The policies found on the website of the Secretariat are compulsory rules for the university community. The authoritative copies of the policies are held by the Secretariat and bear the seal of the university. The online version accessible through the website of the Secretariat is available for information purposes only. In case of discrepancy between the online version and the authoritative copy held by the Secretariat , the authoritative copy shall prevail. Please contact the Secretariat for assistance if necessary.

Established: 11 April 1972
Revised: 3 June 2014
Type of revision: Housekeeping
Mandatory Review Date: 20 May 2019
Supersedes: N/A
Class: A
Responsible/Originating Department: Vice-President, Academic & Provost
Executive Contact: Vice-President, Academic & Provost

1. Qualifications, duties and responsibilities

The chair of a department [or director of an academic unit of departmental status] will be a person of academic stature, appointed for her/his intellectual and administrative abilities, devotion to education and research, and qualities of leadership. The chair will be a tenured associate or full professor who has the ability to create an environment conducive to the growth of intellectual life within the department and to maintain the confidence and co-operation of her/his colleagues.

The chair has the dual role of representing the particular department's policies and points of view, and, as an officer of the faculty, making independent judgments on total faculty matters. The chair will report directly to the dean of the faculty. In addition, the chair is a member of the university's academic leadership team and as such contributes to the academic mission of the university through formal and informal venues, and interacts with chairs and other academic and academic support leaders from across the campus.

Within the department, the chair is responsible for providing academic and administrative leadership. In providing this leadership the chair shall consult with the members of the department, providing them with an adequate basis of information concerning its operations, and ascertaining their views and ideas concerning the various aspects of departmental operations. The chair normally will call regular department meetings, but alternative formal mechanisms of consultation may be developed. The principal duties of a chair shall include the advancement of the academic mission of the unit, the upholding of the highest academic standards, the assignment of equitable responsibilities, the management of the departmental budget, the implementation of the academic program, the oversight of the department's support staff, the allocation of space, the carrying out of annual performance reviews, and recommendations on matters pertaining to promotion and tenure, new appointments and reappointments, and salaries. The procedures followed by the chair in all matters shall of course be governed by prevailing department and faculty practices and university policies. Significant changes to department practices or procedures should not be made without wide consultation.

The chair may recommend the appointment of one or more associate chairs to assist in these tasks.

2. Term of office

The first term of office for a department chair is up to four years, renewable for up to four years, to a maximum of eight years.

Reappointment beyond a second consecutive term should be considered unusual and will occur only if there are compelling reasons, as specified by the nominating committee, along with strong support throughout the department.

The department chair's performance is reviewed annually by the dean. With the prior knowledge of the chair, the dean may seek confidential input from the faculty and staff of the department by any means s/he deems appropriate.

In the event of the chair's absence for any prolonged period, arrangements should be made for the dean to appoint an acting chair for a period of no more than one year.

If the office of the chair becomes unexpectedly vacant, through death, resignation, or other causes, it is the dean's responsibility to appoint, after appropriate consultation, an interim chair and to initiate the process of filling the vacancy as prescribed in section 3. The term of office of the interim chair should be of sufficient length for the nominating committee to complete its task and, normally, should not exceed one year.

The appointment of an untenured faculty member to an acting or interim position would be unusual but is not ruled out.

3. Appointment and reappointment procedures

A. Appointment of a nominating committee

When appointment or reappointment of a chair is required, as through notice of resignation, death, removal from office or the approaching end of a term, the dean will form a nominating committee. The nominating committee shall normally be formed no earlier than 18 months and no later than one full calendar year prior to the end of the term of office of the incumbent. The majority of the voting members of the nominating committee shall be elected by and from the regular faculty and staff members of the department.

In departments with fewer than five regular faculty members, the dean should meet with the vice-president, academic & provost and the regular faculty members of the department in order to work out a procedure consistent with the spirit of this policy. Otherwise, the nominating committee shall consist of:

  • The dean of the faculty, who shall chair the nominating committee.
  • Three regular faculty members elected by and from the regular faculty members of the department, where the membership of the department is 14 or fewer; departments with a membership of 15 or more regular faculty members may choose to elect one or two additional regular faculty members to the nominating committee.
  • One regular staff member, elected by and from the regular staff members of the department; departments with a membership of 10 or more regular staff members may choose to elect one or two additional regular staff members to the nominating committee.
  • A regular faculty member from another department within or outside the faculty, selected by the vice-president, academic & provost in consultation with the dean of the faculty.
  • The vice-president, academic & provost or delegate, ex officio, non-voting.
  • One undergraduate student in departments with undergraduate programs, and one graduate student in departments with graduate programs, chosen by the dean. Normally the dean shall consult with department or faculty student organizations where these exist. Student appointees are voting members of the nominating committee.
  • One additional non-voting member (e.g., non-regular faculty or staff) may be appointed by the dean following appropriate consultation with department members.

