Statement on Departmental Governance

originally printed in the FAS Gazette, Vol. 5, No. 7, December 14, 1973;

edited on July 1, 1985;
edited on September 15, 2003;
amended on March 29, 2005 and July 15, 2013.

The following principles and procedures shall be observed by all departments within the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. They are to be considered minimal guidelines; particular departments may elect to adopt more detailed statements of governance.


Chairpersons shall act in concert with their respective Faculties. They shall seek the opinion and advice of their colleagues. Chairpersons may make determinations contrary to such counsel; but, if they do so, there arises a duty to account for their reasons—both to the department and to administrative superiors. Chairpersons shall fully disclose the nature and extent of their disagreement with faculty opinion.

Chairpersons serve as representatives of their respective departmental Faculties to the administration and therefore their authority should be perceived as primarily derived from the faculty. To be effective a Chairperson must exhibit qualities of intellectual leadership, devotion to scholarship, and academic excellence and concern for growth and development of the department. Chairpersons should be ever mindful that they earn the respect of their colleagues by demonstrating these qualities of leadership and not by instilling fear or by setting department members against one another. A productive academic environment requires a Chairperson who is consistently self-controlled and who has a considerable capacity for tolerance and empathy.

Departmental Bylaws

It is essential that faculty understand how their departments operate, particularly at a University where faculty reflect varied origins, backgrounds, and educational experiences, and effective and open departmental governance structures allow faculty (and students, where appropriate) to participate fully in the decision-making process in their teaching units.

Departments are therefore required to maintain, distribute to faculty members annually, and translate into practice a set of Bylaws consistent with Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences Bylaws, University Bylaws, and University Policies and Procedures that, at a minimum, address the functions listed below:

  • Recommendations to the Dean regarding Chair appointments
  • Conduct of Departmental business
  • Determination and staffing of undergraduate and graduate curricula and requirements
  • Departmental planning and its budgetary impacts
  • Departmental procedures appropriate for faculty processes and actions

Consultation on major issues

Faculty members and, when appropriate, graduate students and undergraduate majors shall be consulted on all academic issues involving the department, such as appointments, promotions, curriculum, program requirements, academic priorities, general policies concerning course and committee structures and responsibilities, and budget policy; the tenured/tenure stream faculty shall take the lead on curricular issues.

Faculty appointments and promotions

The University Bylaws state that the Dean "shall take into account the recommendations of the Chairmen of the Departments and the faculties concerned." In recommending faculty appointments and promotions the Chairperson shall furnish the Dean with evidence concerning the extent to which members of the department favor or oppose the prospective appointee.

Accountability and term of office

Since the faculty is accountable to the Chairperson and the Dean, in turn the Chairperson shall be accountable to the Dean and to the faculty of that department. Chairpersons shall be appointed on the recommendation of the Dean for a specified maximum period of time not to exceed five years following consultation with the faculty. They are eligible for reappointment following an appropriate review. A secret ballot shall be used to determine the balance of faculty judgment in matters of appointment and reappointment of Chairpersons; a full and complete report of the faculty recommendation shall be provided to the Dean, including a distinction, if appropriate, between the views of the tenured/tenure stream and the non-tenure stream faculty.

The Dean shall be instrumental in arranging for this and other expressions of opinion and shall take these expressions under advisement; open discussions of departmental directions and challenges is encouraged. In formulating recommendations with regard to appointment and reappointment of Chairpersons, the tenured/tenure stream faculty shall take the lead.


In each Fall and Spring Term the Chairperson shall call at least one meeting for which any member of the faculty may place an item on the agenda.


The [original of the] above document was approved by FAS Council at its meeting of December 6, 1973. The first sentence of the second paragraph under the heading General may be subject to a misleading reading. Traditionally, and by specific delegation from the Trustees and the Chancellor, departmental Faculties have a number of areas of primary responsibility, including curriculum design, instructional practice, grading and initial consideration of faculty appointments. In such matters the Chairperson is charged with representing the positions of the faculty to the administration. In other areas, including budget, personnel management, and salary practice, authority is specifically delegated from the Trustees to the Chairperson through an administrative chain including the Chancellor, Provost, and Dean. The Bylaws of the University, for example, particularly charge the Chairperson with making a recommendation on faculty personnel matters separate from the recommendation of the departmental faculty. In short, the concept of authority in the University structure is a complex one, involving different roles for various components in the institution with the ultimate legal locus in the Board of Trustees.