Policy Library

350 Academic Department Chairperson

Authority: Approved by the Board of Trustees
Last updated on: May 10, 2019

350.1 Appointment

Academic department chairpersons are appointed by the University President on the recommendations of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, the dean, and the regular faculty of the department.

350.1.1  Terms of Service.  Chairpersons are appointed for 3-year terms and may be reappointed upon favorable evaluation.

350.1.2  Tenure.  A chairperson may be awarded tenure as a faculty member but not as chairperson.

350.1.3  Development.  Upon first appointment, chairs may be required to participate in new chair orientation sessions provided by Academic Affairs.  Continuing chairs are also expected to participate in professional development opportunities provided or supported by Academic Affairs.

350.2 Duties and Responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of academic department chairpersons are in part dependent on the size and character of each department.  The following description of duties and responsibilities is intended to set forth broad and general principles which can be adapted to the circumstances of particular departments.  Nothing in these descriptions is intended to abrogate general University administrative policies, the constitution of the faculty, or legislative acts of university government.

350.2.1  Leadership.  The chairperson provides leadership to his/her department and the university to support both departmental and institutional goals.  The chairperson supports and promotes his/her department’s collaboration with other academic and non-academic units (e.g., admissions, housing, etc.) to support student, department, and institutional success.

350.2.1.1  Method of Leadership.  A chairperson leads his/her department by example and through persuasion, the weight of experience, evenhandedness, openness, and candor, as well as through suggestions, recommendations, nominations, and appointments.

350.2.2  Administration of Departmental Office.  The chairperson is responsible for a) administering the department office, including hiring and supervision of support staff, and structuring their efforts to support the work of department faculty; b) handling the routine paperwork of the department, including the preparation and submission of catalog materials based on the curricular decisions and recommendations of the faculty; c) processing paperwork for hiring and evaluation of part- and full-time faculty; d) the administration of the operating budget (maintaining department expenses within the department’s allocations); e) maintaining department equipment, properties, books, supplies, files and records.

350.2.3  Resource Management and Development.  The chairperson is responsible for advocating for departmental resources; openly and effectively managing departmental resources and budgets; and for supporting the development and fundraising efforts of the college.

350.2.4  Curricular Programming and Course Scheduling.  The chairperson is responsible for facilitating the assessment and improvement of the departments’ academic programs and offerings and implementation of new programs.  With input from his/her faculty, the chairperson has responsibility for scheduling classes, arranging teaching hours, and meeting student needs in graduate and undergraduate programs in accordance with the policies and procedures of the University and the standards of the department.

350.2.5  Promoting Student Success.  The chairperson is responsible for leading the development, implementation, and evaluation of plans for student success.  He/she shall mobilize department resources and faculty to promote recruitment, retention, advising, and success of students, and to collaborate with other campus offices supporting student success.

350.2.6  Consultation/Mediation.  The Chairperson is available for consultation with faculty and/or students on matters of concern, particularly those involving classroom instruction and conduct; the chairperson serves as a mediator in disputes involving students and faculty.

350.2.7  Communication and Advocacy.  The chairperson shall facilitate the flow of information and communication between the administration, faculty of the department, and the students.  The chairperson represents the interests of individual faculty and of the department to the dean and to the University administration, and also conveys to his/her colleagues the positions of the University administration. 

350.2.7.1  Official Departmental Spokesperson.  The chairperson is authorized to speak officially for and on behalf of the department in matters concerning personnel decisions, budget requests, recommendations for membership in the graduate faculty, approval of grant and contract applications, and other issues concerning resources.

350.2.7.2  Advocacy.  The chairperson is an advocate for the academic interests of the faculty of the department, especially in curricular affairs wherein faculty authority is paramount.  Those issues that require approval beyond the department will ordinarily be firmly advocated by the chairperson.  If earlier internal deliberations result in the chairperson’s disagreement with the majority opinion of the department faculty, and if the chairperson cannot support the majority position, he/she is obliged to make known to the dean the position of department colleagues together with his/her own position with appropriate justification and rationale for both positions.  The chairperson will inform departmental colleagues of his/her opposition to or disagreement with the majority view.

350.2.7.3  Regular Consultation with Departmental Faculty.  It is a general principle of the administration of academic departments that the chairperson should consult regularly with members of his/her department.  To consult is to seek the opinion, judgment, and advice of the members of the department.  It remains the prerogative of the chairperson to make determination contrary to this counsel, but if he/she does so, it is his/her duty to explain the reasons both to colleagues within the department and (if it is a matter which is forwarded to higher administrative authority) to administrative superiors, together with the nature and extent of the disagreement.