A reasonable gender balance should be maintained on nominating committees, whenever feasible. Membership on nominating committees shall be conditional on each person agreeing to maintain in confidence the information discussed by the nominating committee except on points where the nominating committee subsequently agrees otherwise, and to exercise authority and responsibility as an individual in order that decisions may be taken at the time and place of the nominating committee meetings.

In voting, the "double majority" rule shall be enforced such that a successful candidate must have majority support from all voting members of the nominating committee as well as majority support from the faculty and staff representatives of the department in the nominating committee.

If any member of the nominating committee becomes, or seeks to become, a candidate for the office of chair, the member shall resign from the nominating committee. In the event of a perceived conflict of interest that could compromise or be seen to compromise the member's judgment of the candidates, s/he shall disclose the nature of the conflict to the nominating committee in sufficient detail to enable the nominating committee to determine whether the member must resign from the nominating committee.

If the association of any members of the nominating committee with the university is terminated or in any way significantly altered, or if for any reason, including resignation, any member is unable to carry out responsibilities on the nominating committee, the nominating committee will request a replacement member, unless the nominating committee has reached the stage in its deliberations where it deems such a replacement inadvisable.

B. Terms of reference

It is understood that the nominating committee shall be responsible for soliciting the views of those affected, by ballot or otherwise, including part-time and non-regular faculty members, staff and student members of the department.

Reappointment of incumbent. The first charge to the nominating committee will be to solicit, with the prior knowledge of the incumbent and by whatever means it may decide, the opinion of members of the department, with respect to the reappointment of the incumbent. If the incumbent is found by the nominating committee to be generally acceptable by means of separate secret mail ballots of regular faculty and staff members of the department, the dean shall then determine the incumbent's willingness to accept reappointment.

If the department wishes reappointment and the incumbent wishes to continue, the dean shall forward a recommendation for reappointment to the vice-president, academic & provost who, if s/he approves, will forward the recommendation to the president. The president shall forward it to the board of governors for information.

New appointments. If the incumbent is not to be recommended for reappointment at the end of a first term, or if the incumbent is nearing the end of a second term, or if the incumbent has died, resigned or been removed, then the following procedure shall be followed. The nominating committee will invite nominations, by whatever means it considers appropriate, from any person or group; it will advertise the position, internally and externally; and it will establish criteria against which nominations and applications may be measured. There may be circumstances where the appointment of an external candidate would present significant resource challenges for the unit and its faculty; in such situations or when the dean feels there are compelling reasons for an internal appointment, the dean will determine in consultation with the nominating committee and the vice-president, academic & provost whether to restrict the search to internal candidates. When external candidates are included in the search, the procedures are to be consistent with those for faculty hiring in general [see Policy 76].

The nominating committee shall invite the members of the department and other interested persons to submit nominations, and it shall be responsible for the initial selection of suitable candidates. These candidates will be invited to meet with the nominating committee at the nominating committee's discretion, and to make themselves available to members of the department. After screening candidates, the nominating committee shall select the person it regards as most suitable for the position, and shall submit its recommendation for the appointment of that candidate to the department. However, if the nominating committee feels that two or more of the candidates are well qualified, it may choose to submit the choice between these to the members of the department.

The regular faculty and staff members of the department will then have the opportunity to indicate the acceptability of each candidate, and their choice among candidates, in separate secret mail ballots which shall be returned to the chair of the nominating committee. The results of the ballots shall be made known to the nominating committee, who shall decide what constitutes an acceptable level of support, subject to the expectation that a candidate normally will be acceptable to a majority of voting regular faculty members as well as a majority of voting staff members of the department.

If the nominating committee concludes that no candidate is acceptable, it shall resume its screening activities. Otherwise, the nominating committee shall recommend the appointment of a candidate to the vice-president, academic & provost. If the department generally approves a candidate, the nominating committee shall recommend the appointment of the candidate to the vice-president, academic & provost. When more than one candidate is generally acceptable and the ballot results indicate no clear preference, the nominating committee shall select the person it regards as most suitable for the position and recommend the appointment to the vice-president, academic & provost.

The vice-president, academic & provost, if s/he approves, will forward the recommendation to the president. The president shall forward it to the board of governors for information. If the vice-president, academic & provost does not concur with the recommendation, s/he will meet with the nominating committee and/or the department, to provide reasons.

Note: If, in the opinion of the dean of the faculty and the vice-president, academic & provost, the department is in such a state that reasonable doubt arises concerning the capacity of the department to render a judgment in the selection of a chair which reflects a mature and experienced scholarly perspective, a procedure of selection alternative to the one cited above shall be employed. In such cases, the precise procedure employed shall be at the discretion of the dean of the faculty and the vice-president, academic & provost, involving appropriate consultation with members of the department.

It is expected that the circumstances which would warrant the resort to such extraordinary procedures will occur only rarely.

4. Removal of the office holder before expiration of term

A. General principles

A chair may only be removed from office for cause. Cause is to be understood in relation to the duties of the chair as indicated by all relevant university policies. Causes for removal include negligence, incompetence, unprofessional conduct, and inability to maintain the confidence of the members of the department. Dismissal for cause from an administrative position is not to be confused with the dismissal for cause of a tenured faculty member. The criteria used and the procedures to be followed are different.

