of Department Head
In my opinion, Department Heads have always been the most
important position as it pertains to educational quality.
Traditionally, each program of study was represented by a
Department Head. It is the Department Head who has direct
contact with students and faculty within a given program.
In the most ideal sense, Department Heads have powers of overview
and projection. This is important because many faculty members
have difficulty identifying with matters beyond their own
courses or discipline. Department Heads teach, have daily
contact with students and faculty members; they recommend
new appointments, speak for the program, supervise budgets,
keep departmental records, work with faculty on planning,
serve the needs of faculty and students and lead the faculty
through example and respect. Department Heads are the ones
who set educational goals and student performance standards.
Administrators do not have this direct involvement in the
classroom or studio and often lack the understanding or perspective
to identify needs of, or appreciate accomplishment by, faculty
and students. Department Heads form the chief advisory committee
to the Dean.
role of Department Heads has always been controversial within
educational organization in terms of the role. It has seldom
been made clear as to whether the Department Head is the last
outpost of administration or if it is the first line of representation
to administration for faculty and students within each program.
I have always chosen the latter definition because I strongly
believe that is the way it was intended and should be.
Organization - A History
Educational organization and governance have evolved over
a period of more than four hundred years. My understanding
of academic organization is that it is unique when compared
to corporate, military or government organization. Definition
begins with dividing the organization into Governing Body,
President and Administration, Faculty and Students. Each group
has assigned responsibilities with special powers to affect
the other groupings. Balance is achieved through tension between
the four bodies. Whenever balance is lost because one group
has undue powers over the others, it is predictable that there
will be problems.
can make only one appointment, the President. Faculty are
professionals who contract with the institution, they are
not employees. Students are the beneficiaries of the organization.
Education of youth is the mission and it is presumed to be
the highest priority of the institution.
the history of American education there have been internal
shifts in power. Up until the Civil War, most responsibility
and authority resided with Trustees. They oversaw almost every
aspect of the institutional operation and mission. Following
the Civil War, trustees began to shed many of the responsibilities
by transferring them to the President. Presidents remained
all powerful until after the turn of the century. At that
time, to cope with excessive or abusive Presidential powers,
faculty freely borrowed the concept of academic governance
from German universities. The founding of the American Association
of University Professors marks the beginning of a new faculty
role. Faculty became the dominant force in universities until
were fluctuations of power at various times which were usually
brought on by financial constraints. During the depression
of the 1930s, faculty powers were somewhat diminished because
of a resultant decrease in students and funding. This was
the era of Publish or Perish.
of the 60s
Perhaps the most radical changes in education, organization,
personnel and definition of responsibilities began with the
student activist movement during the 1960s and early 1970s.
During those years, students were the most powerful body in
It was the loss of control over institutions and destruction
of property by students that motivated trustees, regents and
legislators to make drastic changes in traditional criteria
for appointments. It was amply clear that existing administrations
and personnel had been unable to control student actions.
Governing bodies were determined that the situation would
never occur again.
was expanded and administrative roles were redefined. This
was the period when the number of Vice-presidents increased,
administrative and educational functions were combined to
a greater extent than previously and more professional managers
were hired replacing individuals who previously had come up
through academic ranks.
student movement was closely followed by economic conditions
resulting from inflation, high interest rates, major reduction
in government spending on education and less students making
application to universities. The financial crisis came at
a time when educational institutions were overextended in
terms of budgets, space, personnel, programs and public activities.
Most of the excesses could be directly tied to government
largess such as financial aid, a variety of title programs
and a wide range of grants. At the time, the era was referred
to as Retrenchment. Most institutions believed conditions
to be temporary and that government would eventually resume
its former levels of financial support. To deal with current
problems, there was an incredible increase in administrative
offices with emphasis on management. This marked the beginning
of Administrators as the dominating force in educational organization
shaping the operation and mission of educational institutions,
and the managerial era continues.
impact has been overwhelming. Certainly not at every university,
but at enough to make one uncomfortable, managerial values
are more important than educational ones, universities are
viewed as businesses selling educational services, teachers
behave and are treated as employees rather than professionals.
Decision-making tends to be pragmatic and grounded in bottom
line considerations, image is more important than substance,
traditional academic roles and responsibilities have been
diminished and students are customers who must be catered
to in order to sell more services. This should remind us that
change does not always represent progress.
General and Specific
Educational leadership is most broad at the President and
Provost levels, and it impacts mainly on the Deans. Leadership
by the Deans is also quite general and it is directed toward
Department Heads. Department Heads exhibit leadership which
affect faculty members and students of each program; and it
is specific and unique within educational organization because
of the involvement in the classroom or studio. It is not unusual
for a Director or Dean to teach one class, but it is infrequent
and not required. On the other hand, Department Heads are
extensively involved with teaching, curriculum development,
faculty members and students within the program.
of its importance, no other position in the educational hierarchy
has suffered more than that of the Department Head, and especially
so within visual art education. The first inroads began to
occur during the 1960s with the establishment of Divisions.
Groupings of related programs such as Design, Fine Arts or
Crafts were placed into Divisions under the supervision of
a Division Head. Leadership for each discipline was eliminated
in favor of one leader for several programs of study. It is
not known if this practice was restricted to visual arts or
whether it applied to other academic disciplines within the