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California State University, Northridge Department Chair Handbook

California State University, Northridge

Department Chair Handbook

Congratulations on having been appointed to serve as Chair of your academic department.  You likely have heard it described as the hardest job in the university, and it is indeed demanding.  The position, per Section 600, is an “administrative assignment” (603.2.1), but you are not an Administrator – you remain a member of the faculty.  Still, you are the acknowledged manager and leader of your department, and the position, therefore, while occasionally challenging, can also be extraordinarily fulfilling.  You have an opportunity to serve students, your department, your college and the university from a unique platform, one that affords you perspectives in all directions.  I hope you find the job to be as rewarding as I did.

Kenneth V. Luna, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Linguistics/TESL, 2017-present

Chair, CSUN Council of Chairs, 2021-present

Special Contributions from: Larry Becker, Shari Tarver Behring



The position of Department Chair carries with it a broad and extensive set of responsibilities.  Among them:

  • Leadership.  The Chair exercises leadership in all aspects of departmental curriculum development and delivery, including effective pedagogy, student advisement and other matters related to student success, assessment, workplace collegiality, etc.  You will plan and lead faculty meetings and staff meetings.  You will commission and oversee the work of faculty committees.  You will lead the department’s periodic program or accreditation review processes. 
  • Administration.  The Chair oversees and manages the department’s budget and other resources.  You will approve departmental financial expenditures.  You will approve student schedule change requests, change of major requests, change of grade requests, course substitutions, grade waivers, etc.  You will oversee the implementation of university, college and departmental policies.  
  • Planning.  The Chair guides all aspects of departmental planning, regarding academic programs, personnel (including recruitment priorities), facilities, and equipment.  You will coordinate departmental plans so as to make them align with college and university plans and objectives.
  • Class Scheduling.  The Chair oversees the planning and implementation of class schedules in accordance with university and college requirements.  You will consult with faculty in regard to teaching assignments, and make teaching offers to lecturers in accordance with contractual entitlement and order-of-assignment requirements.  
  • Tenure-Line Hiring and Personnel Processes.  The Chair oversees the recruitment and hiring of tenure-line faculty.  You will make recommendations in regard to full-time faculty retention, tenure, and promotion, oversee the periodic revision of the department’s RTP procedures document, make recommendations on requests for leaves of absence, oversee the evaluation of lecturers, and make recommendations regarding three-year appointments for lecturers.
  • Staff Supervision.  The Chair supervises and evaluates the members of the departmental support staff.  You will make recommendations regarding the hiring, performance and reclassification of departmental staff.
  • Representation, Advocacy and Communication.  The Chair represents the department, to the college and the university, to and within the community, and to and within the department’s affiliated profession(s).  You will serve as the chief and most fervent advocate for your department, your programs, your faculty and your students.  You will communicate all pertinent information and perspectives from the university and the college to the department.
  • Conflict Resolution.  The Chair serves as the official recipient of complaints emanating from and/or regarding faculty, staff and/or students.  You will mediate and report as necessary and appropriate.

The above seems like a lot, and it is, but you are not alone.  This site is intended to serve as a guide to the many resources available to you and upon which you may need to call.  Some of these will become well familiar to you; others might be less commonly needed.  All, however, are here for your reference and use. 

In addition to these resources, please know that often, the best sources of help and guidance are the many professionals across campus, including (but not limited to) those in Faculty Affairs, your Dean’s office, Undergraduate Studies, Graduate Studies, elsewhere in Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, the Council of Chairs, other Chairs in your college and elsewhere on campus, and the CFA.  You should never hesitate to call or e-mail any of these offices or individuals.


 Click here for PDF File: CSUN Department Chair Handbook (.pdf)



Your college’s Dean and MAR (Manager of Academic Resources) will be the most direct sources of guidance in regard to how a Chair is expected to manage the budget in your college.  Additionally, assuming and hoping you enter the position with an experienced Administrative Analyst/Specialist (AA/S) on staff, she or he will be your best partner in regard to the administration of your budget.  Learn from her or him.