350.  Limitations on Consultative Requirement.  This duty of consultation is not to be construed as implying that the chairperson is only an executant without power of initiative.  Perhaps the most important duty of a chairperson is to lead the way in setting policies and, as much as possible, in developing a strategic plan for the department and enlisting the active and effective participation of department members in support of implementing that plan.

350.  Form of Consultation.  Consultation with the department may take the form of meetings of the department as a whole or of conference with departmental committees.  In small departments, an elaborate committee structure would be artificial; in large departments, meetings of the entire department might be awkward.  It is the prerogative of the department as a whole to determine its own internal structure and procedures, which shall be codified and filed with the dean of the college and with the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

350.  Ad Hoc Committees.  The apparatus of committees, their scope and function, and the procedures by which committee members are selected, are determined by fulltime regular members of the department.  The chairperson has the prerogative of appointing ad hoc committees to investigate and advise upon matters which are not regularly recurring concerns and which may not be of crucial importance to the department as a whole, but this prerogative is not to be used to avoid the duty of conferring with the entire department or with regularly constituted committees on all matters of general concern or of continuing or recurring character.

350.  Matters of General Concern or Recurring Character.  Among those matters of general concern or of recurring character are such issues as: 

a) the formal curriculum, methods of instruction, and assessment in the department and also conferences, colloquia, non-credit courses, and the establishment of requirements for departmental programs and academic standards,

b) the recruitment and advising of students,

c) the department budget for services, travel, equipment, and supplies,

d) the recruitment, hiring, evaluation, retention, promotion, and salary of faculty, and

e) the assignment of faculty to classes and offices.

350.  Matters of Delicacy.  Matters of particular delicacy - such as the salary, tenure, and promotion of faculty - may in general be best dealt with by a committee, but a department is not precluded from discussing as a whole either policies or individual decisions on these questions, and the chairperson should seek the advice of the department as a whole on the procedure to be followed in these matters.

350.2.8  Meetings of Department.  Notwithstanding any other provision of this document, the chairperson shall call at least one (1) meeting of the entire department in each semester of the regular academic year.  A standing item on the agenda of such meeting(s) shall be “New Business.”

350.2.9   Personnel Matters.  It is the responsibility of the departmental chairperson to lead his/her department through the process of making critical decisions involving faculty appointments, non-reappointments, promotion and tenure decisions, awards for meritorious activities, regular evaluations, and compliance with faculty performance expectations as outlined elsewhere in the University Policy Library.   

350.2.9.1  Communication of Faculty Duties and Responsibilities.  The department chairperson shall, periodically and as necessary, explain to each faculty member that individual’s departmental duties and responsibilities.

350.  Faculty Development.  The chairperson works with department faculty to support and promote growth and development in their areas of professional responsibility.

350.  Recommendations for Faculty Awards.  The chairperson encourages and recommends rewards for outstanding teaching, scholarship, and research, attempts to define the research goals of the department, fosters cooperative projects, and brings individual and department achievements to the attention of the academic community.

350.  Deficient Performance. If a department chairperson becomes concerned that a faculty member may be performing his or her duties and responsibilities of employment deficiently, the chairperson shall investigate the matter. If the investigation confirms the chairperson’s concern, he/she should attempt an informal resolution. If the matter is not resolved informally, the chairperson should notify the faculty member within five working days of his/her intent to pursue a formal resolution.

350. Time for Response.  After the faculty member has received notification of the chair’s intention, he/she shall be given five (5) working days to provide evidence to counter the chairperson’s concern or to propose a satisfactory remedy to the situation with a stipulated timeline.

350. Right of Consultation.  The faculty member and/or the chairperson may seek consultation of members of the department personnel committee regarding judgments of deficient performance and satisfactory remedies.

350. Written Admonishment.  If the faculty member fails to provide sufficient evidence to counter the chair’s concern or to remedy his/her deficient performance as was proposed, the chairperson shall provide the faculty member with a written admonishment that sets forth the deficiency of performance, actions the faculty member can take to remedy the deficiency, and a date by which the deficiency must be remedied. The Personnel Committee shall ordinarily be notified that a written admonishment has been given to the faculty member and a copy of the written admonishment shall be provided to the dean; however, the faculty member may request that notification not be given to the Personnel Committee – a request that the chairperson may grant based on his/her judgment that the behavior is unlikely to be on-going/repetitive.

350. Required Faculty Reporting. Repeated deficient performance related to required faculty reporting (i.e., 3-week attendance, interim grading, final grades) shall result in written admonishment.

