Policy limits Chairs’ terms

A new policy for academic department chairs went into effect in the last fall and governs how many terms they can serve as chairs.

The previous policy allowed a department chair to remain in position for an unlimited number of years. Now, the policy states that a chair can serve one to three terms, each term consisting of four years.

The purpose of the policy is to allow new chairs into office to help create new ideas for the departments.

The new chair policy includes: a single term for an academic department chair, department chairs are initially appointed for a single term.

For appointment beyond the single term the provost, dean and faculty must approve the chair. A third term is limited to extremely rare cases, consisting of an in-depth evaluation, and must be approved by the provost.

Rogers Redding, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, along with other administrators, helped create this new policy.

“Until now, chairmen could stay as long as they wanted to, or until the dean removed them,” said Redding.

The policy will affect all colleges within the university.

Chairs currently in office, who have served at least seven years, will not continue beyond the 2003-2004 school year.

“I think it’s a good policy,” said Redding. “I like it very much; it emphasizes the fact that the role as department chair is not intended to be a permanent position. They are in office for a limited time, and then return to their faculty duties.”

Annually, the provost, dean and faculty review the chair’s performance. In addition, the new policy requires a more in-depth review after four years.

Redding acknowledges that everyone will not agree with this policy. “Some chairs don’t like it, some do like it,” he said. “The majority do like the policy, very much.”

Brad Sharlott, journalism coordinator and associate professor, said it’s a good idea.

“I think it is flexible because it allows the possibility for up to eight years and possibly twelve,” he said. “It’s appropriate for a chair to undergo the review process.”

Sharlott adds that he thinks everyone has a certain way of looking at things and a new chair may introduce new ideas, excitement and creative changes.

“After eight years the job is so demanding, the chair should step down,” said Sharlott.

Dr. Prince Brown, Jr., associate professor for sociology and African-American Studies, said he is for the best interests of the university, long-term.

“I think that long-term (the policy) can be beneficial to the university, to bring in new people with fresh ideas and do things a little differently,” he said.

Brown is in general agreement with the policy.

“All healthy and viable organizations plan and manage the development of leadership skills within the professional ranks. If this does not happen, the organization will stagnate,” he said. “The fact that some units might be unsure about how to proceed when a leadership change is made is indicative of the problem itself. It is helpful if those persons directly impacted by the change in leadership are aware of and involved in the process.”

Redding and Brown both agree that the disadvantage of the policy is when someone who is doing a good job is removed from office.

“You have good people in the institution, you look for more good people to carry on the job. A chair has an impact on everyone in the department,” said Brown.

Patrick Moynahan, interim dean for College of Professional Studies, explains that after the chair’s term has expired, they have the option of staying at the university seeking positions such as a faculty member, assistant chair, associate dean, dean, provost or vice president.

Other options include retirement or employment at another university.

One of the requirements to become chair requires experience as a professor- this is a tenured position, which allows faculty to teach for unlimited years.

“The majority will return to tenure faculty members,” said Redding.

“We are in a period of transition. Transition always brings change, and change can be painful in situations, because they change lives,” said Moynahan.

“From the faculty standpoint it provides opportunity to gain administrative opportunities and gives the university and faculty the opportunity to progress,” Moynahan said. “It’s hard to retain enthusiasm. Time depends on the individual. I’m not sure we know the magic number.”

“Technically speaking, a dean or chair can be removed any year if their evaluation is below standard,” said Moynahan. “I didn’t come into administration to stay in administration. I have a great passion for advising. At heart, I am a faculty member. I enjoy being in the classroom. I miss being in the classroom.”

The university is not the first to adopt this policy. It is common for universities nationwide to have such a policy for their chairs.

According to Moynahan, the new chair policy will affect any chairs that have been in position over seven years, including: Charles Pinder, technology, William Oliver, chemistry, Jerry Warner, biology, Joseph Conger III, theatre and George Goedel, psychology. Some chairs have been in office approximately ten years.

“It doesn’t appear to me that this is likely to work very well in a department such as biology, where the faculty is divided into one group that is approaching retirement and another that is untenured,” said Dr. Jerry W. Warner, chair of biological sciences. “The senior faculty is not likely to want to do the job at this stage in their careers and the junior faculty would be foolish to take on the responsibilities of chair prior to receiving tenure. In fact, the Dean and Provost have both said that untenured faculty would not be appointed.”

“A major objection to this new policy is that it was put into effect without any discussion involving [faculty]. This also weakens the Dean’s role with respect to the recruitment and retention of chairs,” Warner said.

“While it is difficult to not be concerned about the effects of this policy, I am not bitter,” he said.