Appointment of Department Chairs and Directors of Schools


April 26, 2002

Revision Date


A 13.02

Revision No.


The Chair of a department shall be a faculty member who has the respect and confidence of the members of the department and the skill and initiative to guide and manage the department. During the period of appointment, Chairs must make the interests of the department their paramount concern. Chairs should be appointed because of their dedication to teaching, research and service; their intellectual, professional and administrative abilities, and their leadership skills. Chairs should ensure that the decision-making process includes full discussion with interested persons and they should be adept at reconciling differing viewpoints.


  • "department" shall be read to include those academic units known as schools;
  • "chair" shall be read to include directors of schools;
  • "faculty member" means tenured and tenure-track faculty and continuing laboratory instructors, lecturers and senior lecturers

  1. Selection and Appointment Process

    1.1 At least 8 months before the end of the incumbent's appointment, the Dean shall consult with the department about the position. If the department wishes to include external candidates in the search there must be a further consultation with the department involving the Dean and the Vice-President, Academic, who will make the final decision. The search process shall be advisory to the Vice-President, Academic.

    1.2 Search Committee. Where a search committee is required, it shall have the following membership: a. The Dean of the Faculty, who will chair the committee; b. Four faculty members elected by the faculty of the unit; c. Two registered Simon Fraser University students: one undergraduate student who has declared a major in the department, selected by the Departmental Student Union or by the Student Society if no Departmental Student Union exists; one graduate student in the department elected by the graduate students in the department; in the event that no graduate student is available, a second undergraduate student may be selected, and similarly if no undergraduate student is available, a second graduate student may be selected; d. One faculty member from another department in the Faculty selected by the committee of Chairs which advises the Dean of the Faculty. The quorum for this search committee shall be the Chair plus four others, at least three of whom shall be faculty in the department.

    1.3 The Dean shall ensure that both male and female members are adequately represented on the search committee. Appropriate representation will vary by discipline but should not be less than 20% or greater than 80% of male or female members. The Dean shall also ensure that appropriate employment equity strategies are used.

    1.4 In a search that is not to include external candidates, a candidate for ratification from within the department shall be identified through one of the following procedures in order of preference:

    1. an election supervised by the Dean, or

    2. another procedure suggested by the department and approved by the Dean, or

    3. a search using a search committee as described in section 1.3.

    1.5 In the case of a search that is to include external candidates, a description of the position shall be prepared by the committee and the announcement of the position opening shall be advertised in accordance with the advertising requirements for Category A appointments as described in A 10.01, the Academic Appointments Policy, with appropriate references to current immigration regulations, and to the employment equity program at the University.

    1.6 During a search, faculty members, professional and support staff and students in the department shall be formally consulted regarding qualities and attributes needed for the leadership of the department and invited to submit nominations.

    1.7 Search committees shall follow normal search procedures including reviewing applications, short-listing candidates, arranging interviews and presentations by the short-listed candidates, and making a recommendation for appointment to the Vice-President, Academic. In the case of an external candidate, A 10.01 appointment procedures shall be followed, but the search process shall be as specified in this policy.

    1.8 A ratification vote of the recommended candidate shall be held and faculty members shall be eligible to vote. The vote shall be organized by the Dean's office and the vote shall be counted in the presence of a faculty scrutineer. A positive ratification is one where a majority of those voting support the recommended candidate. The Dean shall forward a recommendation concerning the appointment to the Vice-President, Academic.

    1.9 If the Vice-President, Academic supports the appointment of the recommended candidate, a recommendation to appoint the candidate shall be forwarded to the President for recommendation to the Board of Governors for approval. If the Vice-President, Academic does not support the appointment of a candidate, he/she shall inform the candidate, department and Dean of the reasons and another candidate shall be recommended through the processes specified in sections 1.3 through 1.8.

  1. Term of Appointment

    2.1 The term of appointment normally shall be either three or five years.

    2.2 The appointment may be renewed for a further term, subject to a ratification vote as outlined in 1.8 above.

    2.3 The terms and conditions of appointment of academic administrators are contained in A 13.04.

  1. Responsibilities

    3.1 The Chair has overall responsibility for ensuring that Departmental policies are formulated and followed, that University and Faculty policies and procedures are followed, and that individual members of the Department fulfill their assigned duties.

