Friday, November 18, 2011

What do university administrators do?

One of the main targets of the Occupy Cal movement is administrator salaries, connecting the increase of these salaries with the increase in tuition. The administrators shoot back by pointing out that their salaries make up a tiny portion of university expenditures, and that the real problem is that the legislature (the EVIL Republicans!) has cut university subsidies.

I don't know what the salaries are at Cal itself, but I've noticed extravagant salaries at other institutions (up to $1 million /year for top administrators), which doesn't always match the salaries of football coaches, but is substantially more than the salaries of even the most prominent professors.

With salaries like this, I'd expect the administrative activities of the university to be seamless-- professors would be able to quickly hire technicians, and graduate students would not have a two-month gap in their health insurance coverage following the annual renewal of coverage. But that's just a fantasy land.

I'd like to know how school administrators command such high salaries, and what they are spending their time on if not actually making sure that the administration runs smoothly. Maybe they are just glorified lobbyists, trying to eek more money out of the state. Maybe they are well-dressed sycophants, drawing money from the pockets of wealthy alumni, or perhaps they are slick PR men running immense propaganda campaigns. Maybe they are exceptionally competent administrators, but their fiefdom is so immense that it is impossible to run it efficiently.

Well, I'll hopefully find an answer as I finish reading Benjamin Ginsberg's essay at The Washington Monthgly -- Administrators Ate My Tuition. Being a PoliSci professor and JHU, he may have some insight (or he may just be venting faculty frustrations).

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