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Faculty handbook receives summer duties update

December 4, 2008

UW-River Falls department chairs’ summer duties are now explained with more detail in Chapter II of the Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook due to a motion passed by the Faculty Senate.

The previous editions of the Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook included the department chair’s summer duties as simply holding “responsibility for a departmental presence at freshmen summer registration and maintaining a minimal office presence during the summer.”

The recent changes to the handbook will now include “typical summer responsibilities – but may not be limited to assuring an appropriate departmental presence for new student registration, maintaining an office presence and being the primary departmental contact in the event of an emergency.”

The small changes to Chapter II are significant because of the position department chairs hold at UWRF.

“I think it is a big issue. Department chairs plays such a big role in the academic field,” Kristen Hendrickson, budget director and vice chancellor for administration and finance, said.

At the Faculty Senate meeting on Oct. 22, a motion from the Faculty Welfare Committee was passed that would introduce a more specific detailed description of the department chair’s roles beyond the school year.  The Executive Committee sent the motion to Interim Chancellor Connie Foster, which was accepted as a permanent alteration on Nov. 17.

Hamid Tabesh, department chair of economics, commented on the additional duties to the handbook.

“I am clear of what I am responsible for, basically a lot of things, but it’s good that they are making it clear what I am responsible for,” Tabesh said.

The additional duties added to the handbook are part of a long process that has altered and developed the recent role of department chair on campus.

“A couple years ago, as an administrator, department chairs needed more compensation for their duties,” Hendrickson said. “Compensation and summer duties in the summer were issues and, with an increase in the compensation, expectations [of department chairs] were still unknown.”

With a well-earned increase in compensation and duties explained in the handbook, mathematics Department Chair Robert Coffman said he is pleased.

“I do believe that this is a good description and I believe that I am compensated for these duties,” he said.

The recent responsibilities added to the handbook have always been expected of the department chairs, but the duties can be seen, in writing, in the next Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook to be printed this fall.

The recent changes do clarify the expected duties of the position during the summer in a more specific manner, but the handbook still lacks complete guidance.

“I think it helped it clarify and made it more explicit,” Douglas Johnson, the interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and director of graduate studies, said. “But it still is somewhat vague. Yet, it is difficult to write a list of responsibilities of specific duties over a wide spread of departments. They did a good job accommodating.”

Department chair officials hold an important role on campus. The additional summer duties now included in the handbook are just a small portion of what the position entails throughout the year.

“I have to schedule classes for every semester, including summer semester. Summer advising is also part of my department duty. I am here to talk and answer questions about economics, classes and events such as the job fair,” Tabesh said.

With the long list of specific events and requirements, the crucial role of a department chair is to lead their department in the right direction.

“I look into the future, looking for trends, and factors that will be important to the department and bring it to the attention to teach,” Tabesh said.  “Our role is to be proactive, instead of reactive.”