Associate Vice Provost of Incentivization
Of all of the contributions I’ve had to the “crisis” of higher education meme inspired by Tony Grafton’s recent review in the New York Review of Books, no one has yet called out administrators and/or administrative bloat. Most of us humanist faculty types appear to see the liberal arts college administrators as tapdancing as fast as they can with the budgets handed down by the central administration. (Or, perhaps the other problems just loom larger–who knows?)
Well friends, that changes today with this guest post by commenter truffula, who is a department head in the natural sciences at an urban university. She identifies the “growth toward a corporate organizational structure” as the burr under her saddle these days. She asks, given the budgetary pressures in public higher ed, can we really afford all of those administrators, especially when the ones at her uni seem to be more dedicated to their own salaries and perks than to serving the students or the general public? She portrays the administrative class at her uni as barbarian invaders of the groves of academe, “harvesting as much as they possibly can and . . . salting the fields.”
Take it away, truffula:
A colleague whom I love dearly has this crazy scheme to storm out of the castle, form guilds, and conduct our transactions directly with our customers. Unfortunately, his preferred alternative to the brick and mortal castle is the interwebs. I’ve argued with my colleague about the pedagogical problems and the risk of ghettoization associated with online classes but I can’t dismiss his idea entirely and here’s why: the maintenance costs associated with the modern university president, vice presidents, provost, vice provosts, and various assistant and associate deans are very high.
Here at Provincial State U, a large public university, our growth toward a corporate organizational structure has led to what some would call an administrative bloat problem. Some code of public relations suggests that it is bad to give one of the dozen or so vice presidents/provosts a raise in these times of furloughs and hiring freezes so instead the big bosses create new job titles and promote internally to fill those jobs–at higher pay, natch. The administrative class didn’t get where it is today by being stupid. But the costs of professional administrators are more than just their salaries. They’re harvesting as much as they possibly can and they are salting the fields. Continue Reading »