January 12, 2017
Posed to: Earle Traynham, Provost & Vice President Academic Affairs
Each year faculty members are asked to provide evaluations of the Provost and their respective deans, but not their department chair. Why is this? One would think that an annual assessment of chairs would be at least as important as that of the other administrators, as they are responsible for the day-to-day functioning of units that most directly interact with faculty and students. Also many chairs are first-time administrators and so can benefit particularly from feedback on their performance. As it now stands, chairs, it seems, are subject to faculty evaluations only when they are eligible for term renewal. Yet this occurs long after such feedback might be useful. And for chairs who elect not to stand for an additional term, this type of feedback seems not to have use at all. Why then are chairs not subject to the type of annual faculty evaluation that their supervisors undergo (and that their faculty also undergo): And why would the University not want to conduct such evaluations when it regularly surveys faculty on a whole range of other matters that are arguably far less relevant to its core academic mission?
Prior to the establishment of a formal evaluation process for academic chairs, the Office of Academic Affairs and Institutional Research used a locally developed online survey tool which was administered annually. Faculty communicated to Academic Affairs that they didn’t have complete confidence in the local survey and that low confidence resulted in low response rates. In 2009, Academic Affairs and the College Deans established the current policies for the evaluation of department chairs: policy 2.0490P (Annual Review: Academic Chairs and Associate Deans) and policy 2.050P (Comprehensive Review: Academic Chairs). These 2009 policies formalized the annual review process of department chairs by the college deans and the more comprehensive review of department chairs in the penultimate year of a chair’s term. The current policy requires that chairs are evaluated annually, even though formal faculty input is not solicited each year through the Kansas State IDEA survey, but is solicited for the more comprehensive review. The decision to move to the K-State IDEA survey was based on the need for faculty confidence in our evaluation process which would then increase faculty participation. Response rates increased significantly when the IDEA survey was implemented and high levels of participation have been maintained. The schedule for the IDEA survey of every four years was established in part because of cost. It would be financially prohibitive for Academic Affairs to cover the cost to administer annually the K-State IDEA survey for all 30 academic chairs in addition to the already covered cost of the annual IDEA survey administration for deans and the provost. Additionally, it was a concern that overuse of the IDEA survey for every department every year might negatively impact the value of the survey as well as the participation rates. It should be noted that every year as Academic Affairs notifies the deans of the department chair IDEA survey schedule, we do allow for chairs “off schedule” to be added by the deans if they desire. However, in such cases, the college covers the cost.