How Oberlin Works

Ask me how.


zoom in on image download the PDF

The General Faculty (GF) is responsible for the internal management of the College. Its members include all Oberlin faculty members, certain administrators (such as senior staff members, associate and assistant deans, and other administrators directly involved with academics), and members of Student Senate. It makes or approves legislation that affects the whole College, such as grading policy or adoption of the Strategic Plan, and has historically passed resolutions pertaining to global issues. It is also responsible for the adoption of rules and standards affecting the welfare, conduct, and discipline of students.

In addition to the General Faculty, the two divisions (College and Conservatory) are managed by their respective faculties—the Conservatory Faculty and the College Faculty. These bodies approve legislation particular to their branches such as curricular policy. Each group (including GF) elects an executive committee: General Faculty Council (GFC), Conservatory Faculty Council, and College Faculty Council. The divisional faculty councils make appointment, tenure, promotion, and salary decisions for their respective divisions, subject to approval by the General Faculty Council and the Board of Trustees; Conservatory Faculty Council and College Faculty Council also serve as an advisory board to their respective deans.


The subcommittees of the general and divisional faculties are numerous and carry out much of the work of the faculties. Committee membership generally includes faculty, administrators, and students, when appropriate. Committees have varying degrees of responsibility and meeting frequency—the College of Arts and Science’s Educational Plans and Policies Committee meets weekly and carries a heavy workload, whereas other committees meet only a few times per year. The Student Senate is responsible for appointing students to the numerous committees that have student seats.

Academic Departments

The College of Arts and Sciences and the Conservatory have distinct styles of division and governance; the Conservatory is divided into eight divisions and one program, whereas the College of Arts and Sciences has 40 departments and numerous program and curricular committees. Departments and divisions are responsible for faculty hiring; they also play a key role in the tenure process by making recommendations to their divisional faculty council, whose recommendation is then reviewed by GFC and the board. Once a recommendation is approved or denied by the divisional councils, it is uncommon for GFC or Board of Trustees to overturn the divisional faculty council recommendation. Academic departments manage class offerings, major requirements, and the responsibilities of professors in the department. Department chairs are also responsible for managing class schedules, assigning academic advisors, supervising administrative assistants, and preparing an annual report on the activities of the department. Chairs and program directors are appointed for specific terms by the divisional faculty council upon recommendation of the dean and after consultation by the dean with members of the department or program.