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1.6 College and Departmental Administration

Academic units of The University of Tennessee are varied and diverse both in their role and scope and in their mode of organization. In most colleges, an academic dean serves as the chief officer and department heads administer the work of academic departments within the college. Other college administrators include assistant deans, associate deans, and/or directors. In some smaller colleges, the dean also has responsibilities assigned to department heads. All administrators are expected to act on principles of shared governance and hence seek the advice and recommendations of faculty.

1.6.1 Academic Deans

Generally, the dean has these administrative concerns:

  1. the academic program in its college-wide aspects, in the special relationships among its departments, and its relation to the larger university and public
  2. the faculty of the college and the leadership of the college (directors and department heads, college committees and task forces), their well-being, development, review, assessment, and renewal
  3. the encouragement and support of teaching, research, creative activity, and public service
  4. the support services for the conduct of college business (staff, facilities, equipment)
  5. the strategic planning
  6. the budget preparation, review, and analysis for the college
  7. the fund-raising and developing relationships with outside constituents

The university looks to the dean for definitive recommendations about the curriculum; staffing; faculty promotion, tenure, and review; development needs; and all financial aspects of college operation. These recommendations are made after consultation with appropriate faculty and/or college or department level committees, as well as department heads.

Deans are appointed after an internal or external search conducted according to guidelines published by the Office of Equity and Diversity (OED). The chief academic officer selects the chair of the search committee from outside the college and appoints members of the committee from persons nominated by tenured and tenure-track faculty members of the college. A majority of the search committee is composed of tenured and tenure-track faculty members of the college, chosen to represent a balance among the academic areas of the college. The committee may include representation from non-tenure-track faculty members, departmental staff members, students, and where appropriate faculty members from outside of the college, as covered by collegiate bylaws. According to university requirements for upper-level searches (department head and above), membership of the search committee must be diverse, particularly in terms of gender and race.

The dean is expected to take an active role in decision making that may or may not be in agreement with faculty and/or department heads and that may involve identification of needs that have not been made explicit in department reports, or that recommend the orchestration of joint programs and ventures, and the development and execution of alternative means for doing the work of the college. The Office of the Dean, like all other administrative offices, carries no tenure. The dean serves at the will of the chief academic officer, normally for a five-year term that may be renewed. The chief academic officer shall conduct annual reviews of the dean, including surveys of tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track faculty as well as staff. The chief academic officer provides a summary assessment of the dean’s performance, including goals established for the coming year, which is available for inspection for the college’s faculty. The decision to reappoint a dean to a new term shall be made after a reappointment review, based on annual reviews by the chief academic officer and a survey of members of the college, similar to that administered for the annual review. In no case should a judgment on retention or non-retention be made without consultation with the faculty, who are involved to a degree at least co-extensive with their role in the selection process.

1.6.2 Department Head

In discipline-specific colleges not organized into schools or departments, the dean serves as both dean and department head. In this handbook, the term “department head” includes administrators with other titles, such as director, who performs the duties of a unit administrator, where the basic administrative units are typically departments, but not always (e.g. schools). The head is a member of the faculty who is assigned the special duty of administering the department. The head is appointed in consultation with the faculty of the unit that he or she will administer.

The head’s responsibilities include

  1. providing leadership for the departmental academic program in relation to the comprehensive academic program of the university
    1. recruiting faculty and staff
    2. working with faculty to plan, execute, and review curriculum
    3. encouraging and supporting faculty teaching, research and creative activity, and public service
    4. counseling and advising students majoring in the discipline
    5. representing the department to the public, the other faculty and administration, colleagues at other universities and institutions, and the constituency supporting the university
  2. providing leadership for the infrastructure necessary for support of the academic programs through
    1. employment and supervision of clerical and supporting personnel
    2. management of departmental physical facilities and planning for space and equipment needs
    3. resource enhancement
    4. preparation, presentation, and management of the departmental budget
    5. authorization of all expenditures from the department budget
  3. planning annual performance and review faculty and staff

1.6.3 Effective Departmental Governance

Successful governance of a department is critical to achieving the teaching, research, and service missions of the unit. The collaboration of the department head and the departmental faculty is an essential cornerstone of this success. This collaboration is best implemented through departmental bylaws that define the policies and procedures of the department, and a departmental strategic plan that articulates the vision for the future of the department. Ideally, the head is but one voice in the construction of such documents with the added responsibility of guiding the faculty toward a clear articulation of their policies and vision. Faculty members are responsible for participating constructively in the creation of these documents, which should represent a strong departmental consensus. Departmental bylaws must be congruent with college and university rules, and the Faculty Handbook. The bylaws address issues, such as the governance structure of the department; search process for new tenure-track faculty; departmental voting protocols; criteria for promotion, retention and evaluation of tenure-track and tenured faculty members; selection, evaluation and roles of non-tenure-track faculty members in the department; input into criteria for evaluation of department heads; application of faculty evaluations to salary adjustments; and the role of the faculty in setting departmental budget priorities. A departmental strategic plan discusses the needs, goals, and aspirations of the department, providing guidance to both the head and the faculty members about achieving departmental objectives in teaching, research and service. Such plans should be constructed and revised as necessary in the context of college and university goals.

