Friday, October 31, 2014

Administrative Growth: More Complicated Than It Appears

I've written before about "administrative bloat" - the ongoing complaint (often from faculty, sometimes from state legislators) that universities have added too many administrators in recent years and not enough faculty. There are numbers to support this contention, so the general trend is not in doubt. The real question is why this is happening.

Faculty of a certain bent are wont to attribute this to the general greed and tribal affiliation of administrators - that administration breeds more administration and that administrators don't care about the faculty. While good for whipping up the masses, this argument lacks much in the way of evidence. Yes, there are administrators here and there who see themselves as a breed apart from faculty and who take an adversarial position. But a great many don't, and many are more than happy to add more faculty lines when they can find the resources to do so.

My contention has been that there are forces outside of higher education entirely that help to drive the growth in administration. Today's Chronicle has an excellent example of just such a force:
Overseeing Sex-Assault Cases Is Now a Full-Time Job
Hiring people to take the lead on Title IX compliance and put together good, effective responses to sexual assault cases that protects both victims and accused is an important thing. In today's climate, with folks on both sides lawyering up, it's probably a necessary step to get out in front of the issue. But it also costs money. That's one more administrator on many campuses - money that could, under other circumstances, fund a faculty line.

So to my faculty colleagues - please, the next time you get the urge to complain about administrative bloat, look carefully at who's being hired to do what. Where there are positions your university really doesn't need, make that argument. But don't paint administrative motives too broadly. Sometimes, those new administrative positions can help make the world a better place.

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