3.4 The Academic Departments

The faculty is organized into disciplinary and interdisciplinary Academic Departments that represent the principal components of the curriculum. Departments administer curricular majors and minors and concentrations. In addition to departments, Kenyon supports other curricular initiatives, including interdisciplinary Concentrations (also called “Programs”), special academic initiatives, and majors that are administered by two or more departments.

Each member of the faculty is appointed as a member of a Department or Program. Jointly appointed faculty may serve as members of two Departments or a Department and a Program, but their duties to each must be mutually understood and documented.

Organization of All Departments

The responsibilities of the Departments are: to provide coherent curricula for majors and minors and concentrators; to ensure that courses are taught, students are evaluated, and high standards are maintained; to make recommendations for improvement in the curriculum or facilities; to promote research and scholarly development in the subject area; to represent the subject area in the intellectual life of the College outside of the classroom; to promote, together with the President and the Provost, the recruitment and retention of faculty members; to advise the Vice President for Library and Information Services on research-materials acquisition; to advise majors and minors and concentrators on curriculum; to administer budgets; and to perform routine program administration (e.g., ordering texts and supplies, turning in grades). Since all students must have a major, Departments play a critical role in ensuring that their majors meet graduation requirements.

Each Department (whether disciplinary or interdisciplinary in nature) has a chair or an acting chair in residence. The chair is appointed by the President on recommendation of the Provost after consultation with members of the department. The appointment shall be for a specified term, ordinarily for three years beginning on July 1. When possible, the office of chair is shared among members of a department over time; however, there is no limit to the number of times a chair may be reappointed and some tenure track faculty may serve as chair (though not ideally) before they receive tenure. In the case of an interdisciplinary Department, the chair need not hold an appointment in that Department, but here too the office of chair is shared among members of the interdisciplinary Department. The President may appoint an acting chair when necessary.

Departmental Chairs supervise the administration of departmental responsibilities and act in accord with general departmental agreement. The chair has a particular responsibility with respect to smooth running of the Department and its curriculum. The chair is responsible for the preparation of the departmental letter that is a necessary element in reviews of departmental colleagues for Pre-tenure review, Appointment Without Limit, and Promotion to Full Professor. The chair is also responsible for the preparation of such reports, evaluations, etc., as may be requested by administrative officers of the College. In general, the chair acts as the representative of the department.

The Chair of any Department — in recognition of their responsibilities in administering the department, supporting their faculty and their majors, and maintaining a curriculum that permits their majors to complete the degree — will typically receive one course release time per year of service for managing departmental duties. Course releases for chairs are not replaced with visitors, and careful consideration should be given to how the course release will impact the curriculum of all associated departments and/or programs.

Organization of Interdisciplinary Departments

While a Disciplinary Department is made up of the faculty hired into the disciplines contained in the Department, an Interdisciplinary Department is composed of all faculty members fully appointed to the Department, and additional jointly appointed faculty, plus affiliated faculty, who agree to serve. An Interdisciplinary Department must have a Steering Committee to carry out the work of the Department. The size and composition of the committee is determined by the appointed and affiliated faculty and the Provost, and it should be commensurate with the number of majors and the curricular breadth and demands of the Department. The Steering Committee is responsible for advising majors, ensuring course staffing, and sustaining the curriculum. Faculty serving on the Steering Committee will receive a letter of appointment from the Provost for the term of their service, which will also be shared with the chair of the Department in which the affiliated faculty member was appointed, so that their interdisciplinary commitments can be balanced against disciplinary departmental demands. The appointment to an Interdisciplinary Steering Committee is part of the “Appointment Record” that is kept in the Provost’s Office and shared in review dossiers.

There are other formulations within the curriculum that do not fall into the category of a single Disciplinary or Interdisciplinary Major Department. In these instances, Directors/Chairs should consult with the Provost’s Office to determine the best way of organizing.

Organization of Interdisciplinary Programs

The organizing head of an Interdisciplinary Program shall be called a “Director.” Ordinarily directors will not have a course release. Directors of Programs manage the curriculum of the interdisciplinary Concentration, which functions as a minor and, like a minor, is not required for graduation. Directors may also assist in mentoring fully or jointly appointed faculty. Ideally interdisciplinary programs also have a Steering Committee and a collaborative group of affiliated faculty, whose courses count toward the Concentration.

Note that for the purpose of evaluating faculty partially or wholly appointed in an interdisciplinary Department or an interdisciplinary Program, a separate review committee will be established as set out in section 2.4.10.

