March 3, 2015

A UT FACULTY MEMBER ON THE WHOLE “DE-TENURING” THING: Hey, what about those swarms of administrators eating up our substance and producing nothing?

At the same time, the number of administrators, most of them much more highly paid than any faculty member, has blossomed in an era of better “business models” for universities. The organizational charts from the three main divisions of UT (the President’s staff, the Chancellor’s staff, and the Provost’s staff) are dizzying in their complexity and do not fully represent the number of associate deans and other administrators for each of the Colleges and other units. The same Board meeting that broached the removal of tenure as a cost-saving measure began (after the invocation) with Di Pietro putting forward a statement about a new Vice President of Development and Alumni Affairs (actually, a promotion) at a salary of $307,000, before benefits, moving expenses, and an additional “non-accountable expense allowance.” That figure would hire 5-6 assistant professors or 8-9 lecturers in English, depending on how you do the math, probably with change left over. Development folks are supposed to raise funds, I understand, but I have my concerns about how much of the university’s resources now go to them and the effectiveness of their approach, which actually cost the English department money (another story for another day). My main point is that higher administrators make great salaries, usually 3 or 4 times what tenured faculty members make and 8 to 10 times what full-time lecturers make, and their numbers and roles seem to be growing with more calls for “review,” “accountability,” “making hard decisions,” and “better management.” Call it the spread of Vice. New initiatives justify new administrators, who usually create more work (and anxiety) for teaching faculty already struggling to find the time to see to their increased responsibilities, take care of more students, and stay on top of new developments in the field. These administrators are also no longer (as they once were) subject to any faculty oversight or review, though we do get the occasional survey about whether we “like” what they’re doing. The teaching faculty carry on, like Orwell’s Boxer from Animal Farm, determined to work harder, while we await the withering away of the state. That’s why listing the removal of tenure in the context of a list of money-saving and revenue-generating proposals sounded so ominous to many of us. Even if “de-tenure” was truly a typo, it was a revealing one.

As I note elsewhere at some length, the explosion of academic administrators is a major cause — probably the single biggest cause — of runaway higher education costs, but administrators never seem to want to cut administration. We’ve replaced loads of full-time teaching faculty with adjuncts, but nobody’s talking about “adjunct administrators.” Why not?

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