“Managerial Madness: Why Higher Education Has Lost Its Way”

One of the things I’ve seen making the rounds on the interwebs is links to this post at the blog Homeless Adjunct, “Managerial Madness: Why Higher Education Has Lost Its Way.”  It’s a little “frothy at the mouth” for my own personal tastes, but they do have a point:  the disparity between the salaries of “managers” and “teachers/workers” in higher education is increasing, especially if you factor on non-tenure-track/part-time folks.  Here’s a long quote:

The enormous gap between the CEO-like salaries of higher education executives and the faculty who are actually doing the teaching has followed the route of corporate salaries and earning gaps across the country. The issue is compounded by the explosive growth of administrative jobs in academia, as so well presented by Dr. Benjamin Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins in his book, The Fall of the Faculty. For him, the most serious outcome of this executive bloat is the shift of university resources and focus away from the quality of education and scholarly research, in favor of financially supporting the army of administrators who, he claims, do little to advance the purported mission of the university. Instead, he claims, these “deanlets” cause great harm, often becoming “instruments of administrative imperialism and academic destruction.”(http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/07/14/new_book_argues_bloated_administration_is_what_ails_higher_education#ixzz1wqrIJyqc )

It has taken nearly 30 years for people outside of academia to see just how terrible things in higher education are. But, as is often the case, the public is lead by a misinformed or underinformed media, to blame both the collapse of our colleges quality and the uncontrolled tuition growth on the professors. Even Vice President Joe Biden laid the blame for explosive tuition rates, incorrectly and unfairly, at the feet of supposedly overpaid faculty. The narrative often includes an attack on “the lazy tenured professor”. The truth is that tenured professors, and those on the tenure track not yet fully tenured, make up barely 30% of the university professors in America now. The majority, 70%, of all those who teach in college classrooms are now hired as “adjuncts”, “contingents”, “part-time” faculty, earning, on average less than $30,000 a year — often, as I noted before, by cobbling a living together by working several jobs, some academic, some non-academic. These professionals have no healthcare, no benefits; they struggle with precarious short-term contract jobs, little to no professional support, and are even denied appropriate office space in which to meet their students. Having little to no voice in today’s university, the professors often find themselves powerless to block the administrative imperialism to which Dr. Ginsberg refers.

The part-time issue is definitely a complicated one, but I do see their point for sure.

2 Responses to “Managerial Madness: Why Higher Education Has Lost Its Way”

  1. “The truth is that tenured professors, and those on the tenure track not yet fully tenured, make up barely 30% of the university professors in America now. The majority, 70%, of all those who teach in college classrooms are now hired as “adjuncts”, “contingents”, “part-time” faculty [...] Having little to no voice in today’s university, the professors often find themselves powerless to block the administrative imperialism to which Dr. Ginsberg refers.”

    So Steve,
    Would you support an enhanced role for non-tenure faculty in your own departmental decision making structure then? For example: a seat on the instructional or curriculum committee? (Since teaching is the primary duty of non-tenure faculty, this seems appropriate to me.) Were you aware that some departments, and some sections of certain departments, do not even allow full or part time lecturers to attend department meetings with tenure-track faculty as “guests,” let alone have a voice or a vote at meetings?

    In the past, the rationale (thin though I think it is) has been that non-tenure faculty are few in number and short-term in nature , and so have less of a stake and shouldn’t be involved in governance. Yet the reality today is that non-tenure faculty comprise a majority, or a large minority, in many departments on our campus and that many have been here a decade or more. You can’t work anywhere for that long and not feel like you have a right to a stake in decision making about issues that impact your daily work.

    It seems to me that, rather than continuing to allow the administration to play “divide and conquer,” we – faculty of all types – ought to stand together more often. It isn’t just the administration that makes today’s faculty voiceless and powerless to oppose “administrative imperialism.”

    • It’s an interesting problem.

      On the one hand, the short answer is “sure, why not?” and in a lot of ways, it is happening, sort of. In my department, most of the non-tenure-track folks are teaching first year writing, and there is a committee where they participate in the governance of that program.

      But there are at least two “other hands” here. First, most of the part-time folks and lecturer folks don’t really see it as their job to be involved in these governance issues, and I think they’re right about that. Doing committee work is a lot of work, and if it’s not something you see yourself being paid to do, then why do it? If I was teaching part-time, I certainly wouldn’t want to be a part of it.

      Second, besides committee/governance being specifically a part of the job of tenure-track faculty, most of us have a larger stake in our departments than non-tenure-track faculty, particularly part-timers. And that just makes sense: if you are doing something part-time, you don’t have as much invested in that something as you would if you were doing it full-time.

      I think there are two other and maybe bigger problems with faculty governance issues (well, besides the problem of the administration not taking faculty governance/input seriously). First, there’s faculty involvement– or the lack thereof. It’s really easy to complain about things, but when it actually comes to actually doing something about problems by stepping up to do committee work or other service work, all of a sudden things get quiet.

      Second, there are the quasi-administrative roles that faculty take on– and I am one of those people right now, btw. Faculty all too often act as these sort of middle-managers who get course release or some other kind of reward to deal with the layers and layers of bureaucracy. This is a big problem across the board in higher ed and (IMO) a by-product of both the corporatization of higher ed and the increasing call from the public/the government for “accountability.” Think of the various institutional assessment initiatives: it’s a lot of work to explain to the powers that be that we do a lot of work.

Leave a Reply