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Selection and Review of Academic Department Heads

  • Issuing Office: Office of the Provost
  • Issued: September 2014

Policy Statement

I. Purpose

The successful academic and administrative performance of the head of an academic department is vital to the accomplishment of the mission and vision of that department and, by extension, of the college/school in which that department resides and the University. Their professional performance, management style, and personal conduct affect the welfare of the academic department; the academic quality of the department in terms of the teaching and scholarship performance of its faculty; the quality of life of its faculty; the professional growth and fulfillment of its undergraduate and graduate students; and the internal and external public image of the department. Consequently, the faculty members of the department play an essential role in the selection and performance review of the Department Head.

II. Policy

It is the policy of the University to ensure a wide variety of opinion and input from the faculty, professional staff and students in the selection of a Department Head of an academic department within a college/school.  Thus, in this policy, the following procedures outline the selection process for the Department Head, the duration of their service, and the process for their periodic performance review.  When necessary, and adhering to the spirit of this policy, these guidelines may be adjusted to meet the particular circumstances of any academic department or college/school, with details determined through consultation by the department's voting faculty members, the Department Head (where appropriate), the dean, and subject to the approval of the Provost (or the President, in the case of Drexel University College of Medicine, "COM").

II.   Definitions:

1.    Academic Department
An academic department is any academic administrative entity that has been formed within a college or school that may be designated as a 'department', 'division', 'school' (residing within a college, for example the School of Economics), or other similar entity. 

2.    Department Head 
The Department Head is the chief academic and administrative officer in charge of the daily operations of an academic department of a college/school.  They are responsible for the myriad academic and administrative matters listed under Section VI below.  They are appointed by and reports to the dean/director of the college/school, using the procedures outlined below. Although the chief academic and administrative officer of an academic department may hold a title of 'department head', 'department chair', 'division chief', 'associate dean', or other similar title, for purposes of this policy, the term "Department Head" will be used.  At present, various colleges and schools may have different academic structures and hierarchies.  In some instances, the reporting hierarchy is not directly linked to the dean/director of the college/school but to a lower administrative level.   A listing of current Department Heads, as defined above, that fall under this policy will be maintained in the Office of the Provost and updated annually.

3.    Voting Members of a Department
For the purposes of this policy, the voting members of an academic department are all the tenure-track and tenured faculty members in the ranks of assistant professor, associate professor, and professor, and full-time teaching faculty in the same department unless agreed otherwise by the college/school. In a department that has no tenure-track and/or tenured faculty members who meet these criteria, voting eligibility will be determined by its faculty members following its own written procedures, subject to the approval of the dean/director and of the Provost, or the President, in the case of the COM.

4.    College/School Policies
Each college/school will have a detailed written job description for Department Heads and a set of written guidelines detailing procedures and criteria for their selection and evaluation.  These guidelines shall be in accordance with the broader statement of University policy detailed herein regarding the selection and review of Department Heads. The selection and performance review described herein will not preclude any administrative review as described elsewhere in the Drexel University Provost policies.  The underlying principle guiding the following procedures is that the selection of a Department Head requires the reasoned recommendation of the voting members of the academic department at issue and that such voting members play an essential role in their periodic performance review and evaluation.

III. Selection of a Department Head

1.    Interim Department Head

  1. Whenever a vacancy occurs, or is anticipated, in the headship of an academic department, the dean/director of the college/school shall appoint an interim Department Head, or otherwise assign the department's interim executive functions, after consultation with the department in a duly constituted department meeting, following its own established procedures.
  2. The interim Department Head shall preferably be a full professor and a member of the department.
  3. When a tenured full professor is not available to serve as interim Department Head, another votingfaculty member may be appointed subject to consultation with the department.

2.    Department Head Search Committee

  1. Whenever a vacancy occurs, or is anticipated, in the headship of an academic department, the college/school dean/director shall announce their intent to initiate a search for a new Department Head, open to either to: i) external candidates; ii) internal candidates; and iii) external and internal candidates, subject to consultation with the department in a duly constituted department meeting 1.
  2. Subsequently, the college/school dean/director shall appoint a Department Head search committee.  The dean/director should solicit nominations for the committee membership from the department faculty, and select its members from that pool of nominees.  It is expected that the membership will reflect the department's composition.
  3. The search committee will normally have five to seven members.
  4. It is expected that the college/school dean/director, shall appoint up to two additional members for five-member committee and up to three additional members for a seven-member committee, including from outside the department, one of whom should preferably be another Department Head from the same college/school. 
  5. No applicant for the position of Department Head will be appointed to serve on the search committee. Further, once the committee begins its deliberations no member of the search committee will be eligible to apply for the said position during that search cycle.