B. Reconciliation

In cases where a dean becomes aware of serious problems in a department, for example through individual submissions or a general petition of regular faculty members, the dean will, where appropriate and with the support of the vice-president, academic & provost, seek to mediate the situation as early as possible. Especially in cases of widespread disaffection or dissatisfaction with the chair, the process of reconciliation may involve the holding of a department meeting, normally chaired by the dean, for a full and frank discussion of concerns.

C. The setting-up of a formal inquiry

If the process of reconciliation fails or is inappropriate, the dean should determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant an inquiry into whether there is cause for removal. The chair will be informed in writing of the dean's decision and the basis for it, and be given an opportunity to respond. The dean will then bring the evidence, together with the chair's response, before the vice-president, academic & provost. If the vice-president, academic & provost believes that formal proceedings are necessary, he or she will set up a formal inquiry. At the same time, the vice-president, academic and provost may choose to suspend the chair, without prejudice, financial or otherwise, for the period of the inquiry, if this is warranted by the general interests of the department and of the individuals involved, and is compatible with principles of natural justice. In the case of suspension, the vice-president, academic & provost will appoint an acting chair so as to facilitate the operation of the department during this period.

D. Formal inquiry

The vice-president, academic & provost, will appoint a committee of three senior faculty members from outside the department concerned (at least one of these shall also be from outside the faculty concerned) and inform the chair. The chair may challenge, in writing, a member or members of the committee for bias, apprehension of bias or conflict of interest.

The committee shall determine its own procedures. However, in all its proceedings it shall be guided by principles of natural justice. In particular, it shall make sure that the chair has full knowledge of every charge, and has every opportunity to respond to these charges. On completion of its work the committee shall report to the president with a recommendation, supported by reasons, that the chair either (1) continue in office (or be reinstated if temporary suspension has occurred), or (2) be removed for cause. The president will then take appropriate action. The report of the committee shall be made available to the department chair, the dean, and, at the discretion of the committee, to other concerned parties within the department.

Exceptions to Policy 40 - the Chair related to Religious Studies

Each of the University of Waterloo (“UW”), St. Jerome’s University, Conrad Grebel University College, Renison University College, and St. Paul’s University College is a legal entity, with its own constitution and governance system. The latter four are referred to in this document as “AFIW” (affiliated and federated institutions of Waterloo). The Department of Religious Studies is a collaborative undertaking of the five institutions, which functions as a UW department within the Faculty of Arts.

This document sets out exceptions to Policy 40 – The Chair, which are necessary in order to provide for the eligibility of AFIW faculty members (as defined below) to serve as chair of the Department of Religious Studies, and/or serve on a nominating committee for the chair of that department.

In this document, “AFIW faculty member” means a faculty member in the Department of Religious Studies, who is employed by an AFIW institution with a tenure-track appointment at the rank of assistant professor, associate professor or professor.

1. Qualification

Policy 40 provides that the chair of a department will be a tenured associate professor or professor at UW (as defined in Policy 76 – Faculty Appointments). In the case of religious studies, an AFIW tenured faculty member will be eligible to be appointed chair, despite not being a tenured faculty member at UW. AFIW members serving in administrative positions at the level of associate dean or higher at an AFIW institution are not eligible to serve as chair of a UW department.

Before an AFIW faculty member applies for consideration as chair of the department, the faculty member will inform the head of his/her AFIW institution that he/she is running for office.

2. Appointment of a nominating committee

The nominating committee for the chair of religious studies shall consist of:

  • The dean of the faculty, who shall chair the nominating committee.
  • Three faculty members elected by and from the regular and AFIW faculty members of the department. At least one of these three faculty members will be tenured at UW.
  • One regular staff member, elected by and from the regular staff members of the department.
  • A regular faculty member from another department within or outside the faculty, selected by the vice-president academic & provost in consultation with the dean of the faculty.
  • The vice-president academic & provost or delegate, ex officio, non-voting.
  • One undergraduate student and one graduate student, chosen by the dean. Normally, the dean shall consult with department or faculty student organizations where these exist. Student appointees are voting members of the nominating committee.
  • One additional non-voting member (e.g., non-regular faculty or staff) may be appointed by the dean following appropriate consultation with department members and associated members.

3. Agreement required

Prior to an AFIW faculty member being appointed chair, the arrangement must be documented in an agreement between UW and the AFIW institution that employs the faculty member.

4. Application of UW policies, procedures, guidelines and the MOA

Insofar as they are relevant to the activities of a chair at UW, UW policies, procedures, guidelines and the Memorandum of Agreement between the Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo and UW (the “MofA”), as they all are amended from time to time, will apply to and be binding upon an AFIW faculty member in the performance of his or her duties as chair at UW, as if such AFIW faculty member were a regular UW faculty member as defined by the MofA, and such AFIW faculty member will have all of the rights and obligations that these documents and practices confer on the chair of a UW department.