Administrative bloat.

8 05 2011

You’ve probably seen this article already [How can I pass up a chance to write on something called “Faulty Towers?”], but there’s so much there to work with [The Yale English Department throws a party if half of its Ph.D.s get tenure track jobs? Yale?] that I think you can use another blog post about it.

How about this?:

From 1976 to 2001, the number of nonfaculty professionals ballooned nearly 240 percent, growing more than three times as fast as the faculty. Coaching staffs and salaries have grown without limit; athletic departments are virtually separate colleges within universities now, competing (successfully) with academics. The size of presidential salaries—more than $1 million in several dozen cases—has become notorious. Nor is it only the presidents; the next six most highly paid administrative officers at Yale averaged over $430,000 in 2007. As Gaye Tuchman explains in Wannabe U (2009), a case study in the sorrows of academic corporatization, deans, provosts and presidents are no longer professors who cycle through administrative duties and then return to teaching and research. Instead, they have become a separate stratum of managerial careerists, jumping from job to job and organization to organization like any other executive: isolated from the faculty and its values, loyal to an ethos of short-term expansion, and trading in the business blather of measurability, revenue streams, mission statements and the like. They do not have the long-term health of their institutions at heart. They want to pump up the stock price (i.e., U.S. News and World Report ranking) and move on to the next fat post.

That explains where all the money they’re saving on contingent faculty is going: Associate deans and presidential search expenses.




3 responses

9 05 2011
Middle Seaman

Why should universities be any different than other organizations? It is a society that is hell bound on enriching the very few through the sweat of the many.

Change comes only with the guillotine.

9 05 2011
Why it’s time to strike the word “bubble” from my vocabulary. « More or Less Bunk

[…] as a result. A piece of the mother of all “higher education in crisis” articles (which I linked to last night) can help me make this point better: Online courses, distance learning, do-it-yourself instruction: […]

9 05 2011


Thanks for pointing this out. I let my Nation subscription lapse in 2008, and haven’t been so happy in years, but occasionally I miss articles of interest (plus Jon Wiener.)

This: At Yale, we were overjoyed if half our graduating students found positions. That’s right—half. Imagine running a medical school on that basis. As Christopher Newfield points out in Unmaking the Public University (2008), that’s the kind of unemployment rate you’d expect to find among inner-city high school dropouts. And this was before the financial collapse. In the past three years, the market has been a bloodbath: often only a handful of jobs in a given field, sometimes fewer, and as always, hundreds of people competing for each one.

I don’t quite buy this. There’s no reason the author would know this, since he’s taught only at institutions that ran the gamut from Columbia to Yale, but my guess is that my department gets only 100 apps. for U.S. History jobs, and a lot fewer depending on which field/s we’re hiring in. I’ve chaired a search that had fewer than 40 apps., and I’ve also served on a committee with a similar number of apps. Your numbers may be even lower, since your teaching load is higher & you’re farther from Denver, IIRC. (And how many apps did you get from Yale Ph.D.’s for the position you filled this year?)

Does it make a huge difference to the unlucky ones who don’t get offered a job that there were “only” 49 other competitors instead of 149 or 249? No. But one of the secrets of academia is the fact that one’s odds are a LOT better of getting a job if it’s in a location more than 3 hours outside of New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, and Seattle.

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