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Washington State University
Washington State University Office of the Provost

Policies Department Chairs

Provost’s Guidelines on the Duties and Responsibilities of Chairs and Directors

The Provost has provided a more detailed list of the duties and responsibilities of chairs of departments and directors of schools. This list appears below. As always, deans will interpret these duties. Therefore, department chairs should check with their deans for additional information. Links to tools that may help with implementing these duties appear throughout the document. If the link takes you to the page for the Departmental Chairs and Directors Training Workshops, please click on the appropriate workshop for a link to the appropriate handouts.

Strategic Planning

  • Lead the formulating and implementing of a departmental strategic plan that is consistent with the college and University strategic plans.
    • Develop and sustain excellent, potentially multiple-disciplinary, programs in the plan.
  • Actively participate in the dean’s leadership team.
    • Regularly attend the college meeting of chairs.
    • Help to develop and implement the college’s strategic plan especially within your department.
    • Serve as the dean’s representative in the daily operation of the department.


  • Communicate with the dean.
    • Communicate the department’s needs and issues affecting it.
    • Advocate for the department.
  • Communicate with the faculty, staff and students.
    • Regularly schedule and lead departmental meetings.
    • Communicate information received from the dean to the faculty, staff and students.
    • Inform departmental personnel of university and college goals and strategic plans.


  • Responsibly manage the departmental budget (workshop on ‘Managing your Units Budget’) and understandi the University’s budget
    • Ensure that those responsible for grants or other departmental budgets do not overspend their budgets.


  • Recruit, retain and develop the best possible students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Faculty and Staff

  • Recruit the best possible faculty and staff.
    • Select areas of recruitment based on the department’s strategic plan and goals. Do not merely replace the person who left.
    • Select an appropriate search committee.
    • Build a good pool of diverse candidates.
    • Ensure that well-organized and thorough interviews are conducted.
    • Select the right candidate.
    • Negotiate the offer.
    • Make a good impression on the candidate (workshop on ‘University Overview: Faculty Recruitment, Mentoring and Retention’).
    • Write an offer letter (see Offer Letters) that will be appropriate for many years. It is a contract.
    • Additional Resources
  • Develop the potential of the faculty (workshop on ‘Faculty Performance Reviews’) and staff. Ensuring the optimal development of junior faculty members is an important responsibility of a department chair or school director.

    • Conduct annual reviews that are developmental as well as evaluative.
      • Work with faculty members who receive poor reviews to correct problems.
      • If problems persist consider disciplinary action per the Faculty Manual and consult your dean, the Provost’s Office (for most faculty issues), the Vice President for Research (for research misconduct), Human Resource Services (for staff), the Dean of Students (for undergraduate students), the Dean of the Graduate School (for graduate students) and/or the University Assistant Attorney General, as appropriate, before taking action.
      • Make salary recommendations based on the annual review, the criteria in the Faculty Manual and any additional instructions from the Budget or Provost’s Offices.
      • Additional resources:
      • Conduct intensive (third-year) reviews that lead logically to the tenure decision unless unusual circumstances occur. Make sure that those evaluations are consistent with the:
    • Conduct the tenure and promotion review.
    • Help to select and then appoint internal and external mentors for assistant and associate professors.
    • Prioritize requests for Professional Leave and staff training.
    • Know and provide information about the University’s Faculty Friendly Policies.
    • Nominate faculty and staff members for college and university awards.
    • Nominate faculty and staff, when appropriate, for leadership development.


  • Supervise the delivery and assessment of the department’s curriculum.
    • Plan for both short- and long-term curricular needs.
    • Work with the dean’s office to resolve enrollment management issues.
    • Oversee the design, implementation, and use of assessment of student learning in the department’s degree programs to support high quality education and student achievement.
    • Make teaching assignments for faculty and graduate students. Teaching loads need not be identical across faculty members. Instead, loads should be:
      • Consistent with agreed upon performance expectations for individual faculty members.
      • In the best interests of the department.

Resource Management

  • Assign offices and research space in a manner that makes optimal use of the space. Space assignments need not be equal in terms of square feet.
  • Manage departmental equipment.
  • Make departmental committee assignments without abusing those who are willing to serve or indulging those who are reluctant to serve
  • Foster a departmental culture of civility, collegiality and teamwork with an appreciation and respect for diversity.
    • Organize team-building departmental activities as necessary (e.g., retreats, social gatherings).
    • Communicate in a positive and optimistic manner with departmental personnel.
  • Manage faculty (workshop on ‘Dealing with Faculty Personnel Issues’), staff (workshop on “Dealing with Staff Personnel Issues’) and student (workshop on “Dealing with Student Issues’) conflicts in an appropriate manner.
  • Manage the department’s external accreditation efforts.
  • Compile information about the status of your department.
  • Work with faculty, staff and administrators on the other WSU campuses (workshop on ‘Working with other campuses’).
    • Periodically visit department members at distant locations (e.g., at annual review time).
  • Understand and implement university policies and procedures.
  • Understand legal issues and risk management.
  • Assist the dean in development activities.
  • Undertake other tasks assigned by the dean.