integrity of the enterprise.
Essential in this is the role of administrators in the university.
From the university president on down to the department head, college
faculty should insist that its leaders be strong scholars if there is
any hope of having the value of research and scholarship properly
represented. A key to this entire undertaking is the department head,
and essential to his/her success is the understanding by the faculty of
the role of the head.
Am I an expert on being a department head? Of course not. In
fact, after six years of searching, I haven't found any experts. I do
have some credentials that justify my writing this book and might
warrant your time in reading it. I have been a head for 6 years now
and I was a faculty member for 25 years before that. During that
25-year stretch, I was in a department that had an election for chair
every three years and chairs were not allowed to succeed themselves.
Under this system I got to see a lot of different styles. I also try to be
an observant person and have some sensitivity to the world around
Another part of my background that contributes to my creden-
tials for writing this book is that since I became a head I have con-
sciously set about to study the job. Part of my routine is an internal
debriefing at the end of the day, usually as I take a walk before dinner.
When I visit another department I invariably schedule an appointment
to meet my counterpart and learn how they approach their job. In
fact, since I became a head I have used every opportunity presented
me to learn what others do as heads. Initially I did this to learn how
to do my job better. With time, the idea of writing this book took
shape and seeking out other heads became a part of the reason for
accepting a speaking invitation. It didn't take long to realize that
heads face many of the same problems, no matter the type or size of
Now some nomenclature. Is it Head? Chair? Chairperson?
What's in a name? I really don't care what you call the position,
but for some academics the term "head" seems to have a meaning
distinct from that of "chair". They refer to a "head" as someone
who has a great deal of central authority and a "chair" as someone
who is at the head of a democratized unit. My position is more like
the former, and it is explicitly stated in our bylaws that all votes are
advisory to the head.
I lived most of my academic life under a "chair" system. This