Department heads to form advisory council

Joe Lord

Steven Haggbloom wants to have a talk with the leaders of Western’s academic departments.

The psychology department head is looking for better communication from colleagues. He’s looking for help. He’s looking for input.

And he just may get it.

Haggbloom is leading an effort at Western to organize a council of department heads that could start meeting as early as this semester.

He said the council would make recommendations to university officials, share ideas and concerns among academic department leaders and mentor newcomers among their ranks.

Indudeep Chhachhi, chair of accounting and finance, said academic departments could benefit from communicating on the council.

Chhachhi said department heads could also give administrators sound advice on issues such as enrollment growth and health insurance.

“Everyone who is making these decisions should be aware of the different viewpoints,” he said.

The department heads could also advise each other, he said.

Haggbloom didn’t want to give specific examples of what issues the council might take up. Reforming faculty evaluations is one area he’s interested in discussing, he said.

Last semester, Haggbloom said he and his supporters sent an e-mail to other department heads to gauge interest.

“Most of the department heads were in favor of it,” Haggbloom said. “A handful were not overwhelmingly enthusiastic.”

Some department heads were concerned about having another meeting to attend, he said. Others were afraid Provost Barbara Burch and college deans would be opposed to such a council.

“I think we’ve allayed most of those concerns,” Haggbloom said.

Burch said she supports the creation of a department heads’ council.

“I think they’re just saying they share common goals and common problems,” she said. “This is a way they can collectively make things better.”

Department heads voted in favor of the new council at a department heads’ work day in November, Haggbloom said.

Haggbloom said the new council will not act as a governing body to pass legislation, such as the University Senate.

The council could have its first meeting this semester, Haggbloom said.

Meetings with all of Western’s department heads may happen once or twice a semester, he said. A leadership committee could be elected to meet more often.

Haggbloom said the meetings would be voluntary.

The idea of forming the council has been with Haggbloom since he arrived on the Hill from Arkansas State in July 2001, he said.

Although Haggbloom wasn’t a department head at his previous school, he took notice of their group.

Their council advised university officials and elected representatives to committees, but he didn’t know if Western’s would do likewise.

“We’ll play that by ear,” he said.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]