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Administrative Blight/Bloat Bleat

Fall3.jpgLest loyal readers wonder if this space is just a voice crying in the wilderness about the College’s bloated, over-compensated staffing, let me assure you that Dartblog is not alone in its complaint — and Dartmouth is not alone in its bloat. Professor Benjamin Ginsberg, director of the Center for the Study of American Government and chair of the Government Program of Advanced Academic Programs at Johns Hopkins , and previously a faculty member at Cornell, has written a new book: The Fall of the Faculty, The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters. Given that the undergraduate section of the College has almost five staffers for each faculty member, Ginberg’s message should have a ready Hanover audience.

Beyond complaining about money wasted on non-productive employees, Ginsberg observes that staff members see themselves in active competition with the faculty for an institution’s resources — to the obvious detriment of teaching and research.

Inside Higher Education has a brief review of the book, along with an interview with Ginsberg:

The larger result, he argues, is that universities have shifted their resources and attention away from teaching and research in order to feed a cadre of administrators who, he says, do little to advance the central mission of universities and serve chiefly to inflate their own sense of importance by increasing the number of people who report to them. “Armies of staffers pose a threat by their very existence,” he wrote. “They may seem harmless enough at their tiresome meetings but if they fall into the wrong hands, deanlets can become instruments of administrative imperialism and academic destruction…

Ginsberg ends his book by offering a few remedies, while acknowledging that they may serve only to slow administrative growth rather than reverse it. Faculty members and trustees should and can be natural allies, he wrote, and peer-elected faculty representatives should serve on their institutions’ governing boards. Parents and students, alumni, faculty, and the media can take a hard look at where the money on campus goes and what purposes it serves, he adds. Talented and hardworking administrators (of whom he concedes there are some), can root out the bad ones, and thin out their own ranks when necessary.”

In his interview, Ginsberg traces these developments to the change in the profile of administrators:

“I wanted to emphasize a major shift that’s been underway for several decades. Deans [used to] have an academic background. Years ago, they were part-time and always part of the faculty. This is extremely important because, like the faculty, they saw the university as an instrument of teaching and scholarship. Today, we have a cadre of professional administrators. I called them deanlets to give emphasis to the difference. They either have no faculty background or they decided early in their careers that their talents lay elsewhere. To them, what used to be the means is now the end. Instead of an institution serving teaching and scholarship, teaching and scholarship serve the institution.”

At Dartmouth, the Dean of the College’s Office is typical of the poor management that had led to a swelling of staffing levels. It seems that Assistant Deans merit Administrative Assistants. Will the day come when the assistants to assistant deans have assistants of their own?

Dean of the College Office.png

Recall that in 1998 the College has 2,408 non-faculty staffers; by 2008, that figure had swollen to 3,417 employees — that’s a 42% more employees with nary a change in the total number of students. This development is particularly galling for older alums, who recall when the College had only a pair of deans, in contrast to the 304 employees today who are are classified as Executive, Administrative, and Managerial.

Note: Ginsberg coins the disparaging terms deanlets and deanlings. Perhaps the former term connotes the flighty character of many administrators (“starlet”), or their low-rent quality (“sublet”), or perhaps Ginsberg is disparaging of their work product (“toilet”)? Is the term deanling meant to recall the consummate silliness of many administrative ideologues (“dingaling”), or their naiveté (“foundling”), or many deans’ spaceshot quality (“earthling”)? I’ll leave a final determination of these weighty issues to you.


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