3. Charging the Committee and Selection of the Chair of Committee

  1. The college/school dean/director will call the first meeting of the search committee.  They will give the committee its charge and will preside while the committee chooses its chairperson.
  2. The college/school dean/director will then retire from the committee, but will be available for consultation during its deliberations if necessary.

4.  The Department Head Search Process

  1. The search committee will identify the best candidates to be interviewed by the department faculty, the college/school dean/director, and other appropriate constituents, following the established college/school written guidelines, standard operating procedures, or bylaws.
  2. The selection process shall include the candidates' interviews by the search committee; meeting with the department faculty, the undergraduate and graduate students, the college/school dean/director, and the Provost; and the public delivery of a professional seminar on their scholarship accomplishments, administrative experience, and vision for the department.  The search committee shall solicit letters of reference following the procedures outlined in the Drexel University Tenure and Promotion Policy [PDF].
  3. The selection committee shall solicit opinions from faculty (of all academic ranks, including adjunct faculty) and from students and present the results to the department in a duly-constituted meeting.
  4. The selection committee shall report periodically to the department faculty and the college/school dean/director on the progress of the search and the selection.
  5. Once the search committee has identified and selected a sufficient number (to be determined by the search committee in consultation with the college/school dean/director and the department) of acceptable candidates, the committee shall convene the department faculty in a duly constituted department meeting, as a committee of the whole, for their consideration and vote on of the committee's recommended candidate(s). The department vote should be by secret ballot and is non-binding.  At least two candidates shall be forwarded to the college/school dean/director, accompanied by a complete report describing the process and findings.
  6. The selection committee shall maintain strict confidentiality regarding all applicants, with the exception of those recommended to be invited to on-campus interviews.  Except as to any applicants invited to on-campus interviews, any other exception to this confidentiality  restriction must be approved by the affected applicant(s).  The identity of all references for any applicant will be kept confidential in all circumstances.

5. Eligibility 

  1. It is recommended that tenured full professors are to be considered for the position of Department Head.
  2. Under special circumstances, candidate qualifications, department configuration, and/or other factors may warrant consideration of non-full professors for the position of Department Head, subject to consultation with the department faculty, in a duly-constituted department meeting, and the approval of the college/school dean/director and the Provost.

6. Extension of the Search Process

  1. If none of the applicants recommended to the college/school dean/director is acceptable to the University officials whose approval is required, or if the recommended applicant(s) withdraw their candidacy, the search process will continue until an acceptable candidate is selected and approved by the University officials whose approval is required.  Subject to consultation with the department, the college/school dean/director may consider renewing the charge of the current selection committee or appoint a new selection committee, following the procedures described above, under Article III, sections 2 and 3.
  2. The college/school dean/director shall determine, following consultation with the department, whether the extended search is open to external or internal candidates, or both.
  3. At the request of the voting members of the department, expressed in a duly constituted meeting, or at the discretion of the college/school dean/director, a new search committee may be selected.
  4. In case the current interim Department Head is to be replaced during this extended search period, the process described under Article III, section 1 above, for appointing interim Department Head, will be followed.

IV. Terms of Appointment

1.    Initial Appointment:  The initial appointment of a new Department Head shall be for a five-year term.  Shorter terms are permissible under special circumstances.

2.    Reappointment:  Subject to performance reviews (as specified under Article V below), the Department Head may be reappointed to one additional five-year term.

3.    Length of Service: The total duration of service as a Department Head shall not exceed ten years. Any Department Head who has served a maximum of two terms (e.g., 10 years) shall not be eligible to serve as Department Head in the same or any other department of the University, unless an exception exists as provided below.

4.    Extension(s) of Appointment:  In exceptional cases, the appointment of a Department Head may be extended in writing beyond the maximum of ten years, for a specified period, provided that:

  1. The periodic performance and summative reviews of that Department Head were all excellent;
  2. The voting members of the department support the additional extension for a specified period;
  3. The college/school dean/director approves the additional extension for a specified period; and
  4. The Provost (or President, for the COM) approves the additional extension for a specified period.

