I am an undergraduate student of a fairly small university (around 8,000 undergrads) and I'm not getting any response from my Department chair when I ask for some help with changing around my classes. Currently, for next semester, I'm registered in a specific class at a certain time (we can call this class A) and I want to move to a different time slot of that same class (class B).

My major is an applied science and so there aren't too many students who require the chair's attention. At first, I was polite in emailing him. I said something along the lines of...

"Hi Dr. blah blah

My name is blah blah and I've run into a bit of snag with my schedule next semester and I am unable to take class A because of the time it is offered, can you switch me out of Class A and into class B?

Thanks, blah"

I understand that he is a very busy guy, especially around this time of the semester but c'mon. It's been 3 weeks since I first reached out to him and I've sent 1 email per week. How do I get his attention and also be polite about it, even though it's really beginning to frustrate me?

P.S. I have tried to catch him in his office hours to no avail. P.S.S first time asking a question on here - any helpful criticism regarding the way it was asked is appreciated as well.

  • 2
    At my institution, students can make the sorts of changes you mention above to their schedule without any advisor involvement; perhaps your school is the same way, and your department head is wondering why you don't just make the change yourself?
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 21:44
  • 2
    "At first I was polite." You mean you stopped being polite? That's pretty much guaranteed to get your messages deleted. You don't say where you are, but in the United States, you almost certainly have an assigned academic advisor. Start there if you can't make the change yourself. And get back to being polite. (If Class B is already full, you may be stuck.)
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 22:18

3 Answers 3


How do I get his attention and also be polite about it, even though it's really beginning to frustrate me?

You don't need the assistance of the department chair on such a matter. Your department should have administrative staff who could assist you (at my department they will be called undergraduate advisors or Student Services staff) -- talk to them. Only if your problem involves some especially sensitive issues (e.g. related to health or an accusation of misconduct or incompetence on the part of an instructor) will the department chair need to be involved.

If you truly believe you need to urgently meet with the department chair (which as I said does not seem to be the case), I suggest talking to a staff member at the department and requesting an appointment with the chair, and I am confident they will be able to help you arrange it.

[For context: I am a department chair at a large US university.]


Every department is different, but I am not aware of any department or university for which the Department Chair is responsible for scheduling conflicts. While a great chair would respond to your email telling you who to talk to, not everyone will.

The first thing you need to figure out is who the correct person to talk. I would start with your academic advisor if you have one or someone in the department office. Failing that maybe someone in the registrar's office. You may actually be able to make the changes online. Once you know who the person you need to talk to is, you need to stalk them. This likely means spending part of one day sitting outside their office. You can also try emailing them and calling them on the phone.

  • 1
    While a great chair would respond to your email telling you who to talk to, not everyone will. Actually even great chairs will be quite likely to find themselves on occasion (or even very frequently) swamped with such a deluge of emails and other responsibilities that they would be literally unable to respond to all email requests. So not getting a response is not definitive proof that the chair is bad at their job, though of course they may be.
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 23:30

A department chair should have a secretary or assistant - have you tried contacting that person?

Can you do this via the Registrar instead of the department chair?

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