Sources of Allotted Funds

The budget over which you have authority is comprised of money from different sources, kept in different accounts, and used for different purposes: General Fund, which is used primarily for operating expenses (O&E); Lottery Fund, which is used primarily for equipment and facilities; Campus Quality Fee (CQF) funds, which are used primarily for course-related materials; and, perhaps, State Trust Funds, which typically come from donations and are usually held by the CSUN Foundation (a nonprofit, 501[c][3] public benefit California corporation that serves as an auxiliary organization to CSUN).

General Fund money and Lottery funds originate in Sacramento and filter from there to the CSU to the campuses to Academic Affairs to the colleges and, finally, to the departments.  CQF money is generated on campus from fees paid by students and is allocated to the colleges and then to the departments.



Sources of Supplementary Funds

To supplement the funds that your college allots to your department and whatever Foundation accounts over which you may have control, you may apply for additional financial support on an annual basis from two recurring pools of money – CQF (to supplement your initial CQF allocation) and IRA (Instructionally Related Activities).  Additional CQF funds are distributed by Student Affairs, and IRA funds are distributed by Academic Affairs, and each is to be used for specific kinds of expenditures.  Each CQF or IRA proposal you or your department colleagues might write will be geared toward a specific project for which the funds would be used.




Development and Grants

It has become increasingly important for departments to supplement state funds with external funds, either through fundraising or the securing of grants.  You would

do well to familiarize yourself quickly with your college’s Director of Development and Grant Writer.



You are in charge of approving all departmental expenditures, including but not limited to purchases of equipment and supplies, maintenance and repair expenses, travel and other faculty-requested expenses, honoraria and other guest- and/or event-related expenses, etc.  Your signature should be required on all Purchase Request (PR) forms, and you should approve all charges made to departmental      P-Card accounts.  




An area of expenditure separate from your department’s budget with which you are involved is that of salaries.  Although you do not set or negotiate the salaries of tenure-track or tenured faculty, you might have input on the amount offered to new hires, should your Dean invite your recommendation.  Additionally, your RTP recommendations will have clear financial implications.  (See also Faculty.)

More directly, you have the responsibility to set the salaries of new lecturers whom you hire.  Based on the instructor’s highest earned academic degree and experience, you will assign her or him to a pay grade and then select a salary from within the range for that pay grade.  (See also Faculty.)


Additionally, it should be evident that the number of lecturer-taught sections that you schedule in any given semester will have a direct financial impact.  Relatedly, the WTUs (Weighted Teaching Units) earned by each instructor per the course’s Classification will have a financial impact.  Some colleges actually provide the departments with the part-time faculty budget, which thus directly impacts the creation of the Schedule of Classes.  (See also Schedule of Classes, Curriculum, Faculty.) 

You also will have the ability to recommend raises for members of your department’s support staff, either via Reclassification requests or In-Range Progression requests.  (See also Staff.)


Although none of the above-referenced salary actions has a direct impact on the departmental budget that you control, they do directly impact your college’s budget, and thus your MAR and your Dean may wish to weigh in on these decisions.

Another salary-related area of responsibility is in regard to student workers.  With input from your support staff, you may have the ability to hire Student Assistants and Work Study student employees.  These expenditures typically are paid from your departmental budget.


On a monthly basis, the Department Chair is responsible for certifying the Master Payroll (the payroll for all faculty and staff), Timesheets (for staff and other 12-month employees, such as yourself) and staff Absence Reports (self-provided by your staff).  Your AA/S or ASC (Administrative Support Coordinator) will provide you with the appropriate forms to consider and sign.



You will come to realize that space is a valuable resource on our campus.  Most university spaces are controlled by Room Reservations.





As you likely already know, curriculum proposals (new courses, experimental topics courses, course modifications, new programs, program modifications) originate in the department, progress to your college’s Academic Council and then to the appropriate Faculty Senate committee, EPC (Educational Policies Committee) for undergraduate curriculum, or GSC (Graduate Studies Committee) for graduate curriculum.  Although your department likely has a Curriculum Committee, it is your job as Chair to guide and oversee the curriculum development process, in consultation and collaboration with your faculty, and to shepherd your department’s curriculum through the college and university levels of approval.

