Administrative growth raises concerns

Administrative appointments often fuel a long-standing concern among some professors that unnecessary bureaucratic positions drain resources from the University.

Following the recent appointment of Kimberly Goff-Crews ’83 LAW ’86 as University secretary and vice president for student life, most faculty interviewed said they recognized the need for the new role. Though several faculty said administrative growth, both at Yale and across the country, is shifting decision-making authority away from faculty members, administrators said an increase in the number of University staff over the past decade was justified by new initiatives and has not outpaced growth of the faculty body.

A report presented to the Yale Corporation last year, the University’s highest governing body, shows that the number of University staff, measured in full-time equivalents, has increased by about 27 percent during the past 10 years. During the same period the total number of faculty has grown by 34 percent, but the number of associate, assistant and full professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has increased by roughly 15 percent.

Provost Peter Salovey said he thinks people sometimes mistakenly assume there is a growth in administrators because they are given more official titles, such as deputy provost and assistant dean.

“We need to look carefully at where there truly has been an increase in the number of people or just a shift in what people are called,” Salovey said.

Salovey said some of the rise in the total number of staff can be attributed to growth in research and clinical activities. Further extension of federal oversight in all parts of the University has also required more staff, he said.

With respect to Goff-Crews, University President Richard Levin said he does not think her appointment will lead to unnecessary bureaucratic growth. Other than her executive assistant and “possibly one or two other people,” Levin said Goff-Crews will inherit “almost all of her staff” from current University Secretary Linda Lorimer. He added that the collaborative nature of her student affairs role reduces the need for an extensive staff support system.

“She would play a significant role in coordinating activities of the student affairs deans or student affairs officials in fourteen different schools,” Levin said. “Rather than creating a new bureaucracy, it’s more about communications across the schools.”

Still, Bill Deresiewicz, a literary critic and essayist who has written on higher education and a English professor at Yale from 2001-’08, said administrative appointments often lead to extensive support structures that consume University resources.

“A bureaucracy comes up with an idea: We need a center for ‘x,’ we need a vice president for ‘y,’ we need an office to look after ‘z,’ and then you get another little mini bureaucracy,” Deresiewicz said. “Here’s Yale starting a whole new vice presidency, which is undoubtedly going to involve a lot more than one person.”

Though most professors interviewed said they see the need for a University-wide position overseeing student life issues, some said they still worry about a growth of unnecessary positions and the centralization of power within the University.

Sociology professor Julia Adams said in an email that a transfer of decision-making authority from faculty to administrators is a common concern at universities across the United States.

“In the leading universities, that authority traditionally resided with the faculty, and that seems to be slipping away,” Adams said. “We are worried about the impact on the quality of research and teaching, which together should form every university’s core mission.”

But Meg Urry, chair of the Physics Department, said she thinks the University’s administration is “fairly lean” and “overworked.”

Comments

  • attila

    I guess Urry wants to be Provost… way to suck up!

    Deresiewicz is right: a lot of the sillier ideas at Yale come from the admin, and they have the power to make sure something happens even if what happens is so bad it embarrasses Yale.

  • ldffly

    Very good attila! I can remember faculty members in the 70s complaining about consolidation of decision making in the administration. It’s an old fight.