Academic journal article College and University

The Registrar as an Academic Officer

Academic journal article College and University

The Registrar as an Academic Officer

Article excerpt

I recall a visit some years ago from a classification specialist assigned by the Personnel Department (now Human Resources) to visit our office to review individual job descriptions in order to assign numbers in a hierarchy developed by an outside consultant. After a number of interviews and after having examined the descriptions, the classifier came to visit me, somewhat perplexed. Said he, "I just don't understand all of this. I thought you were just like a county recorder. Someone buys some land; they make a record of it. Someone registers for class; you make a record. A faculty member turns in a grade; you record it."

As those of us in the profession know, the job of registrar is far more than that of a recorder of data brought to us. I refer readers to David Lanier's excellent article, "The Mission of the Registrar Today," which appeared in the Winter 1995 issue of College & University. Mr. Lanier, Registrar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, traces the job history of the registrar in European universities of the thirteenth century to today and beyond. At Indiana University, the Office of the Registrar was created in 1885. The only offices of the academy which existed earlier are those of the president, treasurer, and librarian. This is the case at most American institutions of higher education.

In earlier times, when the academy was smaller and where roles were more comprehensive, it was not unusual for the registrar to be involved in many academic functions. As time progressed, institutions became larger and more complex, specialization increased, and additional offices of administration were created. Thus, the trend was for the registrar to be less directly involved in all academic matters. Yet, even into the middle of the twentieth century, it was not uncommon for registrars to be members (and often secretary) of the faculty council or senate and to have academic appointments in appropriate departments. Indeed, it was not unusual for the registrar to be chosen from the faculty ranks. However, as specialized skills, particularly those involving what we now refer to as information technology, became more critical to job performance and success, hiring directly from outside academic departments became more common. Although terminal degrees have become more essential for an appointment as a registrar at a research university, the connection to the faculty through an academic appointment is less common now than it was thirty years ago.

One challenge for registrars that persists in the present is to ensure fulfillment of the traditional role of that as proxy for the faculty. After all, the fundamental aspect of any registrar's office is to be the repository of the faculty's record of student performance. This is reflected in the mission statement developed at Indiana University:

The purpose of the Office of the Registrar is to support the instructional mission of the University and, to a lesser extent, the missions of research and professional service by coordinating, supplementing and facilitating the activities of the faculty who are responsible for fulfillment of the instructional mission. This is accomplished in accordance with institutional academic policies and practices as well as with rules of other external regulatory or accrediting agencies. This is an office of the faculty. We act as proxy for the faculty in maintaining an accurate and complete academic record of courses offered, teaching assignments, classroom facilities utilization, class enrollments, personal student demographic information, grades awarded for student academic performance, and degrees conferred. These records are assembled and maintained using centrally constructed information systems which enable departments and school personnel and students to conduct their business in a decentralized electronic environment.

The Faculty Constitution assigns to the faculty the authority to offer courses; determine the curriculum; determine academic policy; set the calendar; establish degree requirements; and establish the grading system. …

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