5.    Permanent Appointments:  In rare cases and prior to the implementation of this policy, a Department Head may have been appointed to a permanent position.  When the indefinite term of appointment is contractually specified in writing for a Department Head prior to implementation of this policy, that Department Head will be repeatedly re-appointed provided that annual performance reviews and summative reviews, occurring at end-term in accordance with this policy, are satisfactory 2.   Once this policy has been approved, all newly appointed Department Heads shall serve for a five year term, renewable only for a second five-year term unless the exceptions exists as stated in Article IV.4

V. Performance Review of Department Heads

This section specifies a minimum standard for the review of Department Heads. The college/school dean/director shall conduct a review during the final year of their contract as Department Head.  These reviews are in addition to the standard formative and summative annual performance evaluations.  The dean/director may review the performance of the Department Heads more frequently or thoroughly if deemed appropriate.

The college/school dean/director must review the performance of the Department Head in the fall term of the final contract-year review, if the contract is renewable.  The final contract-year review may be conducted at an earlier time at the prerogative of the college/school dean/director, at the request of the Provost or President (for COM), or in response to a faculty petition signed by at least 25% of the voting members of the department.

1.    Department Head Performance Review Committee

  1. The college/school dean/director shall appoint a Department Head performance review committee (PRC). The membership of the PRC shall be appointed as outlined in Article III, Section 2.b.
  2. Depending upon the size of the department, normally the PRC will have three to five members.
  3. The college/school dean/director, shall appoint no more than two additional members, one of whom will be from outside the department, preferably another Department Head from the same college/school.

2. Charging of the Performance Review Committee (PRC) and Selection of Committee Chair 

  1. The college/school dean/director will call the first meeting of the PRC.  They will give the committee its charge and will preside while the committee chooses its chairperson. 
  2. The college/school dean/director will then withdraw from the committee, but will be available for consultation during its deliberations if necessary.

3.    The Performance Review Process

  1. The PRC will determine its own review process and mode of operation for surveying the department faculty, students, and other appropriate constituents, following the established college/school guidelines, standard operating procedures, or bylaws.
  2. The PRC should apply the evaluation criteria described in this policy, in Article VI.  Each college/school and department may formulate additional criteria not contradicting this policy and corresponding with its particular needs, but should adhere to the general criteria specified herein.  Such additional criteria should be approved by the respective voting members of the department and be publicly announced at least two years prior to the start of the performance review.
  3. The PRC shall survey all full time faculty members of the department, other department faculty members, the department's professional staff members, the department's undergraduate and graduate student committees, and other appropriate constituents as deemed necessary by PRC.
  4. The PRC shall maintain strict confidentiality regarding all the sources of information assembled and interviews conducted in the performance review process.  The identity of all interviewees will be kept confidential under all circumstances.
  5. Before preparing the final report, the PRC will review the findings with the Department Head and solicit their response.  The Department Head may respond verbally or in writing within five working days.
  6. At the conclusion of its review the PRC will submit its final written report to the college/school dean/director with a copy of the report to the department head. This report will include a description of the committee's mode of operation, the criteria used in conducting the review, its findings and recommendations, excluding all confidential information.
  7. The PRC should submit its written report to the college/school dean/director within ninety days from the day of the committee's first meeting. 
  8. The Department Head may submit, within ten business days, their written response and comments on the PRC's report to the college/school dean/director.

4.  Summary Decision

  1. The report of the PRC, the Department Head's response, and the college/school dean/director recommendations will be forwarded to the Provost for final decision such as re-appointment, termination, or other determinations. 
  2. Since the Department Head serves at the pleasure of the dean/director of the college/school (in consultation with the Provost, or President, as applicable), the final decision on reappointment will be made by the dean.  No reappointment will be approved unless the final contract-year performance review has been completed following the procedures described above.
  3. At the conclusion of the process, the college/school dean/director will issue to the department a written report of the review and the conclusions reached as soon as feasible, but no later than 60 days after the submittal of the PRC report.
  4. If the college/school dean/director, and/or the Provost (or President, as applicable), decides to continue or terminate the service of the Department Head in contradiction to the PRC's recommendation, they will consult with the department, in a duly constituted department meeting, about their decision.
  5. In case the Department Head is not to be reappointed for another five-year term, the Department Head may continue in their position to the end of the current five-year appointments.
  6. Simultaneously, a new Department Head search committee should be established within 90 days, pursuant to the procedures described in Article III, Section 2, above.
  7. If it becomes necessary to appoint a new interim Department Head, the appointment will follow the procedures described in Article III, Section 1, above.

