July 14, 2011

THE FALL OF THE FACULTY: This diagnosis sounds plausible to me:

In his polemic, The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters (Oxford University Press), Benjamin Ginsberg, David Bernstein Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, takes stock of what ails higher education and finds a single, unifying cause: the growth of administration. Ginsberg bemoans the expansion over the past 30 years of what he calls “administrative blight” as personified by what he characterizes as an army of “deanlets” and “deanlings.” By virtue of their sheer number and their managerial rather than academic orientation, Ginsberg argues, these administrators have served to marginalize the faculty in carrying out tasks related to personnel and curriculum that once sat squarely in their domain.

The Goldwater Institute found something similar in tying “administrative bloat” to the rise of college costs. But Ginsberg appears to go beyond the cost issue alone: “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.”

Interview at the link.

UPDATE: Steven Den Beste emails:

It’s one of Parkinson’s Laws: “All bureaucracies grow 3% per year, unrelated to the job they are supposed to perform.”

Indeed. And as proof of its universality, here’s another email:

Please withhold name and company:

I’m a senior manager at a Fortune 100 company. I read your post, “The Fall of the Faculty” and just shook my head. The administrative bloat is happening everywhere, not just education. Just this morning I was reviewing the number of Human Resource indicators/measures/reports, etc. being pushed to executives and technical managers throughout our company. If you were to guess 100 metrics, you would be under calling it by a long shot. We actually have 50+ measures on diversity alone. And our HR and IT groups are proposing even more. Truly, we are burdening our technical managers with so much bureaucracy, they must either reduce focus on future technology and work more on bureaucratic policies that benefit only regulators/policy makers; or work even more ungodly hours to continue the path forward. Disgusting.

Some of this is the fault of regulation and excessive litigation, which tends to empower internal bureaucracies. Some of it’s just Parkinson’s law at work.

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