Now Ginsburg has come forward with a ringing defense of our virtues, while offering a new set of villains. They are the college administrators. In “The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters” he explains that things are not always what they seem.
But before I detail some of Ginsburg’s claims, let me make it clear that we professors are not blameless. In the rush to affect “social justice,” many of us have foisted political correctness on relatively defenseless undergraduates. Too often, the classroom has become a scene of indoctrination rather than education.
And yet, as Ginsburg asserts, we professors are not alone in this. Our bosses, the college presidents, provosts and deans, have also been ardent fans of racial and gender agendas. Indeed, most are similarly left wing in their politics. Furthermore, they have utilized social issues to control an otherwise unruly faculty.
When race, gender, and social class are put center stage, they provide an excellent rationale for imposing strict standards on the faculty. The professors can be sent for sensitivity training and held to account for violating ideological dictates. Even though college professors are among the least biased persons in the nation, they can be intimidated for failing to comply with administrative mandates.
Much of this is done in the name of improved educational outcomes. Yet I am reminded of 110 Livingston St. As the former headquarters of the New York City Board of Education, during the 1960s it became synonymous with bureaucracy run amok. Crammed with administrators who multiplied like rabbits, it spewed out regulations that paralyzed, rather than facilitated, education.
Today, we see the same pattern developing in higher education. It too is churning out administrators at a greater rate than needed. Indeed, the proportion of administrators is expanding at nearly twice the rate of the faculty. In other words, instead of keeping the ratio of professors to students low, it is the ratio of administrators to students that is declining.
Put another way, professors must now teach more students, whereas individual administrators are responsible for fewer learners. But how, one may ask, is this supposed to improve scholarship? After all, administrators don’t do the teaching — professors do; hence the mystery.
And then there is the problem of cost. Many people rightfully complain about the escalating expense of a college degree. They assume that this is because the professors keep earning more for doing less, but this is mistaken. If anything, the administrative bloat is at fault.
Because there are now twice as many administrators per student, this demands additional dollars. But the situation is worse than this considering that administrators are paid far more than professors. In fact, they often earn two, three, four, five or more times as much as their underlings.
Consider this. In order to be promoted from an assistant to an associate professor, an academic has to run a challenging gauntlet. He or she has to accumulate excellent teaching evaluations, publish several articles or books, and engage in demonstrable services to the college and his/her discipline. Then, only if his/her colleagues, chairpersons, deans and provosts are satisfied, will advancement be granted.
For this, the new associate professor will receive a raise of between two and three thousand dollars. Meanwhile, if this same person is appointed to an administrative post, the raise is generally twenty, thirty, or forty thousand dollars.
So where do the incentives lie? Is there any question about why so many professors covet an administrative role? Similarly, are there any doubts about why administrators engage in empire building by creating legions of loyal lieutenants?
And so the game of dismantling higher education goes on — with power, not learning, the central consideration.
Melvyn L. Fein Ph.D., is a professor of Sociology at Kennesaw State University.