University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime

Vincent J. Roscigno, a Professor of Sociology at Ohio State University, has published a clever and insightful piece under the above title in the online magazine CounterpunchThe entire article is worth reading, but here are some choice excerpts:

Equating the administrative bloating of public universities and the harm it has caused as akin to organized crime may seem, at first-glance, far-fetched. Deeper reflection, however, has prodded me to take the possibility seriously. Indeed, what began as a “for fun” sociological thought experiment has led to the sad realization that they are really not as distinct as one might like to believe. To be sure, one is seen as legitimate while the other illegal. Yet, if one openly considers the parallels, including: (1) the hierarchical, bureaucratic and coordinated structure of each; (2) the accruing of riches to those on top, (3) how both require explicit or tacit governmental support, and; (4) the extraction of income from and ultimately harm done to well-intentioned families, to adjuncts and lecturers, and to the intellectual mission of public higher education most broadly, the similarities become more apparent, intriguing and certainly troubling. . . .

Still part of the bureaucratic machine, yet on the lower rung and increasingly removed from most decision-making power, college and university professors have been witness to a slow but steady conversion of their ranks to part-time, lower paid, and insecure work over the last decade (New York Times, May 14, 2015). Reminiscent of a mob leader questioning whether a soldier “is a good earner,” the profit and business logic that today’s university bureaucrats bring to the table often makes its way into investment decisions, such as those pertaining to hiring and departmental support.

These processes ultimately erode the intellectual and engagement goals upon which higher education was founded. Indeed, in lieu of hiring new or replacing retiring faculty or building on intellectual strengths, the university bureaucrat’s solution to budgetary issues now centers, more often than not, on the hiring of those in research areas flush with grant money (of which the university wants a sizeable cut) or cheaper and all-the-more-exploitable adjunct faculty and lecturers, who typically hold PhDs but are underpaid, have limited if any benefits and only receive temporary contracts. Harm is clearly accruing to this population of exploited teachers, to the intellectual integrity of departments and the university, and to the students being served.

It is time for the public and educators alike to see the damages about which I am speaking and take back the American university from bureaucratic and political actors—actors that have been directly or indirectly complicit in gutting the intellectual core and profiting from the labors and debts of well-intended and hopeful American families. Bureaucratic bloating needs to be counteracted, and those at the top of university bureaucracies must be held liable when it comes to the core intellectual (as opposed to business) mission of public higher education and those it was created to serve. Elected representatives similarly must be held responsible for their tacit support of the problematic structures described and the resulting downward slope of debt for American students and families—debt that politicians have been comfortable allowing and have played a part in creating.

Read the full piece here:

One thought on “University Bureaucracy as Organized Crime

  1. Can anyone at the AAUP tells what percentage of current university and college administrators were tenured faculty members before becoming administrators?

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