Thursday, February 5, 2015

"Here's An Idea From A Republican I Can Get With." Liberal Lucy from Louisville.

Meet the New Boss.
Not Just The Same
As the Old Boss,
But In Addition
To That Boss
And Some Other Bosses.
You can't walk across campus at any time of the day without passing a Dean or Provost or two. We've had at least 5 high level hires in the past 3 years, but we've been told to get along with our woefully small core faculty and a squadron of harried part-timers. No money for tenure track, but lots of money for the bureaucrats.

We hired a VP 5 years ago who makes more than $200,000. Unlike the President, at least this dude is around on campus, usually fucking up the entire reason we have college in the first place.

"We're top heavy," at least that's what our department administrator says, and she's been here for 30 years. She said to me a few days ago, "In the old days, it was students and faculty. That's what we did. Now it's Deans sending memos and faculty racing around trying to please them."

There's nothing particular in this article that gives me hope about fixing all of this, and, really, I'm only thinking of my own campus. But I liked having the stats that are referenced for the next time I hear some Dean tell me how important students are. "Oh yeah," I'll say. "Half as important as you and your lot?" Oh, I have tenure. Fuck 'em.

In his new book, American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., offers an aggregation of many of the conservative ideas he’s supported, including education policy.
In one passage, Rubio takes aim at the growth in college bureaucracies, which he suggests has gotten in the way of teaching and has led to steep increases in tuition. Rubio says universities should stop hiring bureaucrats.
"One study," Rubio writes, "found the number of administrative employees at colleges and universities (think deputy assistant to the associate vice provost and gender equity administrators) has more than doubled over the last 25 years, outpacing the growth of students by more than two to one."


  1. I echo completely Lucy's take on this. Management runs my college, and I've seen the difference in the past 10 years. A dramatic surge in bureaucrats and less and less power for faculty.

    And it's just passed down as if it's a given. Of course the Deans know more about how to run a college than poor teachers.

    Our main education Dean has never taught. He's a lifelong administrator, and when he looks you in the eye you can feel him extracting your humanity.

  2. I just wish Marco Rubio would be more intellectually honest about the age of Earth than using the cop-out, "I’m not a scientist, man." But at least he can see what the problem with universities is better than Joe Biden, who thinks that costs are out of control because professors get paid too much, although they are fun to sleep with. (I'm not making this up!) On the other hand, both of them are more knowledgeable than Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback, or Mike Huckabee, who think Earth is 6000 years old and yet want American energy independence within 10 years. As no less than Hillary Clinton noted, it's astonishing what people in public life say about science these days.

  3. Somehow I think he'd get rid of the "gender equity administrators" first if he had the choice, and then possibly forget the project, but, otherwise, I, too am on board with this. Admittedly some of the people feeding the supposed "administrative bloat" may turn out, on further investigation, to be librarians (depending on how they're classified at a particular school), and/or writing/tutoring/counseling center staff, and/or the people who keep the classroom tech working, and I fear they, too, rather than the mid-level managers who interact mostly with managers a step up or down (and yes, in the process, make work for faculty), will be the ones to be cut (because the people who write the budgets are exactly the class that probably needs to be cut).

    At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I think part of the solution is more teaching administrators. Administrators should be qualified (by at least an M.A. in a traditional discipline, not higher ed administration) to teach gen ed courses, and they should do so on a very regular basis (in addition to teaching any more advanced classes that might be appropriate). Replacing the majority of adjuncts with qualified administrators teaching part-time (while continuing to administer the other part of the time) would have some short-term disadvantages (including/especially for current adjuncts), but I suspect it would ultimately have a variety of salutary effects, predictable and not, on higher ed.

    1. Yes, the "gender equity" thing is a dog whistle to folks who think feminism is ruining America. Title IX is complicated; I don't blame schools for hiring someone (or a few someones) to make sure they stay on the right side of the law. But it's still refreshing to hear a Republican recognize there's a problem in higher ed other than those nasty overpaid professors.

    2. Indeed. A turn in the conversation from lazy/inefficient faculty to bloated/inefficient administration would be welcome, even if we have to hammer out some of the details later.

    3. I like this idea pretty much. Here's another in the same vein--though I wouldn't trust Rubio as far as I could throw him, if he's a good market conservative he should notice not ONLY the high pay for apparently unnecessary administrators, but also that some of the GOP Governors' ideas especially, about making sure that the right "product" is produced in the right quantities ("competencies," "real-world job-ready skills" etc.) sound like Stalinist 5-year plans. Sadly, as we know, the so-called Liberal Dems—and the President himself and his basketball buddy Arnie—share many of these bone-headed central planning notions as well.

  4. I have mixed feelings about this, honestly. I do think that there is some administrative bloat in a lot of institutions; at the same time, I think that a lot of it results from legal, institutional, and social mandates that would result in additional (and highly unfocused) work if it devolved to faculty.
    If we're going to have to do assessment of general education programs (which I think is mostly quantitative bs), I like the fact that we have an assessment expert to support our work and provide some expert guidance.
    If we're going to have to accomodate students with a myriad of physical, psychological, and emotional conditions (and I think we should), it's nice to have expertise in what accomodations are necessary and helpful, rather than forcing the students to educate and facilitate each of their instructors individually.
    Not that it's all productive, but it needs more of a scalpel than an ax approach.

  5. Here is what I'd like to see:

    1)all administrators hold the position for a max of 5 years, non-renewable, after which they return to the faculty (or retire, or go elsewhere).

    2) Anyone serving on a university administrative position must have a professional record as an academic: teaching and research comparable to those of a full professor at the same institution.

    3) Administrators at any level (at least up to provost) are required to teach at least one course per term, preferably a gen-ed course at the lower-division level.

    4) Administrator salaries commensurate to faculty salaries at the same institution (say, no more than 50% higher than the highest-paid non-admin full professor).

    No chance of that happening, but it would be fun to hear adminiflakes try to argue against it. What unique skills do they bring that are critical to the university's mission, anyway? None that would justify absurdly high salaries.

  6. I think Jonathan's right that it's more complicated than it looks (we, too, have some excellent people in the assessment office -- some of them with higher ed admin Ph.D.s, to boot -- and they've been a tremendous help in making assessment relatively painless and even somewhat useful/productive for faculty, and in figuring out ways to explain/spin the results to various audiences with varying degrees of power over the faculty). While shifting the conversation to focus more on administration strikes me as positive, I don't have any illusions that it will lead to easy ways to cut money going to administration and redirect it to faculty.

    And I like Peter's ideas (while agreeing that they're unlikely to be carried out). Anything that reduces the education/experience/job duty/salary divide between administration and faculty strikes me as to the good.