Curriculum forms and other salient information are found on the EPC and GSC web sites:



Please note that CSUN is moving away from the use of these forms and toward the employment of similar, on-line forms.  Much of the requested and required information on the electronic forms is the same as on the paper forms.

One important consideration when proposing new or experimental courses is the Course Classification (i.e., its “C-factor” or “S-factor”). 


As the above-linked file indicates, the course classification will suggest how many students would enroll in each section of the class, which has FTES (Full-Time Equivalent Student) implications and thus budgetary implications.  (See Schedule of Classes, Budget and Academic Resources). 

The course’s classification also has WTU (Weighted Teaching Unit) implications, which affects faculty workload (via the classification’s Workload K-Factor), and thus also the budget.  For example, a standard lecture/discussion course typically provides the instructor with 3 WTUs (or a K-Factor of 3.75), but many, such as lab and activity courses, are weighted differently, often providing more than 3 WTUs.  (See Faculty, Budget and Academic Resources).



The Department Chair leads the faculty in terms of the delivery of the curriculum, through the promotion of effective teaching techniques that utilize High Impact Practices and that are designed to foster engagement and learning while minimizing opportunity gaps. 


The university’s Office of Faculty Development and the Faculty Technology Center offer a variety of resources to aid in these efforts:



The Department Chair’s Role in Consultation


Consultation on curriculum proposals usually occurs between Department Chairs in order to identify areas of overlap and to identify and mitigate resource or other impacts that one department’s curriculum proposals might have on another department.  Curricular consultation is also intended to make departments in related fields aware of courses and program changes that can benefit their students.  It is important to remember that lack of concurrence in consultation is not a veto and that no department or program “owns” a particular area of the curriculum.  When concerns are raised by a Department Chair about another department’s proposal, the ideal outcome is that concerns and issues can get worked out in a collaborative manner by the Chairs of those departments involved.  When there is a conflict between departments in different colleges, the relevant Associate Deans can help to develop solutions.  When a proposal goes to EPC and there is a non-concurrence in consultation, committee members are interested to know what the remaining issues are and what dialogue has occurred to resolve those issues.  Curricular decisions are ultimately made on the basis of what is best for students, and the consultation process among Chairs is intended to contribute to student success by identifying and solving problems as early in the process as possible.


Larry Becker, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Political Science, 2011-2017

Chair, Educational Policies Committee, 2013-2017



The Department Chair is the leader of the faculty.  You will preside over faculty meetings, oversee the RTP process, evaluate lecturers, make lecturer assignments, and oversee tenure-line recruitment and hiring.


Faculty Meetings

Robert’s Rules of Order is an excellent book to have by your side when leading faculty meetings:



RTP (Retention, Tenure and Promotion)

In addition to your department’s Personnel Procedures document, which is, perhaps, the most important set of guidelines, you must familiarize yourself with Section 600 of the Administrative Manual (especially sections 630 through 639, which deal specifically with RTP).

One of the many, critically important roles of the Department Chair is that of mentor to junior faculty.  You and other senior faculty should check in regularly with your tenure-track colleagues, and you should guide them in all aspects of their careers at the university, including their teaching, their contributions to the field of study, service to the department, college, university and community, and other professional responsibilities.  When it comes time for them to create RTP documents, including their PIFs (Professional Information Files), you should help your junior colleagues to organize the materials properly, and you should provide helpful critiques designed to aid in their smooth progression through the RTP process.

When writing your RTP recommendation letters, it behooves you to be objective.  Offer praise and compliments as will be appropriate (and hopefully, that will be often), but offer constructive critiques and provide recommendations for further action or improvement or correction where necessary.  Especially in the early years of a candidate’s progression through the RTP process, these recommendations provide essential markers by which growth and success can later be gauged.  The goal, of course, is to help each candidate become worthy of tenure and promotion.


Recruitment and Hiring

The pertinent document in regard to the recruitment and hiring of tenure-line faculty is the annually updated Search and Screen Manual.

Regarding the hiring and assigning of classes to lecturers, you should familiarize yourself with Section 700 of the Administrative Manual as well as the germane sections of the Unit 3 (CFA) CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).  Of particular importance are issues related to lecturer unit entitlements and the order of assignment.  When in doubt, call Faculty Affairs.

