from Inside Higher Ed:
'The Fall of the Faculty'
By Dan Berrett
Faculty members feeling besieged by, well, take your pick -- increased scrutiny of their productivity and the relevance of their research; broadsides against tenure; attacks on their expertise and ability to collectively bargain; or their shrinking role in the affairs of their institutions -- will no doubt find succor in a new book to be released next month.
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.
In prose that is by turns piquant, sarcastic and largely dismissive of many administrators, Ginsberg marshals anecdotes from his 40 years of experience at Hopkins and Cornell University, as well as from accounts from other campuses. He juxtaposes these with historical analysis and data showing that the growth in the ranks of administrators (85 percent) and associated professional staff (240 percent) has far outstripped the increase in faculty (51 percent) between 1975 and 2005. "Generally speaking," he writes, "a million-dollar president could be kidnapped by space aliens and it would be weeks or even months before his or her absence from campus was noticed.”
Q: You are highly critical of strategic plans, administrative retreats and workshops and committees attended by administrators. You point mockingly at such examples as the Administrative and Professional Staff Advisory Committee or the Process Management Steering Committee. Of course, the same tactic is also deployed by faculty critics who list the names of courses that sound ridiculous to outside ears. What makes this critique valid when leveled against administrators?
A: If you look around the typical university, 1 to 2 percent of the courses are silly, but it’s a small number. In my 40 years in academics, the number of truly silly courses is very small. But when I look at administrators, I’d argue that the bulk of activities is quite silly, such as the war zones task force which met and concluded that students should be discouraged from entering war zones. More generally, I look at strategic planning that takes enormous energy for no reason. Many of these could just be copied; the end result would be the same. The process of putting these plans together is designed rather like elections in the Soviet Union: the process is designed to give people the impression that people care what they think. I also looked at the minutes and agendas of administrative meetings. When administrators and staff get together, they mostly talk about prior meetings and plans for future meetings....To read the rest, click here.