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The Wright Years: A Sea of Additional Employees

If the decline in the endowment is not to blame for the College’s financial woes, then what is? Faithful readers will recall past posts about the surging cost of health insurance, other benefits, retirement payments, and vacations, but these items, while important, are not the largest part of the story.

It’s time to look at the total number of employees at the College. Two weeks ago I gently chided Valley News Sports Editor Don Mahler for envisioning radical cuts in athletics programs. I pointed out that his proposals lacked a context: he had no idea how many employees had been added to the College’s overall staff during the past decade. To be fair to athletics, he needed to know if that department had expanded as much as the rest of the College. I observed then that these figures were not public.

I was wrong. It turns out that the College does send detailed staffing reports (enter “Dartmouth”; then click on “Dartmouth College”; and then click on “Non-instructional Staff”) regarding all levels of personnel to the federal Department of Education, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) considerately reproduces this information on its website. Prepare to be amazed.

First off, let’s look at the number of faculty at the College. The data on the AFT site concords with the information that the College publishes on AskDartmouth and in the Dartmouth Fact Book:

1Staff - Faculty.jpg

As you can see in the bottom line of the table, the number of FTE professors rose from 381 to 428 between 1999 and 2009. The College is proud of this fact, and it should be.

(Actually, if you look closely, you will see that the fluctuation in the total number of faculty is somewhat more interesting than the College has let on, but we have other fish to fry today.)

Let’s move forward and look at other staffing areas. In a number of categories the College’s fulltime staff has fallen over the last 10-12 years: Clerical/Secretarial (691 to 676 employees), Skilled Crafts (90 to 82 employees), and Executive/Administrative/Managerial (307 to 298 employees). Curiously, the gyrations in these areas from year to year have been very large, due to the College re-categorizing employees for the purposes of these reports:

2Staff - Clerical.jpg

5Staff - Skilled.jpg

3Staff - Exec.jpg

Beyond those areas, however, the staffing bloat that alumni have been complaining about is very much in evidence: there were substantial and regular increases over the decade in fulltime Service/Maintenance personnel (440 to 563 employees) and Technical/Paraprofessional (227 to 322 employees):

4Staff - Service.jpg
6Staff - Technical.jpg

As you will have expected, I have saved the worst for last. In the catchall category of Other Professional — a term for which, regrettably, the AFT provides no definition, but probably includes deans, assistant deans, assistants to assistant deans, and special advisors thereto, etc. — the number of employees at the College rose between 1997 and 2007 from 460 to 1,119:

7Staff - Other Professional.jpg

Kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? That’s 659 new Other Professionals over a ten-year period. An increase of almost two and a half times.

Overall, if you cumulate the above charts (and adjust for the different years for which the administration provided data), over the last decade or so, the total fulltime, non-faculty staff at the College went from 2,215 employees to 3,060 employees — a net increase of 845 people (+38.1%). In contrast, the size of the faculty rose by only 12.3%, and during this time, the undergraduate student body remained virtually unchanged.

I hope that I will not be accused of nostalgia if I suggest that Dartmouth College circa 1997-9 was easily as good an institution as it is today (for one thing, its rankings were better). Who are all of these new employees and exactly what do they do all day? That should be the first question that the budget cutters ask themselves each morning — and they should continue to ask it all day long.

Note: Another question immediately presents itself: did the Trustees know and approve this enormous expansion in the College’s headcount? If they did, then they are guilty of utter mismanagement; if not, then we should all ask just what kind of oversight they have provided to Dartmouth over the last, troubled decade.


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