All of the above referenced documents, including your department’s Personnel Procedures, may be found on the “Policies” page of the Faculty Affairs website, along with other valuable resources and tools:


Forms related to the hiring of lecturers and the recruitment and hiring of tenure-line faculty, as well as the evaluation of lecturers, faculty leave requests, and other faculty actions may be found on the “Forms and Memos” page of the Faculty Affairs website:


Other helpful documents related to the establishment of lecturer pools (the grouping of lecturers qualified to teach in a particular curricular area), lecturer entitlements, order of assignment and the like may be found at the following link:



Teaching Assignments

It is essential that care and deliberation go into the assigning of instructors to classes in any given semester.  Be sure to review the PAFs (Personnel Action Files) of both tenure-line faculty and lecturers frequently – ideally, once per semester.  In most cases, tenure-line PAFs are kept in the college office, and lecturers’ PAFs are kept in your department office.  When reviewing them, pay particular attention to CVs, student evaluations, peer class visit reports, and any official memos that may have been placed in the files.  Such review will enable you to apply the standard of careful consideration when determining who is best qualified to teach any given class.

In terms of order of assignment, tenure-line faculty members have the highest priority, followed by Teaching Associates, then three-year contract lecturers (Y3), then one-year contract lecturers (Y1), then lecturers with no contracts.  Remember that tenure-line faculty assignments must add up to a 15-unit workload per semester (typically, four 3-WTU classes and 3 WTUs for service), and remember also to honor lecturer entitlements.  Please note, though, that if there are not enough classes on the SOC to enable you to fulfill some or all entitlements, you are not obliged to do so.  You do, however, need to demonstrate that you have made a good-faith effort.  (See Schedule of Classes.)

Be sure to inform your tenure-line faculty of their assignments well in advance of the start of the semester.  Ideally, the assignments will be determined as much as possible via consultations with them, but at a minimum, they need to be informed.  Part-time instructors should be sent official offer e-mails, and it is advisable that you label these as “Tentative Part-Time Teaching Offers” and that you include language in the e-mail to indicate that the offer is contingent on enrollment and other factors.  This provides the cover that you need in the events that a lecturer’s section doesn’t “make” and you need to cancel it (see Schedule of Classes), or you need to reassign a lecturer’s section to an instructor who has priority per the order of assignment

Remember that any new hire, part-time or full-time, needs to have a background check completed before being able to work.  Your AA/S or Coordinator should be able to help initiate this process.



Grievance and Mediation

Should a faculty member feel that she or he has been treated unfairly in the class assignment process, she or he has the right to file a grievance via Faculty Affairs and/or the CFA.  If that occurs, you will be notified by Faculty Affairs.  Your best defense will be your ability to demonstrate that you have properly observed the principles of order of assignment and entitlement and have applied the standard of careful consideration

On other occasions, a faculty member may come to you with other forms of complaint or grievance, perhaps in regard to a faculty colleague, or a member of the staff, or an administrator, or a student, or even you.  In each case, it is essential that you listen with care and attention, and it is highly advisable that you take notes to document the meeting and follow up with an e-mail to the faculty member, summarizing the main points discussed.  In some instances, it will make sense for you to meet with the other party and hear her/his side of the story.  Other times, a staff member or a student might be the one to initiate the process, often in the form of a complaint about a faculty member.  (See Staff, Students).  Be sure to take good notes during those meetings as well.

Sometimes, it will make sense for you to bring the parties together in an attempt at mediation.  Should that fail, or should you feel that the situation warrants the attention of another entity, you will “report up” – perhaps to your Dean, and/or to Faculty Affairs, and/or to Equity and Diversity (if the issue deals with the possible infringement of the rights of a member of any protected class, per Title VI or Title IX), depending on the nature and the severity of the situation.





Finally, you may want to read C.K. Gunsalus’ The College Administrator’s Survival Guide, which offers insights into how you might handle various problems with faculty: 




FTES Target

The creation of the Schedule of Classes (SOC) is a critically important component of your job as Chair.  You will start each semester’s SOC “build” with a Full-Time Equivalent Student (FTES) target provided by your Dean or Associate Dean.

