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.