Policy Number: 103

Policy Suffix:

I. General Policy

This policy describes the roles, responsibilities, and duties of department chairs ("chairs"), and is applicable to any faculty member who becomes a chair. In schools that do not have traditional departments, the dean may assign individuals to carry out some or all of the responsibilities that are usually handled by chairs.

This policy also provides guidance for deans on how to appoint and evaluate chairs in their schools.

II. Roles and responsibilities

The deans have the primary responsibility for the management of Policy 103 for their respective schools.

III. Definitions

Department chairs ("chairs") are faculty members who are appointed by the school's dean following consultation with the department faculty and with the approval of the provost. Chairs serve at the discretion of the president, although oversight authority is generally delegated to their dean.

IV. Elaboration of policy

A. Terms of Appointment

A chair's term is usually for up to five years, and a chair may be reappointed without limit on the number of terms. The appointment to chair, however, is not permanent.

Appointments of chairs are on a year-round basis; the responsibilities of chairs extend beyond traditional spring and fall semesters. Therefore chairs are expected to devote appropriate time to departmental duties during the summer.

B. Chair Roles and Responsibilities

Chairs are responsible for the administration of their departments and are the primary liaison between the department and the dean. In schools that do not have traditional departments, the dean may assign individuals to carry out some or all of the responsibilities that are usually handled by chairs. The expectations for these individuals regarding these responsibilities are identical to those for department chairs.

The chair may delegate specific duties and responsibilities to the department's faculty or staff, where appropriate and effective. However, the ultimate responsibility for these activities rests with the chair. For this reason, participation in mandatory ongoing training related to their role as chair may be required.

Whenever possible, chairs are expected to build an inclusive, collegial, and consultative environment, engaging and informing faculty through department meetings and discussions, and creating a culture of fairness, transparency and excellence. The chair is also expected to seek consensus among the department faculty before undertaking any major decision unless required to do otherwise by the dean, provost, president, or university policy.

The principal responsibilities of chairs include:

  1. Providing strategic and operational leadership of the department. The chair maintains an understanding of the activities, resources, and expertise of the entire department, promotes effective planning to reach strategic goals (including interdisciplinary and interdepartmental ones), fosters consensus for future directions, participates in fundraising in collaboration and communication with the relevant development office(s) and advocates for the resources needed to reach the department's goals, and oversees the department's progress towards reaching the stated goals.
  2. Chairs should seek to maintain a collegial and professional atmosphere in the department while creating a culture of excellence. They should attempt to set a tone that aligns with the university's values.
  3. Planning and overseeing departmental space utilization, budget development and management, and property assigned to the department. This includes preparing budget requests and recommendations, in consultation with the dean, faculty, staff, and others as appropriate.
  4. Supervising academic programs. Chairs supervise departmental programs for undergraduate and graduate students, teaching assignments and schedules, and related service activities. This responsibility includes overseeing graduate student recruitment and admissions, distributing teaching assignments/teaching loads and service activities in an equitable manner, and overseeing accreditation and evaluation activities including external reviews.
  5. Leading the department in personnel-related processes. Chairs coordinate recruitment efforts, performance evaluations, and promotion processes for all levels of department faculty and staff in their departments. This includes identifying and recruiting diverse faculty, staff and graduate students, providing mentorship and development opportunities for department faculty, staff, and students, and conducting regular performance reviews of faculty and staff in accordance with University policy.
  6. Managing the processes associated with faculty and staff searches, appointments, pay raises and promotions within the department. Chairs have a significant role in gathering information for dossiers in the promotion process for faculty and making recommendations for promotion and salary for faculty and staff.
  7. Maintaining oversight of the entire department. The chair oversees day-to-day operations, supervises staff assignments and activities, pursues development efforts, and appoints department personnel to committees to facilitate department functions.
  8. Resolving conflicts that arise among faculty, students or staff, through either direct engagement or indirectly by engaging faculty colleagues or by utilizing university resources (e.g., the dean, Human Resources, General Counsel, Director of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs and Affirmative Action, etc.).
  9. Ensuring departmental adherence to University policies and procedures and external regulatory policies and requirements, including those from federal, state, local sources. Conveys to department staff and faculty the expectation of compliance with policies and with specific research grant requirements.
  10. Connecting the department with the rest of the university. The chair represents the department and advocates for the department with the dean and other external constituents. At the same time, the chair bears responsibility for supporting the overall goals of the university, which may not always be in full consonance with departmental goals. The chair regularly engages with the department faculty, staff, and students to inform them about the department, school, and university expectations, plans, activities, and decisions.

In the exercise of the duties of the office, the chair deals with various administrative officials. In all matters that require the approval of the provost, president, or Board of Trustees of Rice University, the chair will consult with the dean and make recommendations to the dean unless advised otherwise by the dean.

V. Cross References to Related Policies

Policy 201, "Faculty Appointments, Promotions, and Tenure"

Policy 214, "Faculty Performance Reviews"

VI. Responsible Official and Key Offices to Contact Regarding the Policy and its Implementation

Responsible Official: Provost

Other Key Offices: Deans; Faculty Senate

VII. Procedures and Forms


David W. Leebron, President

Policy History


April 26, 2021


January 25, 1995