Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.com wrote a great article last year with a modest proposal. Rather than fill universities with adjunct instructors, why not replace them with adjunct administrators?
Most of the growth of university costs comes from administrative bloat. Non-faculty staff has grown at more than twice the rate of instructors – you know, the people who are the ostensible reason a university exists. As tenured professors retire, administrators kill those tenure lines and replace them permanently with part timers. Administrators do this so they can gorge on a higher salary while demanding more from the refugee ration-packet salary of academics. Think I am not being generous? Some administrators earn $300,000 a year to fundraise for new football stadium skyboxes. Vice Presidents at the University of Maryland saw their salaries increase by 50 percent between 1998 and 2003, as faculty positions were slashed. All the while adjuncts try to get by with the help of Medicaid or food stamps.
Worse of all, administrators isolate themselves from students behind security doors but meddle more and more in faculty and student lives.
Isolation is bad. But worse still is the growing tendency of administrators to stifle critics by shamelessly interpreting even obviously harmless statements as “threats.” A recent example took place at Bergen Community College, where Professor Francis Schmidt was suspended, and ordered to undergo a psychiatric examination over a “threat” that consisted of posting a picture of his 9-year old daughter wearing a Game Of Thrones T-shirt. The shirt bore a quote from the show, reading: “I will take what is mine with fire & blood.” Bergen administrator Jim Miller apparently thought the picture, which was posted to Schmidt’s Google Plus account, was somehow intended as a threat to him. (Schmidt had filed a labor grievance a couple of months earlier.)
What kind of person claims that a picture of a 9-year-old girl wearing an HBO T-shirt is a threat? The kind of person who runs America’s colleges, apparently. And Miller, alas, is not alone in his cluelessness and, apparently, paranoia.
The level of stupidity approaches that of Dean Wormer from Animal House. They have created a climate of repressiveness and close-mindedness. Here are some more examples that Reynolds runs through:
In his book, The Fall of the Faculty, Johns Hopkins Professor Benjamin Ginsberg talks about the profusion of “deanlets” that has overtaken higher education. But it’s even worse when those deanlets not only eat up the substance of institutions, but also command armed force. It’s extremely doubtful that any outside law enforcement agency would have responded to any of the “threats” listed above, but campus police, called in by insecure deanlets, have little choice. This sort of behavior, though, is unfair, bad for morale, and likely to spur expensive and embarrassing litigation….
Full-time administrators now outnumber full-time faculty. And when times get tough, schools have a disturbing tendency to shrink faculty numbers while keeping administrators on the payroll. Teaching gets done by low-paid, nontenured adjuncts, but nobody ever heard of an “adjunct administrator.”…
With college enrollment falling and budgets under pressure, legislatures, donors and alumni will be looking at ways to restructure schools in the future. The profusion of self-important deanlets and the abuse of campus police forces ought to be looked at as part of this process. It’s just another symptom of the now-imploding higher education bubble.
One way that we can rescue ourselves from this campus police state and save university budgets for professors is by making the employment situation of administrators like that of adjunct instructors. Make them fireable at will. Replace salaried employees with low-paid “adjunct administrators” to handle routine functions.
The corporate world does it all the time. They call it outsourcing. Most office work can be done through temp agencies or staffers to handle routine functions. Reynolds argues elsewhere that many in the corporate world have reaped significant savings by outsourcing back-office functions. There is no reason that this function can’t work in higher education.
Logically, an adjunct administrator makes more sense than an adjunct instructor. Teaching coursework at a undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral level requires specialized training. It is an intellectual asset that cannot be farmed out to an unskilled temp. Instructors should not be treated as if their knowledge is such a weak commodity.
In contrast, office work can be farmed out and is farmed out all the time. Executives from big five accounting and management consulting firms routinely charge six figures to clients for research reports. They then farm these out to India for low four figures. In contrast, I can’t see an Indian instructor teaching Renaissance literature to American college students via Skype.