II.6. Department Climate

No other unit on campus has the multiple, and sometimes contradictory, characteristics of an academic department or division. Despite its pedagogical professional mission, the academic department can have an acutely personal quality as various faculty and staff personalities coalesce and collide, resembling a large family whose diverse members are bound together by common interests. At the same time, the professoriate is a highly individualistic enterprise; and philosophical and pedagogical difference can undermine a department’s collective identity. The new department chair will quickly learn information about her or his colleagues that those within the faculty ranks may not know. She or he may inherit the wounds and excesses of previous chairs, including the consequences on faculty morale of neglect or mismanagement. As in any workplace setting, a faculty member’s personal external circumstances may spillover into departmental and classroom interactions. It is the chair’s responsibility to ensure that collegiality prevails within departmental affairs without becoming autocratic. This could mean taming the department pot-stirrer while promoting civil and healthy disagreement in departmental discussions. Maintaining an academic/employment environment that has “[r]espect for the intrinsic dignity of each member of the University community” (NIU Constitution, Preamble) is possibly one of the most important strategies for successful faculty retention. See the APPM: Statement on Professional Behavior of Faculty.

Last Updated: 8/3/2009