From the CSUN IR (Institutional Research) Glossary of Terms (https://www.csun.edu/csun-data/ir-glossary-terms):

Full-Time Equivalent Student (FTES) - A measure of student enrollment primarily used for state budgeting.  For this calculation, full-time enrollment is defined as 15 units for undergraduates and postbaccalaureate students not enrolled in graduate degree programs and 12 units for graduate students.  In other words, FTES is calculated as total enrolled semester units divided by 15 for undergraduates and postbaccalaureates not enrolled in graduate degree programs and divided by 12 for graduate students.

You will arrive at a schedule that “hits” the target by a combination of the number of sections offered and the class limit (capacity) at which you set each section.  The class limits are suggested by the course’s Classification (see also Budget and Academic Resources and Curriculum), but depending on the cultures in your department and college, you may have a certain degree of latitude in setting these limits.  Be sure, though, never to set a class limit higher than the room’s fire-code capacity.  Your AA/S or SOC Coordinator should be able to provide you with that information.

For most three-unit undergraduate courses with a C-factor classification, a general rule that you can apply is to divide the class limit for any given section by five to arrive at the projected FTES total for that section, assuming full enrollment.  Please note that this won’t work for S-factor or grad classes.

It is advisable for you not only to set the class limits with deliberation and care, but also for you to be able to estimate what the likely enrollment of any given class will be – as you know, not every class fills to capacity.  It is this enrollment projection that will help you best to gauge whether the SOC that you build is likely to hit the FTES target.  This may seem like black-magic divination, but a close examination of enrollment patterns in previous semesters, a careful tracking from semester to semester of the headcount in your major and in specific areas or options (utilizing data available on IR’s CSUN Counts tools), and the use of good advisement practices that can yield salient data regarding the prospective demand for key classes all can help you as you create your SOC build.




Your AA/S or SOC Coordinator should be adept at creating a template from which you can start any given semester’s SOC build based on the previous analogous semester’s (Fall or Spring) SOC.  However, it would behoove you to familiarize yourself with the SOC Worksheet, a writable Excel tool that can be used to build your SOC:


You may also access the SOC Worksheet via the SOLAR SA pagelet of the CSUN PORTAL.

This tool can be used to gauge the projected FTES total of your proposed SOC.  Additionally, should you have direct control of your part-time faculty budget, you also may use the SOC Worksheet to assess the part-time faculty salary implications of your proposed SOC.  (See Budget and Academic Resources).


Course Offerings

Clearly, the FTES target is not your only concern when building the SOC for any given semester.  You also need to make sure that you offer the classes that students will need in order to stay on the path toward timely graduation.  You need to become intimately familiar with the program(s) in your major, with the required courses and any course sequences (pre-reqs, co-reqs, etc.).  You also will seek to offer as many GE classes as may be possible and prudent, should your department have any in its curriculum.

It is advisable for you to pay attention to the days and times when your classes are offered.  Anticipate as well as you can the groupings of courses that the majors in your department tend to take in the same semester (e.g., in their third semester as they progress through the program), and seek to run the various sections on days and at times such that it would allow for these classes to be taken together.  For courses with multiple sections, it also is advisable to provide as many options to students as possible in terms of days and times. 

Once the SOC is built and approved by your College, you will need to set the teaching assignments (see Faculty.)  It is advisable that you do this in consultation with your faculty as much as may be prudent, but, as indicated elsewhere, the imperatives here are that you are consistent with the contractually mandated order of assignment and that you apply the standard of careful consideration.  Be sure to arrange the assignments so that all tenure-line faculty members have the required workloads (see Faculty.)


Enrollment Management

Once enrollment begins, it will behoove you to keep a close watch.  You can ask your AA/S or SOC Coordinator to generate daily reports.  As the start of the semester draws near, classes that are under-enrolled may be imperiled – your Dean or Associate Dean will likely insist that you cancel any class that doesn’t “make” (have enough enrolled students for it to be cost-effective to run).  As of this writing, the “make” numbers are as follows – a lower-division class needs 20 enrolled students in order to “make;” an upper-division class needs 15 enrolled students in order to “make;” a grad class needs eight enrolled students in order to “make.”