VI. Criteria for Review of Department Head

The Department Head search and review criteria are to be set by each college/school and department in writing. The following criteria, offered as examples, can be adapted for the needs of each academic department. This list does not represent a job description; rather it is provided to guide a robust review process and should be customized to the needs of each academic department. Suggested areas for review include the following:

1. Strategic Planning

  1. Leading the process of strategic planning.
  2. Setting clear and appropriate goals and objectives, and aligning them with those of the college/school and the University.
  3. Effectively communicating these goals and objectives, inside and outside the department.
  4. Facilitating the accomplishment of these goals and objectives.
  5. Progressing in achieving the department's goals and objectives.
  6. Improving the department ranking and other quantitative indicators.
  7. Establishing an external advisory committee.
  8. Representing the department, and affecting its perceived external image.
  9. Establishing cross-disciplinary collaborations within and outside of the University.

2. Educational Programs and Assessment

  1. Improving the quality of undergraduate and graduate educational programs.
  2. Supporting Drexel's Program Alignment and Review (PAR) process as applicable.
  3. Implementing Drexel Student Learning Priorities (DSLPs).
  4. Abiding by the evaluation criteria and processes set forth by programmatic accreditors or other external regulators.
  5. Facilitating innovation in instructional approaches.
  6. Responding to student needs.
  7. Improving student retention and graduation rate.

3. Management and Stewardship

  1. Prudent and equitable management of income and expenditures.
  2. Effectiveness as a manager of the department's operations, including staffing, scheduling, marketing, and fundraising.
  3. Advocacy for faculty members to have the resources needed (space, equipment, workload, funding) for their scholarly work, research, and/or creative activities.
  4. Strategic and equitable allocation of resources, according to principles designed to elicit the greatest impact, among the faculty members and, if applicable, separate areas of the department.
  5. Distributing equitable teaching load among its tenure track, tenured, and contract faculty.
  6. Demonstrated impartiality in dealing with faculty, in terms of workload, assigning responsibilities, research support, merit raises, etc., and abiding by the University Policy regarding discrimination and workplace harassment.

4. Faculty Recruitment, Retention & Advancement

  1. Strategic recruiting of excellent faculty to support and build the department's academic programs.
  2. Fostering diversity and equity among faculty and staff.
  3. Creating a welcoming, collegial, and equitable climate and work environment.
  4. Encouraging an open exchange of ideas and diverse viewpoints regarding the progress of the academic department.
  5. Supporting faculty development and mentoring programs through workshops, and career development opportunities.
  6. Participating in Drexel-sponsored, external, or self-directed programs to develop leadership skills.
  7. Responsiveness to faculty needs.
  8. Offering feedback on faculty performance, accompanied by recommended improvement, if necessary.
  9. Effective management of the tenure/promotion process of tenure-track faculty.
  10. Effective management of the promotion process of full-time faculty.
  11. Supporting the inclusion, as appropriate, of full time and adjunct faculty members in departmental affairs.

5. Scholarly Work, Research, & Creative Activity

  1. Helping faculty members to build their portfolio, to develop a body of significant scholarly or creative work, in alignment with the department, college/school, and University priorities.
  2. Fostering and supporting activity in instruction and scholarship.

6. Shared Governance, Collaboration, and Department’s Culture

  1. Ensuring that all faculty members take part in the decision making process according to established departmental procedures and guidelines.
  2. Adhering to established departmental procedures and guidelines, to guide the decision making process on all key matters enumerated above.
  3. Soliciting advice from the department faculty and its advisory committees, and seeking consensus about departmental goals and important decisions.
  4. Effective delegation and empowering others to meet departmental goals.
  5. Conduct of department meetings in terms of productivity, efficiency, and collegiality.
  6. Respect of academic freedom and University policies.
  7. Reaching decisions in a timely manner, bringing issues to closure.
  8. Facilitating collaboration with other academic units in the college/school and University.
  9. Working effectively with the deans to meet college/school goals.
  10. Communicating clearly and consistently the policies and vision of the college/school and University to the department faculty.

7. Summary

Overall, is the Department Head worthy of reappointment?