The faculty of Amherst College consists of (1) the president, the dean of the faculty, professors, associate professors, and assistant professors appointed to regular full-time or part-time tenured or tenure-track positions; (2) all individuals on non-tenure track, renewable contracts, who teach regularly in the college curriculum and whose primary affiliation is with Amherst College; and (3) all persons with visiting teaching appointments, for the duration of their appointment at Amherst College, provided that appointment is their primary professional responsibility at the time (voted by the faculty, May 1990).
Subject to the reserve power of control by the trustees, the faculty (a) shall have the power and the duty to fix the requirements of admission, the course of study and the conditions of graduation, to establish rules for ascertaining the proficiency of students and for the assignments of honors, to determine the academic calendar, and to fix the times of general examinations; and, (b) may establish rules of conduct to be observed by the students and penalties for the violation thereof.
The exercise of any of the powers conferred on the faculty, that involves a change in the educational policy of the college, shall take effect only after the resolution of the Faculty shall have been submitted to and approved by the Trustees. It is always understood that the trustees reserve to themselves the power of developing the educational opportunities of the college by uniting or dividing and by increasing or decreasing departments.
The executive committee of the faculty is known as the Committee of Six. The composition of the committee, its powers, procedures and responsibilities, are more fully described in Sections III and IV of the Faculty Handbook.
The faculty of Amherst College is organized into departments and programs. The departments, however, are less formal and more flexible than in many other institutions. Departments are expected to reach decisions in a collegial fashion. Each department, by election, will recommend to the president of the college one of its members as chair.
a. Department Chairs
The responsibility of being chair will be shared by the members of the department, generally by the tenured members, although an untenured member may serve as chair. Members of the department should also share where appropriate the regular administrative work of the department so that it does not fall upon the chair alone. The term of appointment may vary, but usually a chair serves no more than three consecutive years. The president reserves authority, under special circumstances, to appoint or to remove a chair of a department.
Each department operates under a budget approved by the dean of the faculty and the chief financial and administrative officer and voted by the Board of Trustees. This budget is under the control of the chair or other designated member of the department. No commitments should be made for any departmental expenses without prior approval of that person and any bills or vouchers submitted to the controller must have that person's written approval.
The dean of the faculty will annually inform each department chair of the current policies and procedures pertaining to the chair's responsibilities in such matters as hiring, reappointment, tenure and promotion of faculty; budget projections; and the submission of course proposals for approval.
The duties of department chairs specifically include, but are not limited to:
Transmitting program changes and new course proposals to the Committee on Educational Policy, sending course and class information to the registrar;
Coordinating and/or conducting searches, in consultation with the dean of the faculty and with the chief diversity and inclusion officer;
Making annual arrangements with the dean of the faculty for the department’s budgets and projected faculty leaves and sabbaticals;
Holding annual conversations with the department’s untenured faculty member(s). The chair, with at least one other tenured member of the department also present and participating, shall have at least one formal conversation per year with each of the department’s untenured faculty member(s) to discuss in detail performance and progress in teaching, research or creative work, and other contributions to the life of the college. As to teaching, evidence should include all semester-end evaluations by students with signatures removed, the testimony of colleagues who have observed the untenured faculty member’s teaching, and such course materials as the untenured faculty member sees fit to submit for discussion (voted by the faculty, November 1998; amended, April 2014). Prior to the annual conversation, the chair shall provide materials documenting the untenured faculty member’s progress to the tenured members of the department and consult with them to reach a shared understanding of what should be conveyed in the annual conversation. Annual conversations are held each year until the time of the faculty member’s tenure review (voted by the faculty, April 2014). A sum and substance letter about the conversation should be given to the untenured faculty member and be placed in the records of the department (voted by the faculty, May 1995). On an annual basis, the chair must notify the dean of the faculty that the annual conversation has taken place with each of the department’s untenured faculty members and that the sum and substance letter has been given to each candidate (voted by the faculty, April 2014).
Discussing procedures for reappointment and tenure with non-tenured department members, and for tenure with newly reappointed members;
Adhering to the schedule and procedure for tenure and promotion reviews;
Discussing with tenure candidates the sum and substance of the department’s tenure recommendation;
Discussing with departmental applicants their proposals for Trustee-Faculty Fellowships, Miner D. Crary Fellowships, and Wilson Fellowships;
Managing departmental reviews, in consultation and coordination with the dean of the faculty’s office; preparing the departmental self-study, and consulting with the visiting review committee;
Discussing faculty and student grievances with the aggrieved parties;
In most departments, representing the department in discussions with the librarian of the department’s library budget;
Submitting annual evaluation of the department's staff.
b. Department Staff
Departments are assisted by a full-time or part-time academic department coordinator. Additional clerical support is available through the Office of Administrative Services.