If a class that is important to your majors is endangered due to low enrollment, you may need to devise some recruitment strategies.  Hopefully, you will be able to save it from the chopping block.

Should you be compelled to cancel a class to which you had assigned a tenure-line faculty member, you will need to find another assignment for her/him so as to maintain the full-timer’s workload level.  That likely will result in your rescinding an offer from a lecturer.  The conditional language you included in your initial offer e-mail to that lecturer allows for this.  You are similarly protected if you need to cancel a class that had been assigned to a lecturer. (See Faculty.)



You are not the “boss” of your faculty colleagues – as indicated elsewhere, you are their leader and manager, but not their boss.  However, you are indeed the “boss” of your department’s office and technical staff – per their official position descriptions as approved by Human Resources (HR), you are their supervisor.  For some of you, this may be your first time as a boss – it’s not something we typically study in grad school.  This, therefore, might seem intimidating, but we urge you to embrace it.  Typically, employees want guidance, want direction, want to know that there is a firm hand on the tiller.  This may take some getting used to, but the more settled you become in the role, the more effective a supervisor you will become.

This does not mean, of course, that it is prudent or salutary to adopt dictatorial techniques.  On the contrary, you should take the time to get to know all your staff members (if you don’t already know them well), understand who they are as individuals, understand their roles in the department and their job duties and responsibilities, and develop relationships with them based on trust.  Read their position descriptions and the performance evaluations conducted by your predecessor(s), which will be found in each staff member’s personnel file, typically housed in your department office. 

Learn the organizational structure that you’ve inherited before seeking to change it, and make sure that through collegiality as well as a projection of confidence, you establish yourself as the managerial authority.  When you need to make decisions related to policy or procedure, seek their input and get their “buy in” whenever possible and appropriate.

Should you desire or need guidance in any aspect of being a manager/supervisor of your staff, please take a look at the various training opportunities offered by HR:



Performance Evaluations

One of your responsibilities as the supervisor of your department’s staff is to conduct annual performance evaluations.  The imperative here is to be as objective as possible.  It is tempting to give everyone a good evaluation because you want them to like you, but such intended generosity when a good eval is not deserved does you and your department a disservice.  Your Dean and your college’s MAR, who is the MPP (administrator) charged with supervising staff at the college level, should be able to provide you with their expectations in terms of how you conduct the performance evals.

Be sure to use the correct form in regard to the bargaining unit to which each staff member belongs.  (The bargaining unit correlates with the union that the employee is entitled to join.)  The forms, as well as a plethora of other helpful information, are available on the HR Toolkit page of the HR website:



In-Range Raise Requests and Reclassification Requests

Staff members may occasionally request a raise, or a reclassification that would result in new/changed duties and a higher salary.  You would need to approve any such request.  Additionally, in your capacity as supervisor, you may initiate such a request. 

The appropriate forms – and many others – may be found here:


The list of all the classifications used in the CSU, with links to their basic descriptions, may be found here:



Performance Problems

When a staff member chronically underperforms or exhibits behavioral or attitudinal problems, or if a third party (e.g., student, staff or faculty) contacts you to register a complaint about that staff member, it becomes important for you to intercede.  Meet with the employee to discuss your observations and concerns and/or the complaints.  Be sure to provide the employee with ample opportunity to respond.  This should be a conversation, not a lecture, but if there are deficiencies and/or problems that need to be addressed, be sure to make your expectations clear.  Take notes, and follow up with an e-mail to the staff member, summarizing the important points of your conversation.  If the problems persist, and/or if the complaint involves the alleged violation of the rights of someone in a protected class (see Title VI and Title IX), you should immediately report up, to your MAR, your Dean and/or to Equity and Diversity or HR.  In particular, the professionals in Equity and Diversity and/or HR will be able to guide you in terms of the appropriate steps to take.







Should you have the opportunity to hire a staff person, consult with your MAR about process and procedure.  You’ll form a selection committee, with which you’ll create a position description and then a job announcement.  It may behoove you to consult with other staff and/or your faculty as you create these documents. 

