If you’re not familiar with how universities are structured, at least in the United States, it generally goes like this, from top to bottom.

  • Board of Regents (or some sort of advisory board, if it’s a private school). This body reports to whoever oversees the universities, governors, church groups, or city/regional units
  • President’s office, which deals with athletics, academics, grounds, etc. The main person to worry about here, since we’re talking about academics, is the Provost, who is the Chief Academic Officer of the university. The Provost reports to the President, who reports to the Board of Regents.
  • The college (Engineering, Arts & Sciences, Performing arts, etc) — the head of a college is a dean, and all the deans report to the provost.
  • The department (English, Statistics, Anthropology, Electrical Engineering, etc) — headed by a department chair. All the chairs in a college report to their dean.
  • Units (or divisions, if they exist at all) — majors or centers within the department, usually run by a director or something similar. If there are no units, then we’d put the faculty here, reporting to their chairs.

In larger schools, it’s generally important to follow the chain of command, while it may be a lot less important in smaller schools. My university is a large state university with 20,000 students, and in pseudonymous emails to the ombudsman, I learned that it was quite important to start with my chair, and then go up the chain.

Similarly, if the Regents want something to happen, they tell the president, who tells the provost, who tells the deans, who tell the chairs, who tell their units and their faculty.