The very best academic proposal ever?

It’s brilliant, and solves a host of problems at American universities. Why Not Adjunct Administrators Instead of Adjunct Instructors? It Makes Far More Sense. I agree. With the proliferation of administrators and increasing teaching loads on us faculty, it makes far more sense to make all those administrator positions into temp jobs.

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.

There’s only one catch. The idea comes from Glenn Reynolds, Republican toady and right-wing shill, so it makes me suspect that I’ve missed something. It makes me pretty certain, actually.


  1. blf says

    Why not let the students from the business school run the place?

    The school of education (or whatever it is called) is, perhaps, another choice?

  2. carlie says

    Admins are already “adjunct” in that they serve at the pleasure of the president – they can be fired at any time. I haven’t seen a single admin last more than 4 years.

    And wouldn’t having a short-term position encourage them to pull as much money as possible since they won’t be there long? I would think that would push to inflate the salaries more, not make them go down.

  3. komarov says

    No, the proper business-like way to do things is this:

    1) Get rid of everyone on the administrative support staff except that one competent person who has been around forever and knows everything about everything in their job. This person is paid sixpence a fortnight.

    2) Get lots and lots of interns. Unpaid interns. The sole survivor of the professional staff can tell them what they need to know. They’re very good, so they shouldn’t have any problems teaching the interns while also handling their absolutely crushing workload.
    Meanwhile the interns get free job experience so they don’t need paying. They probably don’t even want money, they’re just so happy to be here. No, we didn’t ask them, why? Forgone conclusion and they do have a lot of work to do. (If actual business school students want in on this they’ll have to pay for their placement. Education isn’t cheap. Perhaps this could also be made a mandatory part of the curriculum.)

    3) All the savings are passed on to the private bank account of the CEO (or whatever academic term you prefer), because they have done such a great job streamlining the bureaucracy while reducing overhead.

    4) Teaching adjuncts seem kind of expensive. So are professors. Perhaps we should get rid of them all – save one – and just get a bunch of interns to do it. We’d replace them all with with robots but the robotic revolution was delayed after robotics companies switched to an intern workforce as well.

  4. Chris Nonimus says

    Of course you missed it. The idea is to continue to deplete the salaries available for academic teaching and then extend the idea to administration so that just the football coach and the top three administrators can pull in huge amounts.

  5. brett says

    I bet the administrators would love to replace as many non-faculty employees on campus as possible with low-paid temp labor. It’s like how companies nowadays outsource stuff like janitorial work to outside companies that bid for it, instead of having them on staff.

  6. penalfire says

    Unpaid internships are another scandal.

    There should be unpaid CEOs; after all, their compensation is experience.

  7. grendelsfather says

    Brett @9 They are already doing that at most universities that I know of, including my own Enormous State University. Food services, landscaping, custodial work, building maintenance, some dormitories, etc. have all been outsourced, with disastrous consequences. The one action counter to this trend was to eliminate a very effective 3rd party research foundation that allowed researchers to apply for and run grants without interference from restrictive and often goofy state regulations. This essential function was brought into the university about 5 years ago to be run by people with little experience (so they could skim all of the indirect costs associated with running research grants) , and of course the results have been disastrous there, too. Heads, we’re fucked; tails we’re fucked worse.

  8. komarov says

    Re: penalfire, #10

    There should be unpaid CEOs; after all, their compensation is experience.

    Well, that and huge bonuses when the time comes to let them go because they’ve ruined absolutely everything.

    Come to think of it, given my modest standards I could easily live like that: run an institution into the ground to the benefit of a few already wealthy takers, resign with a huge cash payment and live off that while until the next cycle is complete. Now all I need is the cash to get by until my first payday. And a job as CEO. And a neurosurgeon or psychiatrist to remove whatever part of me actually wants to do a good job and maintain my integrity – a pridectomy and maybe a prescription for some greed-enhancing drugs.

  9. jefrir says

    Yeah, the catch is that “non-faculty staff” covers a lot more than high-level administrators. It’ll be the lower-level employees that’ll suffer; the library staff, the cleaners, the secretaries, the lab assistants. Plenty of people in a university are doing valuable work that doesn’t involve teaching students, and many of them are already in precarious positions.

  10. brucej says

    Came to say what jefrir said. The “administrators” who’ll get screwed are the folks keeping your email working, yourbathrooms from overflowing, your departmental secretaries and the groundskeepers.

    Then they’ll take the savings and hire more of their cronies for Vice President of Watching Internet Kittehs at 6-figure salaries.

    It’s only fair. After all some of them can’t get by on $665K/year and have to take side jobs:

    $70K a year is a lot more than most employees of the school make, faculty and non-faculty alike.

    It has not really endeared her to the rest of the school. It’s just the kind of thing that would inspire the Legislatre to whack another $100 million from the school. It’s a “state” school in name only now; we het < 15% of our total funding from the state now.

  11. ck, the Irate Lump says

    I’ve got to agree with brett, grendelsfather, jefrir and jefrir. This will only result in more outsourcing and cutting of useful staff. Upper management will always justify their continued existence (their bloated salaries already prove they’re the most important and useful employees the schools have).

  12. auntbenjy says

    Already doing it here. My university in in the throes of a huge general staff review, and any general (including tech and lab assistant) jobs advertised are fixed term only. Admin positions are now done via campus temps.