See the Recruitment link on the HR Toolkit web page:


As with faculty, please remember that all new staff hires need to have a background check completed before being able to start work:




You well know that everything that we do in our jobs at the university, in our capacities both as faculty and Department Chair, must ultimately be guided by one preeminent consideration – the serving of our students.  The education, the well being, and the ultimate success of our students – quantifiable and unquantifiable – are why we work in academia, and we must never let ourselves lose sight of that. 


Student Success

“Student Success” is the university’s number one priority, and that is not just puffery or P.R. – it’s real and we mean it.  Consequently, all the areas of responsibility, the tasks and the actions delineated elsewhere in this Handbook, including your dealings with your faculty and staff, the administration of the budget and other resources, the development and delivery of curriculum, and the creation and implementation of the schedule of classes, must be taken and executed with the best interests of your students at the forefront of your mind.

For the foreseeable future, the entire university will continue to pursue a variety of formal Student Success initiatives related to GI 2025.  These will be directed by Undergraduate Studies and by your College Dean and Associate Dean, and you inevitably will be charged with a number of relevant tasks.  For many of these, the dashboards and other resources provided by Institutional Research on the CSUN Counts page will prove invaluable:


The CSU Student Success Dashboard, accessible via the Data Spectrum pagelet on your myNorthridge Home page on the CSUN Portal, provides another set of resources that might help you in your Student Success endeavors:


You may also access the CSUN Student Success Dashboard via the same Portal pagelet.



Student Meetings

Although for many of you, your accepting the position of Department Chair means the suspension of your active teaching duties, you still will have many opportunities to interact directly with students.  You will create some of these opportunities, e.g., formal advisement sessions, “Meet the Chair” and/or “Meet the Faculty” events (strongly encouraged as a way to foster and sustain students’ senses of belonging and community, which are so vital to our efforts to increase retention and graduation rates), special lectures or presentations that you might orchestrate and in which you might participate (as host or moderator or presenter), annual celebrations such as awards banquets and/or student work showcases or symposia, etc.


Academic Program Requests

On other (many) occasions, students will come to you.  Often, these visits will be in regard to some sort of academic program issue.  Below are links to the forms relevant to some of the more common requests.

Change or Declaration of Major or Minor:


Late Add/Drop (including Medical Withdrawal):


(Note that different forms exist for different points in the semester.  Note also that the Medical Withdrawal form must be accompanied by the appropriate Late Add/Drop form.)

Application for Graduation:


All of these forms, plus many more, can be found on the Admissions and Records Student Forms page, for which there is a link in the right-hand column menu of the CSUN Home Page:



Another frequent program-related request is for a course substitution or a grade or requirement waiver.  You’ve likely seen and used the relevant form in your capacity as a faculty adviser, but it is not available on-line, as students should not have access to it.  Your Department office should have a steady supply of these.  Similarly, your office should have a supply of grade correction forms as well, which also are unavailable on-line.


Other Student Resources

Below is a link to many other resources that may be useful to the students who call upon you:




As suggested in the sections regarding Faculty and Staff, students occasionally will seek you out so as to register some manner of complaint.

If the complaint is in regard to a member of your staff, please see the recommendations articulated and resources listed on the Staff page of this Handbook.

If the complaint is in regard to an action by or the behavior of a member of your faculty, please see the recommendations articulated and resources listed on the Faculty page of this Handbook.


Academic/Grade Grievances

If a student’s faculty-related concern is in regard to a grade, your first step will be to inform the student of her/his right to pursue the formal Academic Grievance and Grade Appeal process.  The required form can be found via the Student Affairs Forms web page:


Before the student proceeds down that path, though, ask whether s/he has already discussed the situation with the faculty member.  If s/he hasn’t, urge the student to do so before engaging in the formal process.  If the student has done so, you should document your meeting, then contact the faculty member to ascertain her/his position.  If you are unable to lead the faculty member toward a resolution of the issue, the next step would be to arrange a meeting of the two, with yourself as mediator.  If the student and faculty member remain at an impasse, then you should recommend that the student engage in the formal process.  The situation will be assigned to your college’s Associate Dean, but you will remain involved.


Student Conduct Problems

Occasionally, an instructor, staff member or student will alert you to a problem or potential problem with a student.  Your job in these instances is to assess the nature and severity of the problem and then decide what manner of intervention is appropriate.

