Executive Summary
The California State University Department Chair Survey Report
Prepared for the California State University
Office of the Chancellor and the Academic Senate CSU

Don Chu, Professor   Sally Veregge, Professor
California State University, Chico   San Jose State University

This study looked at four primary questions. Who are the California State University (CSU) Department Chairs? What are the conditions under which they work? What do they do, and how much time does it take? Lastly, why do they serve, and why don't they want to serve longer? All recipients of the CSU System department chair stipend (N=850) were sent the self-report CSU Department Chair Survey via campus senate offices. Four hundred and twenty five (N=425) usable surveys were returned for a response rate of 50%. The highlights of the report follow. The conclusions and summary statements below apply to the 50% of CSU department chairs who responded to the survey.

Who are the CSU department chairs?
CSU chairs are mostly home grown with 65% having been full-time faculty only on their current campuses. While the average department size that chairs manage is 6-10 FTEF, some departments are as large as small colleges. Chairs turnover at a rate of 20% per year and about half are within their first 3 years of service. With all the new deans in the CSU, about 40% of chairs serve under deans who are within their first 3 years of service. Although there is some relationship between the size of departments and length and percent of administrative appointment, there is notable inconsistency as well.

What are the conditions under which they serve?
Two-thirds of all chairs in the CSU had zero hours of formal preparation before they assumed their positions. Wide campus differences exist with 100% of chairs reporting no preparation for the job on one campus, while 71% of chairs reported that they were given formal preparation on another CSU campus. Once on the job, chairs do not have clear expectations for their performance, with only 20% reporting that their deans give them formal reviews with clear expectations. Once again, wide campus differences exist with 86% of chairs reporting the lack of clear expectations from their deans on one campus and only 18% of chairs reporting such unclear expectations on another CSU campus. Few chairs understand the policies that affect their level of appointment and performance expectations.

Clearly, decentralization of fiscal authority has not reached the department level, with only 39% of chairs reporting that they are on dollar-based budgeting, and only 25% reporting that they are permitted to reallocate money that they have saved from their personnel budgets. Forty-two percent of chairs say that they allocate department travel money (averaging $401-$600 for 23% of departments, and $201-$400 for 19% of departments), while 39% of respondents report that their dean allocates this professional development money.

What do they do, and how much time does it take?
Chairs report that 61%-80% of their days are spent on administrative duties. For the 39% of chairs who do not have 12-month appointments, 50% report that they work at least 21 days unpaid. Much of the chair's time is spent answering mail and reading and writing reports, with 91% of chairs saying that they spend 2 hours or more each day attending to departmental communication requirements. Chairs report that they spend little time engaged in boundary-spanning activities (such as grant writing and public relations) or in faculty professional development.

Why do they serve, and why don't they want to serve longer?
The bureaucratic grind of paperwork, reports and meetings seems to wear chairs down. It is the magnitude of this paperwork that is the biggest surprise to faculty members when they become chairs. These everyday chores take up so much time that the creative scholarly opportunities that may have initially attracted them to the professorate have no time to express themselves within the multi-tasking demands of the chair's position. This is especially the case when chairs do not have the authority that promotes a sense of efficacy. Sixty-nine percent of chairs report that they have too much responsibility and too little authority. It is also clear why chairs might consider further service--when chairs feel valued and respected by their department colleagues. There also exists wide variance between campuses in the perceived level of support that chairs feel from their deans and central administration.

Department management in the CSU is marked by frequent turnover of chairs, appointment of chairs who have been long-time faculty only on their current campuses, lack of preparation for the position before assuming the post, lack of clarity concerning expectations for the position, and lack of formal clear review by the dean. The decentralization of authority, budget management, and responsibility that was instituted in the CSU during the early nineties has not consistently reached the level of the department. Most departments are not on dollar-based budgeting. Most chairs do not have the authority to redistribute or rollover funds. Chairs are expected to shuffle mounds of paper and respond to a multitude of requests from all levels, the administration, faculty and students. Chairs are expected to guide their departments in the present and help plan for the future, yet often they do not have the fiscal authority to distribute resources to best support these expectations. There is little incentive to budget efficiently at the department level, even under dollar-based budgeting, if chairs are not able to move funds where they are needed to promote chair initiatives or other department priorities. Chairs not only do not have the authority to do more than "respond" to the requests of others, they do not have the time. They do not have the time to engage in the proactive, creative management that might forward their departments. Finally, chairs clearly miss the primary social-psychic reinforcements that drew them to the CSU-teaching and scholarship. In its current form, the role of chair does not permit chairs the creativity and resources necessary to engender a sense of efficacy. They might consider continuation in the role of chair if they are appreciated and respected by their colleagues and administration, or if the compensation for chairing were significantly greater.

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