Effective chairing requires effective communication. To thrive, departments need to create an atmosphere of openness and transparency. For this reason, chairpersons need to be both recipients and transmitters of knowledge. Chairs may help facilitate the communication process through the following activities —
Preparing agendas/minutes for regular departmental meetings. Department meetings are an opportunity to document and disseminate information, exchange ideas, learn about departmental sentiment, solve problems, discuss assessment results, and plan for the future. Agendas that meaningfully address these objectives should be prepared and published. In particular, chairs should use these occasions to solicit departmental feedback, and indicate planned responses to that feedback. Minutes from all faculty meetings should be written and kept on file. These minutes are important in documenting faculty discussion/consultation of important topics such as curriculum changes, assessment, and as documents for examination by accreditors. Careful documentation of assessment planning/results and departmental actions related to the assessment results are particularly important for Middle States reviews and reviews for other accreditors.
Appointing appropriate departmental committees to advise faculty and chair on departmental issues and activities. Division of labor facilitates the governance process. Most departments have committees assigned to budget, curriculum, and personnel issues. The latter (an “APT” committee) is required for all departmental recommendations regarding appointments and promotions. Its composition must conform to specific College guidelines regarding the number, rank, and tenure status of its members. These rules are described in Appendix 5 and in the document “Procedural Requirements for Academic Personnel Decisions” which can be found at http://www.brockport.edu/academics/academic_affairs/facguide/. Ad hoc committees will also be helpful on an as-needed basis.
Attending chairpersons meetings (called by the dean, Provost, and other College administrators); report on the proceedings of such meetings to their faculty. Department chairs are expected to attend various meetings convened by their Deans, the Provost, and others. As with department meetings, these meetings provide opportunities for information dissemination, problem solving. Although minutes from some of these College-wide meetings may become available on the College web site, faculty benefit from their chairperson’s perspective on these meetings, and from discussions about these meetings with their departmental colleagues.
Apprising the dean regarding departmental needs, concerns, and developments.
School deans need to know what is happening in the departments for which they are responsible. Accordingly, it is a chair’s responsibility to keep the dean informed about important departmental issues and especially of potentially contentious situations. Chairs should also inform their dean about periods of time when they will be absent from campus, and request approval from the dean of any “acting” chair who will function in their absence.
Representing their department at various meetings and deliberations. The department chair serves as department representative. In this capacity, the chair should present his/her faculty’s sentiments and recommendations in a fair and accurate manner. However, faculty should not expect their department chair to abdicate his/her own voice in matters pertaining to the department. Indeed, deans expect otherwise, and personnel procedures require the independent input of the department chair.
Representing the department to the general public and communicating newsworthy department or faculty activities to the Office of Marketing Communications. Institutional image is critical to recruitment, college development, and ultimately, student success. These efforts should be considered part of the department chair’s responsibility.
Developing, encouraging, and participating in inter- and intra-departmental activities. The academic department is most successful when it works as a team. Chairs should foster, and engage in, activities that promote and reinforce a team-oriented culture.
Preparing department Annual Reports. Each year, the school deans call for Departmental Annual Reports and provide information regarding the format with which they should be prepared. The information in these reports is used by the dean in preparing his/her School report for the Provost. The College has implemented mandatory use of Activity Insight software for on-line preparation of faculty/departmental Annual Reports.
Maintaining the departmental web site. Increasingly, the Web provides the first contact point between the department and its publics. A well-maintained web site provides information for prospective students and other interested individuals about the department’s programs, facilities, and faculty.
Outreach. Many departments are engaged in outreach activities with the local business and scientific community, public schools, social service agencies, alumni and other stakeholders. Chairpersons typically coordinate these activities which include preparation of newsletters, athletic events, organizing conferences, and other collaboration efforts.