Tuesday, September 15, 2015

One key to the problem

Okay, so it's getting almost as old to blame administrators for everything that's wrong in higher ed as it is to blame professors, or students.  Still, I rather liked this point from an article in the NYT magazine's Education issue:
As Benjamin Ginsberg details in his 2011 book, ‘‘The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters,’’ a constantly expanding layer of university administrative jobs now exists at an increasing remove from the actual academic enterprise. It’s not unheard-of for colleges now to employ more senior administrators than professors. There are, of course, essential functions that many university administrators perform, but such an imbalance is absurd — try imagining a high school with more vice principals than teachers. This legion of bureaucrats enables a world of pitiless surveillance; no segment of campus life, no matter how small, does not have some administrator who worries about it.
It's hardly a new idea, but still worth noting, again, as it becomes someone's job to urge professors to serve cookies to students waiting in line.  The only solution I can think of (other than fewer administrators, period) is fewer career administrators, and fewer administrators with no teaching load at all.  Administrators who are, or will be, subject to their own decrees are far more likely to be reasonable.  


  1. Replies
    1. This is the link you want:


    2. And I just fixed the post, so you can get to it any number of ways. It leads to Trish's followup comment on her "Starbucks effect" post from yesterday.

      P.S. If anybody has already used up their NYT quota for the month, try another browser or private browsing. It's not a very robustly enforced limit.

  2. Regarding the last two sentences in the OP: Amen.

    The in-bred administrative class is fucking everything up.

  3. The related problem is that those administrators who rise up from faculty ranks because they want to improve things are outnumbered by career administrators, and strange policies. I still teach, and it provides a whole different perspective, as does my educational background. A content PhD seems to provide a different take on education, esp. the liberal arts, than a EdD. And esp if the EdD has never taught.

    1. Indeed. I had a very interesting conversation with an acquaintance who was very proud of her relatively-recently-acquired Ed.D. (deservedly so, for all I know), but puzzled as to why her assignment with a high-powered consulting firm wasn't going more smoothly. The professors at the campuses she had visited, she reported, didn't seem to appreciate her advice for carrying out administrative initiatives at all; in fact, they seemed to resent her presence. Further conversation revealed that (1) she'd somehow managed to get a big-D. degree without understanding traditional notions of faculty governance (her program's fault as much as hers, I'd argue), and (2) she had no sense that professors with multiple decades of teaching experience might be skeptical of the advice of someone who'd taught a few scattered sections here and there, in a discipline completely different from theirs. Basically, she couldn't understand why what she saw as underling employees weren't more eager to please their bosses. I tried to explain both as kindly as I could (which was probably not kindly enough), but it was a difficult conversation.

      Sadly, as we were conversing, I was also thinking "I have several decades' experience in the classroom; I could be more credible in this position; maybe I should look for consulting jobs!" Sadly, since I also believe in the traditional faculty governance structure (and worry about the effects of higher ed consulting/management firms peddling the same solutions to credulous administrators at multiple institutions), I don't think I could carry it off.