By Hailey Hensley
Summer 2019 brought vast changes to Rider’s Lawrenceville campus. Various buildings across campus have a new look, and throughout all the external changes, there were also some shifts within academic departments across campus.
According to Chairman of the Department of Communication and Journalism Shawn Kildea, chair elections happen in most departments every three years.
Over the summer, seven academic departments changed chairs, according to Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs DonnaJean Fredeen.
According to Fredeen, the seven departments that changed chairs were computer science, conducting, organ and sacred music, marketing, fine arts, management and human resources, language, literatures and cultures and the Moore Library.
A chairperson is an administrator appointed by the dean of an academic area, based on the recommendation of the faculty underneath that specific dean, according to Fredeen.
However, finding a chairperson is not always a simple process and can occasionally involve searches across various branches of the university, according to Fredeen.
“If no one in the department wants to serve as a chairperson, the dean will discuss the possibility of appointing a faculty member from outside the department. This faculty member may come from within the college or from another college,” said Fredeen. “After identifying an individual who is willing to serve, the department must approve that appointment with a 2/3 majority vote. Such individuals are appointed for one year in the role of ‘Acting Chairperson.’”
Occasionally, if no acceptable chairperson is found within the university faculty, it may be found appropriate to expand the search and take additional steps, according to Fredeen.
“While rare, we have the ability to conduct an external search for a chairperson,” said Fredeen.
There is a lengthy list of responsibilities attached to the title of department chair, so it’s no wonder the process for selecting one is somewhat intense.
According to Fredeen, some of the responsibilities of a chairperson include leading the department in discussion of issues that are pertinent to the department, college and university, serving as the budget authority for the use of the departmental budgets, advocating on behalf of the department for resources, serving as a member of the dean’s leadership council and evaluating faculty for the purposes of contract renewal, promotion and tenure.
Department chairs play an important role in the Rider community and can serve as a valuable resource for students, faculty and the university as a whole, according to junior musical theater major Tessa Douglas.
“I think it is very important to have a department chair, especially chairs who are already professors at Rider, because they are the eyes and ears for the administration. They are constantly interacting with students as well as administrators to find the perfect balance to make their department as successful as possible,” Douglas said. “I also feel they provide extra support for adjunct and full-time faculty members. They are a friendly face that is vital to Rider’s success.”
One of the chairperson responsibilities that Fredeen felt was most important to highlight is one that could easily go unnoticed if not properly emphasized.
“A very important responsibility for the chairperson is that they are an important resource for students,” Fredeen said.