Departmental bylaws and the strategic plan provide the head with guidance for day-to-day decisions about conducting personnel evaluations, handling budgetary responsibilities, dealing with facilities issues, improving the student experience, achieving appropriate diversity goals, and representing the department to the college and university. The head conducts regular faculty meetings (at least two per semester), and facilitates the work of departmental faculty committees as outlined in the bylaws. After approval by the dean, the head conducts searches for new faculty and staff members in accordance with departmental bylaws and university policies. The head meets annually with each faculty member to conduct a performance review and write an evaluation, in accordance with departmental bylaws, the Faculty Handbook and the Manual for Faculty Evaluation.

1.6.4 Selection of Department Heads

The head is appointed to a five-year term, serving at the will of the dean, and can be reappointed by the college dean. Prior to initiating a search for a new department head, the departmental faculty meets and drafts a statement, using input from all departmental constituencies including minority opinions, that is sent to the dean, containing their expectations for the position in the context of the departmental vision and their recommendation for an internal or external search. This communication is followed by a meeting of the dean with all departmental faculty members. Typically, the dean’s decision to conduct an external or internal search is a function of departmental, college, and institutional priorities and budget. The dean will communicate a decision to the departmental faculty about the search with allowance for response and discussion, particularly where the decision of the dean disagrees with the departmental expectations. However, the dean’s decision is final and must be consistent with the university’s diversity and equity policies.

For internal and external searches, the dean appoints the chair of the search committee from outside the department. Departmental tenure-track and tenured faculty members collectively recommend a slate of departmental faculty for the search committee, from which the dean selects all departmental representatives on the search committee. A majority of the search committee is composed of tenured faculty members of the department, representing the academic constituencies of the unit, but the committee may include representation from tenure-track faculty members, non-tenure-track faculty members, students, and where appropriate, faculty members from outside the department, as covered by departmental bylaws. The dean has responsibility to assure appropriate representation in search committee membership.

The search committee follows the institutional procedures for an upper-level search as published by the Office of Equity and Diversity. After all candidates for the headship are interviewed, the departmental personnel meet to discuss their preferences. While all departmental constituencies have input into the discussion, only the tenure-track and tenured faculty members conduct an anonymous vote for their choice, unless non-tenure-track faculty are otherwise permitted by departmental bylaws to vote in department head selections. A summary of the faculty discussion and a record of the vote become part of the narrative that the search committee submits to the dean with the recommendation of the committee about candidates for the headship. Normally, the vote of the faculty guides the decision of the search committee. Similarly, the vote of the faculty and the recommendation of the search committee guide the decision of the dean. If the dean’s choice of candidate for the headship disagrees with the vote of the faculty, he or she will provide reasons in writing to the departmental faculty and offer the tenure-track and tenured faculty members as a group the opportunity to discuss the decision. The faculty has a right to meet with the chief academic officer about the dean’s decision.

1.6.5 Annual Evaluation of Department Heads

Departmental faculty members provide annual objective and systematic evaluation of the head to the dean of the college, following procedures stated in departmental bylaws that are consistent with university policy[1]. The dean meets with the head annually to discuss job performance. This discussion is based on the review of the departmental faculty and the evaluation of the dean. The dean provides a summary assessment, including goals established for the coming year, which is available for inspection by departmental faculty.

1.6.6 Reappointment of Department Heads

The final decision on the reappointment of a department head rests with the dean—or deans in cases where a department head reports to more than one dean. (The singular form is understood to represent the plural form in this Section 1.4.6., as applicable.) A department head may be reappointed for an additional five-year term after a reappointment review. The dean shall base the review on the annual evaluations of the department head by the departmental faculty and the annual assessment of the department head by the dean (as provided for in Section 1.4.5) and on input from relevant constituencies. In particular, prior to making a decision on reappointment, the dean shall (a) solicit input from all departmental groups, including students, staff, and faculty and (b) consult extensively with tenured, tenure-track, and other full-time departmental faculty having voting rights on matters other than tenure and promotion, as may be determined in the departmental bylaws (collectively, the “Voting Faculty”). The process for input solicitation and consultation shall include a vote of the Voting Faculty on the reappointment and may be further defined in collegiate or departmental bylaws. The faculty vote and the bases for that vote shall be documented in writing and promptly sent to the dean for review. Absent compelling circumstances, the dean shall give great weight to the consensus views of the Voting Faculty in making reappointment decisions. The dean shall issue a written report to the Voting Faculty that states his or her final decision on the reappointment of the department head and the reasons for that decision, citing to support from the annual evaluations and other input.

During the term of office of the department head, he or she serves at the will of the dean. If a department head is not reappointed, the dean shall begin the process of selecting a new department head in accordance with Section 1.4.4.

[1] In cases where a department head reports to more than one dean, unit bylaws determine inclusion of additional supervisors.