The Academe Blog

The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

“I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president.”

So says Richard Vedder in “New Analysis Shows Problematic Boom In Higher Ed Administrators,” an article by Joe Marcus appearing last week on Huffington Post. Marcus writes:

Universities have added these administrators and professional employees even as they’ve substantially shifted classroom teaching duties from full-time faculty to less-expensive part-time adjunct faculty and teaching assistants, the figures show.

“They’ve increased their hiring of part-time faculty to try and cut costs,” said Donna Desrochers, a principal researcher at the Delta Cost Project, which studies higher-education spending. “Yet other factors that are going on, including the hiring of these other types of non-academic employees, have undercut those savings.”

So, what I’m hearing is that, in order to increase administrators, cut full-time faculty and raise tuition. OK….

Sure, I recognize that colleges and universities are a bit hamstrung by regulatory requirements, not just from governmental bodies but from certifying agencies and the like. But one would think that, in the days of digital assistance, ways could be found to make each administrator a lot more efficient than she or he was before.

Instead, as here at CUNY, the new (and expensive) software programs are requiring a greater number of administrative hours than were needed before to do the same work. Their only efficiency is in centralized control… leaving less and less up to faculty, for example. And even that efficiency is suspect. Vedder is further quoted:

Centralization has been promoted as a way to reduce costs, but Vedder points out that it has not appeared to reduce the rate of hiring of administrators and professional staffs on campus—or of incessant spikes in tuition.

“It’s almost Orwellian,” said Vedder. “They’ll say, ‘We’ll save money if we centralize.’ Then they hire a provost or associate provost or an assistant business manager in charge of shared services, and then that person hires an assistant, and you end up with more people than you started with.”

And fewer faculty.

About Aaron Barlow

English faculty, New York City College of Technology (CUNY) and Faculty Editor, "Academe."

2 comments on ““I wouldn’t buy a used car from a university president.”

  1. martinkich
    February 10, 2014

    University administrators keep reassuring Boards of Trustees that they are running their institutions on a business model. But it seems to me to be a bifurcated model, with all of the efficiencies sought on the instructional side. On the administrative side, it is more like the 1950s model of expansive middle management, which ultimately hobbled American industries well into the 1980s. I recall that not very long after AT&T was broken up, its longtime production facility on the west side of Allentown, PA, was designated for closure. As the layoffs started, I came across a statistic that stunned me and has stuck with me: that plant had employed about 1,800 production workers and between 3,000 and 3,500 managers. An equivalent, unsustainable imbalance is occurring now in higher education and in every other industry that has shifted large portions of its “production work” to contingent workers.

  2. Pingback: The biggest cause of shared services failure? | Calchas

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This entry was posted on February 10, 2014 by in budget crises, contingent faculty appointments, faculty, shared governance, working conditions.
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