for secretaries’ and administrative assistants’ work is on track (see September 1, 2000 memo: “Prioritization of Work in Departmental Offices”).
    • Be clear about what is/is not within their job descriptions; make sure faculty members are not making inappropriate demands and that secretaries are assisting all faculty members in their department/program and vicinity.
    • Keep the Dean’s Office alerted to problems that are not getting resolved.
    • Provide annual performance review to HR as requested.
    • Consult with HR and develop a Position Description Request (PDQ) and/or HRD for any new staff or changed administrative position prior to a search. The Dean’s Office can also help with this process.
    • Provide the Dean and Dean’s Executive Secretary with a list of office assignments for adjuncts, or full time faculty. We will be making an inventory of spaces available for possible full time faculty relocation. We do not need to know if full time faculty did not change offices; we do need to know about any other assignments.
  • Library Acquisitions
    • Make sure your department/program is responding to requests from the library for help in selecting materials in your area.
    • Make sure colleagues know that they can ask for special orders.

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He is named after Clarence Howe Thurber, University president from 1933-37.

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