31 August 2011

Academia: Budget Crisis edition

Here we are in the worst budget crisis of my career and we are all wondering what to do about it. Or rather, we are all wondering what our administration will do about it. This is particularly worrisome since our new chief administrator, the Provost, has not shown up for the job yet. So we soldier on with our old interim provost and end up paying for both salaries for at least a few months.

Which brings up and interesting question. What are we cutting in the way of administration? We already know that staff, the local working folks who usually make less than $30K a year, will be 'riffed.' That comes from 'RIF', for 'reduction in force', a polite way of saying 'layoffs.' I had to explain this to Commandante Cinco, our labor historian (if we had a labor historian). We have suffered a small but real pay cut due to health insurance, we have a firing freeze, and will probably be furloughed for a day or two like last year (elsewhere these days are known as 'pay cuts').

So imagine my surprise when Maire's sister (private snark!) put the following article at my fingertips: "Administrators Ate My Tuition" in the Washington Monthly. If you have any interest in higher education and budgets, not to mention the tuition rates for your nearest and dearest, you should read it. Here is a bit of it:
Every year, hosts of administrators and staffers are added to college and university payrolls, even as schools claim to be battling budget crises that are forcing them to reduce the size of their full-time faculties. As a result, universities are now filled with armies of functionaries—vice presidents, associate vice presidents, assistant vice presidents, provosts, associate provosts, vice provosts, assistant provosts, deans, deanlets, and deanlings, all of whom command staffers and assistants—who, more and more, direct the operations of every school. If there is any hope of getting higher education costs in line, and improving its quality—and I think there is, though the hour is late—it begins with taking a pair of shears to the overgrown administrative bureaucracy.

It's a fun article in many ways, depending on your idea of fun. It certainly supports my contention that all elites have disgraced themselves in the last dozen years or so. My personal favorite is this one, which has some salience for my history department:
At one school, an inventive group of administrators created the “Committee on Traditions,” whose mission seemed to be the identification and restoration of forgotten university traditions or, failing that, the creation of new traditions.

Ding dong, for whom the bell tolls.

well, you get what you pay for.




At 31 August, 2011 22:41, Anonymous Maire said...

Full disclosure -- I got the article from Robin Fleming. It's pretty horrific, and a truth that represents the reality we've been living for several years now.

At 14 September, 2011 14:51, Blogger Clemens said...

Good for Robin.

Now let's wait and see.

At 18 September, 2011 20:47, Anonymous Jack Perry said...

Yup. I've been talking about this with colleagues for awhile. Though I probably didn't observe it entirely independently.

I wish I knew what the solution is. It might help if US News & Word Report would report on the student:staff&administration ratio at a college. Some of them might be shamed into reform. Probably not, though: they'd just hire a new vice president for streamlining the college, who would need staff...

At 19 September, 2011 14:14, Blogger Clemens said...

It has been a big discussion here and not just because of the increasing number of administrators. They are paid much better than the faculty. Admins get top of the national scale for comparable universities while the faculty are lost somewhere south of median.


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