    3.2 Policy decisions which affect the Department as a whole should, in general, be determined at Department meetings or by committees designated by the Department for making such decisions. However, there shall be occasions when the Chair will have to make decisions affecting the Department as a whole before these can be considered at a Department meeting, and when that happens, the Chair shall report decisions taken to the Department members.

    3.3 While the Chair is the administrator of the Department, other members of the Department may share in administrative responsibilities. The operating procedures of the department shall be made known to all members of the Department. Through the process of selecting a Chair, all department members commit themselves to support the incumbent, and must tolerate the Chair's right to take a position which differs from that of some members of the Department. The Chair undertakes to provide democratic leadership taking note of majority and minority views. The members of the Department should take special note of the views of the Chair compared to those of other members, because of the Chair's special knowledge of possible administrative or other implications of decisions they may reach, and because of the Chair's responsibility in carrying out such decisions.

    3.4 The Chair's ultimate responsibility exists most clearly in the implementation of University, Faculty and Departmental decisions. One of the Chair's duties is to act as a spokesperson in reporting decisions of the Department to senior University administrators and other sections of the Faculty. The Chair also serves as the channel for communicating to the Department decisions made by the Dean, the Vice-Presidents, the President, Senate and the Board. The Chair must report to the Dean disagreement within the department regarding the Chair’s leadership or significant dissent from Departmental decisions, including the Chair's own reservations, if any. The Chair also has the right and duty to report failure on the part of members of the Department to fulfill University, Faculty or Department responsibilities, especially obligations to students, and to suggest ways of preventing such failures. The Chair is also required to maintain privacy in matters of a confidential, personal nature.

  1. Reconsideration

    4.1 The appointment of a Chair may be rescinded by the Board of Governors for non-performance of duties, non-compliance with University policy or with the constitution of the Department; or for other serious acts or omissions related to his/her responsibilities as Chair.

    4.2 A formal request for the reconsideration of the suitability of a Chair may be made by the faculty members of a Department to the Dean. Normally, such a request cannot be made during the first year of the appointment of a Chair.

    4.3 The formal request must be in writing, setting out the particulars of the grounds for reconsideration of the Chair’s appointment and must be signed by at least one-half of the faculty members eligible to vote in the election or ratification of a Chair.

    4.4 Upon receipt of a formal reconsideration request, the Dean will provide a copy to the Chair and give him/her an opportunity to respond to it. If the issue(s) are not resolved at this stage, the Dean must institute a conflict resolution process, which may involve the appointment of a mediator, with the aim of resolving the issue to the mutual satisfaction of the parties involved. The Dean should communicate in writing with all faculty members of the Department as to the process to be used and the timelines to be followed. The satisfactory resolution of the matter at this stage will be evidenced by a written agreement of the parties or a vote at a departmental meeting.Where attempts to resolve the conflict are unsuccessful, the Dean shall put the issue of the reconsideration of the Chair to a vote no later than 30 working days after the end of the conflict resolution stage. The vote shall be by secret ballot conducted by the Dean’s Office. The results of the ballot will be made public within 24 hours of the results being tallied. If the motion to reconsider the suitability of the Chair does not receive the support of at least 60% of the voting faculty members no further reconsideration shall take place for at least one year. If the motion to reconsider has the support of at least 60% of the voting faculty members the Dean shall inform the Vice-President, Academic, and shall make a recommendation on whether or not the Chair’s appointment should be rescinded, to which the Chair shall be entitled to make a written response.

  1. Acting Chair

    It may be necessary to appoint an acting Chair where a Chair is unable to continue in the role either temporarily1 or permanently. The appointment of an acting Chair for 4 months or less can be approved by the Dean and does not need ratification by the department. An appointment of an acting Chair for more than 4 months must be ratified by the department and must be approved by the Vice President, Academic on the recommendation of the Dean. The term of appointment of an acting Chair should not exceed 16 months or four semesters.

  1. Voter Eligibility

    All faculty members other than those who are on an unpaid leave of absence are eligible to vote under this policy.


Questions of interpretation or application of this policy shall be referred to the President, whose decision shall be final.

1 This section is NOT intended to apply to temporary absences of a chair due to vacation or work-related travel.