Selection, Appointment and Duties of Department Chairs

Recommended By
Academic Senate
Judy K. Sakaki, President
Issue Date
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Current Issue Date
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Effective Date
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
Contact Office
Academic Affairs
Policy number
  1. Guiding Principle
    1. The department chair serves as representative and advocate for the department and its faculty in interactions with students, the school in which the department resides, the university, the community, and the profession. While expected to perform certain administrative functions, the department chair is a unit-3 faculty member with the duties and responsibilities outlined in this policy.
    2. Therefore, the selection and recommendation of a department chair is an important collective decision of department faculty. This policy is designed to ensure that department chairs are recommended, appointed, and serve in a manner that is consistent with the spirit of shared governance and that assures continual legitimacy and effectiveness as they carry out the duties and responsibilities required by CSU and SSU policies and the CFA/CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  2. Definition
    1. The term “department chair” refers to the chair of an academic department, or other equivalent administrative unit.
    2. All references to the University President should be understood to read the University President or designee1.
  3. Term of Office
    The department chair shall normally be appointed for a term of three (3) years, which shall begin at the start of the fall semester of the academic year following the completion of the department selection and recommendation, and appointment process under Section V hereof. The normal term limit is 2 consecutive terms in order to give all interested faculty members the service and leadership opportunity.
  4. Duties and Responsibilities
    The department chair is responsible for leading, administering, and representing the department. The department chair’s duties and responsibilities include but are not limited to the following four categories:
    1. Academic Programs
      1. lead in the development and direction of high-quality academic programs,
      2. work with the department faculty in academic program planning and review, and curriculum development and revision, and
      3. working with the dean, prepare the department class schedule in consultation with the department faculty.
    2. Students
      1. supervise advising, provide information, sign documents and petitions, and otherwise facilitate resolution of administrative difficulties students may encounter,
      2. promote department activities,
      3. receive and consider students' comments and suggestions about courses, instructors, and programs, and
      4. facilitate the resolution of complaints, differences, or grievances between students and faculty.
    3. Faculty
      1. encourage collegial and full participation of all faculty members of the department in the spirit of shared governance,
      2. recommend faculty workload to the dean in teaching and service activities (cf. CBA 20.2b),
      3. participate in the processes for hiring, retention, tenure, and promotion of permanent faculty members within the department in accordance with CSU and SSU policies and the CFA/CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement (cf. CBA 15.21, 15.40),
      4. evaluate and make recommendation on the appointment or reappointment of temporary faculty members within the department in accordance with CSU and SSU policies and the CFA/CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement (cf. CBA 15.24, 15.25, 40.17), and
      5. promote and support the professional development of the faculty members.
    4. Administrative Responsibilities
      1. represent the department, its faculty and students within the school, the university, the community, and the profession,
      2. convey pertinent information to, from, and within the department and present issues which have potential impact on the department,
      3. invite and respond to comments and suggestions of faculty, students, staff and dean in a collaborative manner,
      4. work with the dean on management of resources, including the establishment of enrollment targets, allocation of faculty positions, and all department budgetary matters,
      5. work with the dean’s office to organize and supervise department expenditures and resources (cf. CBA 20.2b),
      6. ensure departmental compliance with CSU and SSU policies and the CFA/CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement, 
      7. participate in the hiring and, in collaboration with the appropriate administrator, direct the supervision of department staff, and
      8. facilitate the resolution of complaints or differences in the department, and, in collaboration with the appropriate administrator, facilitate resolution of grievances brought by faculty after the conclusion of said grievances.
    5. Training
      1. participate in SSU new chair orientation,
      2. participate in CSU new chair orientations, and
      3. share knowledge and information about department chair roles and responsibilities with the succeeding chair.
  5. Recommendation and Appointment of Department Chairs
    1. Department Recommendation 
      1. Department chairs shall normally be selected by the department faculty from the tenured or probationary faculty members within the department and recommended to the President (cf. CBA 20.30). When a department is unable to identify potential candidates from within the department, a tenured faculty member from a department within the School may be recommended.
      2. The department shall forward its recommendations to the University President no later than the last week of instruction of the fall semester in the third-year of the current chair’s term.2 
      3. The department shall agree to a fair and transparent procedure for selecting its recommendation of the next department chair and post the procedure such that all faculty in the department are informed, at least two weeks prior to the department finalizing its selection. Consistent with CSU and SSU policies and the CFA/CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement, temporary faculty shall not be excluded from participating in decisions made by the department, and therefore are included in the selection process for department chairs.3
      4. Following the selection process, the department shall, within one business day, forward its recommendation to serve as the next department chair to the University President.
      5. If a department is unable to provide a recommendation for a new chair, the previous chair remains the chair until the department recommendation for a new chair is provided to the University President. If a department is unable to provide a recommendation, the President appoints a chair.
      6. To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, a unit 3 employee recommended to be the chair will not hold a concurrent position of leadership or authority where an administrator is the direct supervisor. 
      7. Rare exceptions to the process outlined in V.A.1-6 may occur in cases of new faculty hires which include a department chair. 
    2. Appointment
      1. Department recommendations will normally be accepted, except in rare instances and for compelling reasons.4 If the University President disagrees with the recommendation by the department, the University President shall notify the department of the objection and its basis in writing no later than the 1st week of the subsequent spring semester. The department may respond by resubmitting its original recommendation, or repeating the recommendation process.
      2. The President appoints the department chair from the faculty recommended by the department (cf. CBA 20.32).
    3. Interim Appointment
      In the event of a vacancy in the department chair position, the department may recommend an interim chair. In the absence of a department recommendation for an interim chair, the University President may appoint an interim chair. In either case, the interim chair will serve the remainder of the semester of the interim appointment and until the department recommends and the University President appoints a new department chair pursuant to the processes in Section V.A. and V.B.
  6. Removal of Department Chairs
    Removal of the department chair may be initiated either by the department or the University President.
    1. Removal Initiated by the Department
      1. The department may request that the department chair be removed by an affirmative vote of the majority of the department faculty members voting on the question.
      2. After taking such a vote, the department must, within one business day, notify the University President of the concerns about the department chair and its recommendation to terminate the department chair’s appointment.
      3. Upon receipt of the department’s recommendation, the University President shall meet with the incumbent department chair to discuss the concerns brought forward by the department. If the University President agrees with the recommendation by the department to terminate the department chair’s appointment, the incumbent department chair shall be removed. The Department Chair should be removed within 10 business days, during which time a new department chair shall be recommended and appointed in accordance with Section V. 
    2. Removal by the President
      1. Department chairs serve at the pleasure of the University President (cf. CBA 20.32). The University President may remove the department chair before the conclusion of the term. Removal of the department chair by the University President shall only occur in rare instances and for compelling reasons.
      2. No department chair shall be removed solely for carrying out the provisions of CSU and SSU policies and the requirements under the CFA/CSU Collective Bargaining Agreement.
      3. If the department chair is removed before the conclusion of the term, the University President shall, within one business day, notify the department of the decision and the basis for the decision in writing.

1 The school dean serves as the President’s designee for this policy.
2 This deadline gives the new chair the spring semester to learn from the existing chair, and to take advantage of training offered by the administration. 
3 See Lecturers in Departmental Governance policy.
4 See Faculty Consultation in University Decision Making policy.