3.4.1 Procedure for the Establishment (or Reestablishment) of Curricular Programs 

Jan. 2019

This policy sets forth the procedures for the creation and approval of new curricular programs — majors, minors or concentrations — at Kenyon College. The establishment of a new curricular program might arise from faculty recognition of an important emerging field; as a well-considered response to student or prospective student interest, or possibly from a presidential or trustee initiative to take advantage of new resources now available to address a pre-existing need. In all cases, the following procedures should be followed.

  1. The proposer(s) should review the existing programs and resources, as well as developments in the proposed academic field, in order to develop a description, rationale, preliminary mission statement, and estimate of resources needed for the creation of a new program. In cases where an interdisciplinary program is proposed, the review must include anticipated demands on all other departments involved. In that case, department chairs must formally agree to the projected contributions of their departments to the program.
  2. The proposer(s) must meet with the Provost to discuss the new program and determine initial feasibility. If the resources needed for the establishment of the program are available or can be made available, the Provost will assist the proposer(s) in identifying those potential resources, a reasonable timeline and potential staffing needs.
  3. The Provost will share the prospect of a new program with faculty and invite feedback from departments/programs/offices to be shared with the proposers prior to their drafting a proposal.
  4. The proposal, along with a detailed explanation of projected resources needed, including multiyear staffing, will be submitted to the EXEC committee for assignment to CPC and RAS for consideration. CPC will review the proposal and consider the program’s curricular significance and its relationship to the institutional mission and other curricular and co-curricular programs within the college. RAS members will review the proposal with regard to competing demands for resources and the needs of the college. Committees may solicit additional information from related departments, programs, or offices. A program will not be approved without evidence of sufficient resources or a plan to secure them. The proposer(s) will work with the Provost to ensure staffing for departments whose members may participate in the new program.
  5. Once each committee has considered the proposal, faculty members from both committees will meet to discuss the resources projected, staffing needs, and the curricular merits of the proposal and write a joint report. The approval of both committees will be required for referral of the proposal to the faculty for its approval. The committee report and the proposal will be presented to the Faculty of the college at a regular faculty meeting for discussion and debate. A majority vote is required for commissioning or re-commissioning of a program. It is expected that new programs will undergo a review by the Provost in consultation with RAS/CPC within five years.

3.4.2 Procedure for the Decommissioning of Curricular Programs

Jan. 2019

This policy sets forth procedures in the eventual occurrence of circumstances that call for the decommissioning of curricular programs — majors, minors or concentrations — at Kenyon College. The need for programmatic suspension might arise from resource constraints, sustained low enrollment within the program, non-viable staffing or curricular evolution. In any case that it is determined that an academic program may need to be decommissioned, the following procedures should be followed. For the case of financial hardship, see Section 2.3.15.

  1. The Provost of the College should bring a proposal for review of a standing program to the Senior Staff and the Executive Committee of the Faculty. This proposal will call for an immediate review of the program in question. This proposal should provide a rationale for this review and a summary of the curricular impact on related departments or programs. In addition, the proposal should include a provisional plan for how current academic and support personnel may be reassigned should a program be decommissioned. All proposals for faculty lines directed to this program will be suspended until the completion of the review process.
  2. The Resource Allocation Subcommittee and the Curricular Policy Committee will receive from the Registrar and the Provost’s office the following information regarding the current state and history of the program in question over the past ten years:
    1. Enrollment
    2. Majors/minors
    3. FTE hires, retirements, departures
    4. Budget lines and possible endowment funds
    5. Past external reviews and assessment reports
  3. Current program faculty and/or closely-aligned faculty will be provided with a copy of the proposal and the data collected above. They will be given 60 days to write responses for consideration by RAS and CPC.
  4. Members of CPC will review the proposal and data and consider the program’s curricular significance and its relationship to the institutional mission and other curricular and co-curricular programs within the college. RAS members will review the proposal and data with regard to competing demands for resources and the needs of the college. Committees may solicit additional information from related departments, programs, or offices.
  5. The reviewing committees will together submit a report with a recommendation to the Faculty of the college at a regular faculty meeting for discussion. Following debate and discussion, the Provost will make a final decision regarding the decommissioning of the program.


The review for the decommissioning of a program may take up to one year, and the actions needed to complete the process may take up to two academic years. For the suspension of a minor in an established department, the process may be streamlined. In addition, if there are students who are still enrolled in the department or program, provisions should be made to allow them to complete their academic work. Students should be advised of the possibility that the program may be decommissioned. No student may declare a major, minor, or concentration in the program during this review process.