Addendum to “University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime”

This post is being written as much in response to chhanks’ comment on Hank Reichman’s post, excerpting Vincent J. Roscingo’s article in Counterpunch, as to the post itself.

In the comment, chhanks asks: “Can anyone at the AAUP tells what percentage of current university and college administrators were tenured faculty members before becoming administrators?”

With very few exceptions (such as hiring a former football coach as a university president—for instance, Jim Tressel’s being hired as president of Youngstown State University), all current university administrators with academic responsibilities have been—and, indeed, continue to be—tenured faculty. There may, however, be more exceptions to this general rule at the community-college level because, I believe, there may be more movement there between academic and non-academic administrative positions.

The key difference between how things were thirty to forty years ago and how they are now is that many senior faculty used to do four- to six-year stints as chairs and deans whereas now the bureaucracy is much, much larger and much, much more entrenched. There is now a very distinct administrative track for academic administrators just as there has always been for other sorts of administrative positions. If one wishes to ascend through the administrative hierarchy, academic credentials are the equivalent of an entry-level requirement, but administrative credentials quickly become much more important.

By the way, the fact that Vincent J. Roscingo is a faculty member at Ohio State has caused me to recall an article published in the Chronicle quite some time ago. The author was making the hackneyed Far Right argument about overpaid, over-privileged, and under-performing tenured faculty and pointed out that the average salary for full professors at Ohio State was more than $125,000/year, a very high annual salary at the time. Several weeks later, a response to the article from a faculty member at Ohio State was published as a letter to the editor. That faculty member pointed out that if one excluded former administrators from the calculation, the average salary for full professors at Ohio State dropped to just under $100,000, or by somewhat more than 20%.

So, although faculty with administrative ambitions get on a distinct career track, even when they fail at or lose interest in administrative work, they never really rejoin the faculty as chairs and deans used to do so. Instead, when they rejoin our ranks, it is typically as very privileged colleagues. One can find many ready illustrations to support the assertion that one has to be an academic “star” to receive compensation equivalent to that received by many failed administrators. That equivalency in itself demonstrates how skewed things have become in most of our institutions.



9 thoughts on “Addendum to “University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime”

  1. It is true that most high-level academic administrators (deans, provosts, presidents, etc) are also tenured faculty members. However, this is a tiny proportion of the overall administrative bureaucracy at colleges, which includes all the non-faculty staff on campus. Virtually all of the administrative growth in recent years comes from positions that are not held by tenured faculty.

    • Thank you for the needed clarification. In the third paragraph, I meant “all current administrators with academic responsibilities,” not “all current administrators.” So I have added the clarifying phrase.

      Although you are absolutely correct that most of the administrative growth has been in non-academic areas, there has also been some growth–certainly no contraction–in administrative positions on the academic side, and furthermore, the administrators on the academic side continue to hold many of the most powerful positions in most institutional hierarchies. Nonetheless, instruction continues to be sacrificed to other priorities because, unfortunately, the academic administrators have embraced much the same corporate-influenced mindset as the rest.

  2. And increasingly college and university presidents are being recruited from the ranks of non-academic administrators, especially CFOs or “student services” managers. These positions too are often given “faculty status,” but those who hold them have often never or at most very rarely taught or conducted scholarly research.

    • Professor Wilson tells us “virtually all administrative growth in recent years” has been in non-faculty staff.

      Presumably that growth has been at the direction of, and approved by, high-level academic administrators – virtually all of whom (according to Professor Wilson) are (or were) tenured professors and associate professors. (Did somebody else start creating all those non-faculty admin positions??)

      But then Professor Reichman tells us that “increasingly” college and university presidents are being recruited from the ranks of non-academic administrators – i.e, administrators who have never been tenured professors or associate professors.

      Well, which is it?

      Either tenured academics have created and approved the increased numbers of non-faculty admin positions being complained about here or they haven’t.

      If they have, the question is why? (E.g., is it because they found they had to because of increasing administrative demands from government regulation?)

      If they haven’t – and it’s all those darn “non-academic” presidents Professor Reichman is worried about who have been busy hiring more their own – then who hired THEM? Boards of Trustees? (If so, why have Boards increasingly begun to lose faith in hiring administrators with academic backgrounds?)

      It seems all the complaints circulating here at Academe Blob about “administrative bloat” have not yet painted the full picture yet.

      • Yes, many those responsible for much of the administrative bloat now evident in our institutions started their careers as tenured faculty.

        But blaming tenured faculty as a group for administrative bloat–for what academic administrators have done to our institutions–serves no real purpose since most tenured faculty are strongly opposed to the massive transfer of resources from instruction and instructional support to administration and administrative support.

        As I described in my post, there are two very distinct careers tracks for academics and for administrators. Tenure is not really the central issue here. It matters more what career path faculty take after receiving tenure and what conception they have of what a university or college ought ideally to be.

        In institutions that are unionized, such as my own, the very marked differences in the priorities between academic administrators and tenured faculty (actually, all full-time faculty) are very apparent in every cycle of contract negotiations. Even AAUP recognizes the difference, with administrators eligible for associate membership but not full, voting membership in the association.

        Undoubtedly, some tenured faculty who are not administrators have accepted the notion that corporatization is either a good thing for our institutions or so inevitable as to be not worth resisting. Although I’d like to think that those faculty are in the minority at most institutions, I am willing to admit that my own convictions may be distorting my perceptions. If I had to guess, I would say that, among tenured faculty, weariness or apathy about corporatization has become much more rampant than any actual ideological enthusiasm for it.

        • Again – there have to be reasons why professors who became high-level administrators found themselves willing/forced to instigate/allow/oversee the rise of administrative growth. (Calling it administrative “bloat” begs the question.) They can’t all have been so very different from you and your fellow like-minded cohorts on the Academe Blog, so what were their reasons? Neither you nor Professors Wilson or Reichman or Roscingo have attempted to address that.

  3. I am sure that there are all sorts of reasons why faculty pursue administrative rather than academic careers. I suspect that much of it may be disengagement from teaching and scholarship. Certainly, the power and the compensation are both major enticements to climb through the institutional bureaucracy. And if someone wishes to advance in a very corporatized environment, he or she has to buy into the priorities being pushed by trustees, by donors, by business leaders in the institution’s service area, and by local and state political leaders. In that sort of dense mix, it is not very surprising that faculty priorities have become a low administrative priority. Although I try to resist attributing selfish or nefarious motives to most individuals, I think that it is very clear that much decision-making is being driven by those kinds of motives.

    But, at this point, I honestly don’t really care what an individual’s motives have been. I have been too busy trying to document what has been occurring and to encourage colleagues collectively to resist it.

  4. Pingback: Wherein a Former Academic Blogger Emerges from Book Jail, Weary and Bleary-Eyed, to Discover He Has 300 Open Tabs | Gerry Canavan

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