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Administrative Overload at Universities

Full of Facts and Figures


"Armed with training in a subject as important and intellectually challenging as event planning, students would hardly need to know anything about physics or calculus or...other inconsequential topics taught by the stodgy faculty." from Chapter One

Who's in Charge?

Thanks to the security of tenure, Professor Benjamin Ginsberg was able to speak the truth about modern universities while keeping the job that pays his bills. He addresses the problem of administrative bloat in higher education. As a libertarian, I expected this problem to be mostly found in public institutions. I was discouraged to learn that even private universities are multiplying administrators and marginalizing faculty--and are sometimes even worse than their public counterparts!

I have to agree with the author almost completely. Like him, I have met a few competent administrators. However, most of the non-faculty at a university could vanish overnight without disrupting (and possibly even improving) the instructional experience. Keep the real workers: building maintenance, department secretaries, one or two accountants and bookkeepers. Ditch the rest and watch costs plummet while the quality of instruction and research rises.

Historical Perspective

Up through the sixties and seventies, faculty-administrators were the norm. Like the player-coach, such administrators kept their eyes on the mission of the university: to teach students and to do research. Today, however, there is a class of “professional administrators,” often with no faculty experience and thus little understanding of the real mission of the university. (Hint: The mission is not to fill out forms and attend expensive conferences with other administrators.) While faculty are busy teaching and doing research and writing grant proposals (to fund more students and research,) administrators are trying to create “important” work for themselves by inventing projects, initiatives, and the ubiquitous “study panel.”

Curriculum Interference

Out of envy of the faculty, who have Ph.D.s in actual content areas and can teach about the great concepts of science and the humanities, professional administrators have tried to create a curriculum in which they can be the experts. Thus, we have real classes such as French and chemistry existing alongside the “student life” curriculum. Administrators teach classes like “College Success” and “Event Planning.”

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This book is suggested reading for the parent who wants to know why college costs so much today. It is also great reading for faculty and their families. Administrators will probably not enjoy this book at all, but I dare them to read it anyway!

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I appreciate your comments!

Colin323 on July 16, 2014:

As a retired UK university teacher I have an interest in the message within this book - as a very similar situation exists in Britain. The existence of professional administrators tends not to assist the burden of teachers and the business of student learning, as they should, but quite the reverse. They seem to invent more ways of measuring, checking, double-checking, and triple checking everything that can be counted, but to very little positive effect, and certainly not to the teachers concerned.

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