350. Chair’s Evaluation of Subsequent Performance. If the chairperson determines a sufficient remedy has been accomplished, a letter stating that will be submitted to the faculty member and the dean as well as included in the official personnel file; and if they had been notified of the letter of admonishment, the Personnel Committee shall also be notified that a remedy has been accomplished. If the deficient performance continues following a written admonishment, the chairperson shall notify the faculty member, the personnel committee, and the dean of the continued deficient performance formally enlisting the dean’s assistance.

350. Dean’s Prerogative.  Upon the receipt of a notice of continued deficient performance, the dean may require a remediation plan, render the faculty member ineligible for any and all course releases or travel funds to which they may otherwise be entitled, or recommend additional actions be taken by the Provost.  Those additional actions could include (but are not limited to) a reassignment of workload, the denial of all compensation adjustments for a defined period, and/or the initiation of the discipline/dismissal process following procedures outlined elsewhere in the University Policy Library.

350. Right of Rebuttal.  A faculty member who receives a written admonishment, a notification of continued deficient performance, or other penalty imposed by the dean shall have five (5) working days to provide a written rebuttal with copies to the chairperson, the departmental personnel committee and the dean.  The departmental personnel committee may also submit one or more letters, in support of the chairperson’s or dean’s decision, or the faculty member’s response.

350.  Personnel Files.  All documents associated with this policy (written admonishments, acknowledgement of remedy, notices of continued deficient performance, decision by the dean, and letters of rebuttal or support) shall be placed in the faculty member’s official personnel file (as outlined elsewhere in the University Policy Library) and may be available to the personnel committee at the time of the next annual or biennial review.

350. Due Process.  Faculty members may use established, college-level grievance procedures to review the accuracy and relevance of concerns and/or the actions taken and request a corrective response.

350.2.10  Delegation: Limitations on Delegation.  Certain elements of department administration may be delegated by the chairperson to faculty members and staff.  However, in matters of personnel administration, responsibility rests primarily with the chairperson.  He/she is expected to consult with members of the faculty in a manner which seems most appropriate in maintaining constructive personnel relationships; in furthering the professional development of the faculty, and in furthering the best interests of the department, the school, or the college, and the University. 

350.3 Selection

350.3.1  Departmental Membership Qualification.  A candidate for chairperson must be a faculty member of the department or must be qualified by education and experience.

350.3.2  Vacancy.  Whenever a vacancy occurs in the position of chairperson of an existing academic department or one which is scheduled to exist as determined by the appropriate academic dean or his/her superior, the appropriate academic dean will so advise the department faculty members.

350.3.3  Nominating Committee.  The regular faculty members of the department should then elect a nominating committee composed of a least five (5) regular members (when possible, representing each academic rank) who shall conduct a search for candidates.

350.3.3.1  Limitation on Service.  No member shall serve on the nominating committee who wishes to be considered for the position or who comes under consideration after being elected.

350.3.3.2  Additional Member.  If five (5) regular faculty are not available within the department, the members of the department may, with approval from the appropriate academic dean, select one (1) or more regular faculty members from closely-associated academic disciplines to serve on the committee.

350.3.3.3  Rules of Procedure.  The nominating committee shall determine its own rules of procedure and shall notify the appropriate academic dean when it has accomplished its assigned task.

350.3.3.4  Candidate Nominations. The nominating committee shall recommend to the appropriate academic dean possible candidates who, if not on campus, should be invited to the University for the interview.  The dean shall approve or disapprove such visits.  The nominating committee shall obtain evaluations from each regular faculty member, or as many as interviewed each candidate.

350.3.4  Recommendation by Nominating Committee.  Should the nominating committee recommend one (1) or more of those interviewed, the name(s) shall be submitted to the academic dean with a copy to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.  In the event that the nominating committee recommends more than one (1) candidate, the names shall be ranked in order of preference.

350.3.5  Recommendation of Dean.  After a meeting with the nominating committee, the dean may concur or object, sending a written recommendation to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and a copy to the chairperson of the nominating committee.

350.3.6  Recommendation by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.  If the academic dean and the nominating committee have not agreed on the recommendation, the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, if he/she chooses, shall meet with the nominating committee and the academic dean in an attempt to resolve differences.  In only rare and exceptional circumstances shall a candidate other than one designated by both the nominating committee and the academic dean be recommended to the ISU Board of Trustees.  In such a case, the reasons shall be communicated to the nominating committee and the academic dean prior to submission of the recommendation to the ISU Board of Trustees.

350.4 Evaluation, Reappointment, or Removal

350.4.1  Evaluation.  Each college and the library is expected to establish the rules and procedures for department chair evaluation.  An evaluation of the performance of a department chairperson will be conducted prior to consideration for reappointment by the dean, based on consultation with the chairperson and the departmental faculty, in accordance with rules and procedures prescribed and established by the college/ library.  The dean will weigh and balance the several principles cited above in his/her decision regarding retention of the chairperson.  The dean has the authority to call for an evaluation of the performance of the chairperson at any time the dean determines it is necessary.