    Funnily enough, the people who set this review in motion have jobs that are safe…

  13. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Well, it could be a genuinely good idea, even coming from a Republican. A broken clock being twice a day and all that. Let’s just dearly hope that – if this were to ever come to fruition – the small print is very carefully examined, lest it lead to the banning funding for non-Christian and pro-LGBT student clubs or condom dispensers on campus or other such “small government”-niceties…

  14. Bill Buckner says

    Admins are already “adjunct” in that they serve at the pleasure of the president – they can be fired at any time. I haven’t seen a single admin last more than 4 years.

    Often this is not the case (except for the president.) Often administrators are appointed from within (faculty climbing the ladder) and so they are tenured. If they are “fired” from the administration, they go back to the department. And if they are brought from the outside into anywhere from provost to dean to department chair, they are likely to be awarded tenure when they are hired– or you won’t get anyone good.

    Even worse, to smooth things over, when they are relieved of their administrative position, they are often promoted in the faculty rank–a kind of golden parachute. So a new president, who wants his own provost, may send the current provost (say, a full prof) back to the home department with the rank of distinguished prof.

  15. Bill Buckner says

    In my experience there is truth in the observation that administrations have bloated over the years. Some of it is necessary: there are more jobs for the administration. For example, I am sure every university has a Title IX officer where, ten years ago, they perhaps didn’t. Also, states are requiring more and more complicated compliance and reporting on assessment (which, as an aside, I don’t think anyone has figured out how to do) and student success. Also, the current generation of students is being coddled more–advising is not what it used to be, it is way more hand-holding, and consequently more administrative support. However, even with all that, it does seem to me that administrations are bloated.

    Having said that, if anyone has the view that administrations are out to replace tenure lines with adjuncts–well that is just way-too simplistic if not outright wrong. (Replace full-time tenure with full time non-tenure–that’s a different story.) If you want to be simplistic, then here is a more accurate jaded generalization: Administrators’ top priority is to raise the university’s US News and World Report ranking.

    Getting rid of tenure lines and replacing them with adjuncts will result in a big hit in the USN&WR rankings.

    Anyone who has ever been a chair will know of the pressure placed on them to reduce the use of adjuncts. You are not rewarded for high adjunct use. And the absolute best argument when requesting a new faculty position for your department is that your department has a high adjunct rate.

  16. milobloom says

    At our university, “student support” positions are included in admin, not faculty. So the Women’s Center (which didn’t exist 25 years ago) is administration, not faculty. The Student with Disabilities center, the much expanded advising center (which advises not only on courses to take, but does job placement, runs courses about finding jobs, etc.), and the entire IT department (which didn’t exist even 15 years ago–the CS dept ran it then) are all administration, not faculty. Part of the attack on “administration” is the attack on the “coddling of students” which includes positions like the director of the women’s center.

  17. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Ahh, yes, the “coddling of students”. That always comes up when we’re looking for ways to further fuck up the next generation. These students didn’t create the course catalog and elaborate web of course dependencies that they now must navigate. These students didn’t create the primary and secondary education systems that failed to prepare them for entry into post-secondary education. These students didn’t create the job market that demands a degree for anything more complex than stocking grocery store shelves. And most of all, these students didn’t create the system where they have to pay outrageous sums of money for an education they may or may not achieve or ever use.

  18. Robert Nugent says

    It’s concern trolling. Mr. Reynolds’ disdain for academia touches all aspects of it. His next piece will attack instructors. It’ll be wrapped in a thin veneer of “think of the students!”

  19. Bill Buckner says

    Ahh, yes, the “coddling of students”. That always comes up when we’re looking for ways to further fuck up the next generation.

    Ahh, yes, that may be, but nevertheless we do coddle them. And in many cases it is aided an abetted by the current generation of helicopter parents. If observing that we are coddling students, and that it may not be a good thing, is some sort of flag indicating one whose ideology is suspect– well who can keep up with all these signals? (You can, it seems.)

    It is unfucking believable that “complex course requirements” are an excuse for having to hold students’ hands while they take a piss. Ask anyone who advises if they have had the experience of students (not all, not even most, but a non-negligible fraction) coming in with a “just tell me what I should take?” attitude– which on the surface is why we are there– but then you ask them if they read the requirements in their catalog and it turns out they haven’t. In my generation (yeah, I know) that would have been unthinkable. I’ve gotten to the point where I send them away if they they have not done their homework and have arrived at my office without a strawman schedule.

  20. lucifermourning says

    With a big caveat – I work in the UK, not the US, and the whole adjunct issues seems to be primarily a US thing.

    But I am a member of professional services – aka an administrator – who gets heartily sick of the attitude that administration is somehow irrelevant or a waste of time and money. If our academics didn’t have professional services support staff, the work we do wouldn’t magically disappear. All that paperwork – from recruitment to meeting bookings to support for grant applications and finance on research projects – would still need to be done. By the academics, or their post docs. Who get paid more and would frankly be less efficient than good admin. Not because they’re incompetent but because administration and management is a genuine skill and doing it efficiently takes experience and knowledge. Good admin is incredibly cost effective (we get paid less than most academics, at least those of us who do the bulk of the actual work, and make up the bulk of the admin staff).

    Maybe some universities do have excessive admin, at least at upper management levels, but this kind of attitude toward administration in the blanket sense is actually pretty insulting, and frankly reeks of looking down on people who do valuable work simply because they don’t have the same degrees or qualifications as an academic.