Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

The Administrative Sublime

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Ginsberg places the lion’s share of the blame on administrators. He co-opts the more common phrase “administrative bloat” and gives it a cutting turn in denouncing “administrative blight.” Unlike some of those who have previously attempted to address the corporatization of higher education, Ginsberg does not focus primarily on the dramatic increases in the number and the compensation of upper administrators. Instead, he concentrates on the ripple effects of that phenomenon: the almost entirely unchecked expansion in the numbers of mid-level administrators and of administrative staff. In essence, Ginsberg delineates the peculiar institutional logic by which administration and administrative support have come to consume a higher percentage of institutional revenues than is now allocated to instruction and instructional support. Namely, anyone with vice-president or vice-provost in his or her title not only requires immediate support staff but also subordinate administrators with “associate” in their titles, who each not only requires immediate support staff but also subordinate administrators with “assistant” in their titles, who not only require their own immediate support staff but also liaisons to each other and to the deans and chairs (and associate and assistant deans and assistant chairs) who now form a distinct administrative level more immediately responsible for supervising faculty and those staff allocated to instructional support.

In most institutions, deans and chairs are not listed in the administrative hierarchy below the various vice-presidents and vice-provosts; instead, the two hierarchies are placed side by side as if they are parallel entities. But any review of the individual compensation and cumulative compensation allocated for the positions—and, more importantly, the support staff–within the two hierarchies will very clearly convey which is being given more institutional emphasis and resources. Ginsberg notes that between 1975 and 2005, the number of administrators rose 85% and the number of administrative staff rose 240%–all while the number of instructional faculty remained flat and the number of instructional support staff significantly decreased: that is, the savings realized by the development of electronic technologies have been quite dramatically realized on the instructional side but seem to have had precisely the opposite effect on the administrative side.

Written by gerrycanavan

March 28, 2013 at 9:52 pm

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