350.4.2  Reappointment.  While successful chairpersons may be reappointed to serve multiple terms, it is not expected that a chairperson who is unsuccessful in the eyes of the department faculty or the Dean will be reappointed.  When there is disagreement between the department faculty and the dean on the reappointment of a chairperson, the decision rests with the University President, based on the reports and recommendations of the department faculty, dean, and the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs.

350.4.3.  Removal.  Removal of a chairperson prior to the end of a 3-year term should be done only in instances of extraordinary administrative failure or when his/her continuance is held by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and/or the President to be contrary to the best interest of the Department and the University.

350.4.3.1  Extraordinary Administrative Failure.  If a contingent of departmental members - faculty, staff, or students - endorse a statement to the Dean outlining the extraordinary administrative failure of a chairperson, the Dean shall consult with the Provost, and respond to the members as to whether he/she deems an investigation is warranted.  If an investigation is conducted, the Dean shall report his/her observations and recommendations to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, to the departmental personnel committee, and to the chairperson.  Given the delicacy of such matters, the Dean shall respond as soon as possible to the submission of a statement.  Further, he/she shall make every effort to ensure that the names of department members who endorsed such a statement are not disclosed as a consequence of any investigation or decision made in response to their actions.

350.4.3.2  Administrative Response.  If the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and the University President concur with the recommendations of the petitioning department members, the chairperson shall be removed as soon as possible.  If the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and/or the President do not concur with the recommendations of the petitioning department members, they shall notify the Dean who will inform the Departmental Personnel Committee and Chairperson of the continuation of his/her appointment.

350.5 Acting/Interim Chairperson

The position of department chairperson may fall vacant at such a time that a permanent replacement cannot be appointed immediately.  In such a case, appointment of an acting or interim chairperson is the prerogative of the administration, but that prerogative should be exercised only after consultation with the membership of the department.

350.5.1  Nominations.  The dean of the school or college within which the vacancy occurs shall invite nominations for acting/interim chairperson from all regular faculty of the department, to which list the dean may add other nominees.  The dean shall then determine, by a poll of the regular faculty of the department, the degree of support for each nominee.

350.5.2  Recommendation and Appointment.  The dean shall then forward to the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs a recommendation, accompanied by the complete results of the poll of the department.  The appointment is made by the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, subject to the approval of the University President and the ISU Board of Trustees.

350.5.3  Continuing Consultation.  In the event that an acting/interim chairperson is needed for more than one (1) year, the department shall again be consulted in the same fashion before the acting/interim chairperson is confirmed in office for another year or a new acting chairperson is appointed. 

350.5.4 Removal.  An acting/interim chairperson may also be removed if his/her continuance is held by the University President not to be in the best interest of the University.

Related Information

Policy Administrator:
Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Policy Contact:
Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Parsons Hall 208
(812) 237-2304
Policy History:
Policy 350 was included in the 2001 University Handbook revision and was further amended by the ISU Board of Trustees as follows: Section 350.2.6 on June 22, 2007; Section 350.2.2 on May 6, 2011; Sections 350.3.1, 350., 350., 350.5.4.1, 350. amended on December 16, 2011; Sections 350.2.2, 350.2.21, 350.2.2.2, 350., 350., 350., 350.2.2.3, 350., 350., 350.2.2.5, and 350. amended on February 17, 2012; Section 350.1 amended on May 2, 2014; amended Sections 350.1, 350.1.1, 350.1.2, 350.1.3, 350.2, 350.2.1, 350.2.1.1, 350.2.2, 350.2.3, 350.2.4, 350.2.5, 350.2.6, 350.2.7, 350.2.7.1, 350.2.7.2, 350.2.7.3, 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350.2.8, 350.2.9, 350.2.9.1, 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350., 350.2.10, 350.3, 350.3.1, 350.3.2, 350.3.3, 350.3.3.1, 350.3.3.2, 350.3.3.3, 350.3.3.4, 350.3.4, 350.3.5, 350.3.6, 350.4, 350.4.1, 350.4.2, 350.4.3, 350.4.3.1, 350.4.3.2, 350.5, 350.5.1, 350.5.2, 350.5.3, and 350.5.4 on December 12, 2014. Section 350. was amended on May 6, 2016. Policy 350. was added on December 16, 2016. Section 350.2 was amended by the Board of Trustees on May 10, 2019. *Policy 399 Interpretation applies to interpretations of Policies 300 to 399 of the Policy Library.