If the problem is in regard to a potential case of academic dishonesty (e.g., cheating or plagiarism), you should meet both with the individual registering the accusation (typically, but not always, the instructor) and with the accused student. 

Here are links to the pertinent policies and procedures:



If the evidence suggests strongly that the accusation is unfounded, seek to convince the accuser of that position.  If, though, the evidence suggests that the accusation is well founded, you are obliged to report the malfeasance to the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs, per the Faculty Policy on Academic Dishonesty:



Your best point of contact in Student Affairs for such reports and consultations is the Director of Student Conduct & Ethical Development (currently, Samuel Lingrosso).  The individual holding this position is charged with meting out the official university response (often, some form of disciplinary action) to students involved in academic dishonesty, and also is an invaluable resource in regard to making recommendations in these matters, to you as Chair and to the pertinent faculty member.

If the problem is behavioral, whether in regard to conduct in class or outside of class, once you receive the complaint and record all the germane details, you should immediately consult with the Director of Student Conduct & Ethical Development.  Depending on the nature of the problem, you may also be advised to consult with the Director of University Counseling Services (currently, Julie Pearce) and/or the CSUN Department of Police Services (currently, the best point person is Special Services Captain Scott VanScoy).  These individuals will help you to devise the best approach to each specific problem.








Miscellaneous but Useful Links

Below are several resources that may likely prove helpful over the course of your time as Department Chair.

Registration Guide and Registration Calendar (useful references when advising students):



Tseng College Summer Information:


Assessment and Program Review information:


Calendars (Personnel, Administrative, Academic):



Wellness and Self Care

As Department Chair, you are charged with taking care of your entire department – students, faculty and staff.  You must remember, though, also to take care of yourself.   It becomes very easy to spend every waking minute devoted to the leadership and management of your department, but your health and happiness are dependent upon your finding ways to take breaks – to do things to relax, or exercise, or engage in some special activity that rejuvenates and refreshes you, emotionally, physically and spiritually.  Take walks across campus, sit by the duck pond, read a few pages of fiction or poetry, listen to music, meditate, do yoga, shoot a few baskets, watch an inning or two of baseball – whatever you find to be restorative and rewarding.  Make sure you find some time to do your scholarly or creative work (easier said than done, to be sure, but important).  And, critically, make time for your family. 



Self-Care for Chairs, Faculty, and Staff in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education


Following a growing number of reports of stress and burnout experienced by CSUN Chairs, faculty, and staff, one of the Chairs in the Michael D. Eisner College of Education, Dr. Shari Tarver Behring, decided to develop a college-wide faculty and staff self-care program in collaboration with another faculty member, Dr. Carolyn Jeffries.  We are proud to report that during the program’s initial four years, over 60% of our Chairs, faculty and staff have voluntarily engaged in self-care activities offered in a decentralized manner. 


We began this project by defining self-care as taking responsibility for yourself to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle at work and in your personal world through individually determined, proactive activities.  Self-care has been found to improve productivity and a sense of well-being, as well as promote physical and emotional health in a variety of work settings.  Our activities, which are chosen by the Chairs, faculty and staff themselves, have included mindfulness meditation, yoga, nutrition, campus walks, chocolate tasting, Asian medicine, and information sessions on sustainability, native plant gardening, travel, and beer and wine tasting tours.  We communicate with Chairs, faculty and staff about self-care activities happening in the college and surrounding area via email and through our website, where we also share information and articles, resources, and our history and mission.  Self-care articles can be found on topics such as stress management, mindfulness, nutrition, exercise, sleep and napping, and travel, along with phone applications for meditation, wine ratings, and exercising at our website:




We believe that you are at your best when you attend to yourself in equal measure to others.  In your role of Department Chair, you can be a leader and a role model by engaging in self-care activities, and by encouraging your faculty and staff to do the same.  We encourage Chairs to think about offering a regular self-care program in your department or college, and we have published an article about how we set up our college-based self-care program in Inside Higher Ed:




Shari Tarver Behring, Ph.D.

Chair, Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, 2008-2017

Chair, CSUN Council of Chairs, 2010-2012