Monday, 12 September 2011

Deanlets and Deanlings

In the The Fall of the Faculty, Dan Berrett interviews Benjamin Ginsberg on his book about the rise of the all-administrative university. In answer to the question "what ails higher education?", Ginsberg finds a single, unifying cause: the growth of administration. Although writing about US universities, his comments apply equally well to Australia. Some selected quotes:
Ginsberg bemoans the expansion over the past 30 years of what he calls "administrative blight" as personified by what he characterizes as an army of "deanlets" and "deanlings."
...the growth in the ranks of administrators (85 percent) and associated professional staff (240 percent) has far outstripped the increase in faculty (51 percent) between 1975 and 2005.
...a million-dollar president could be kidnapped by space aliens and it would be weeks or even months before his or her absence from campus was noticed.
On "strategic planning" and "public consultation" he says:
I look at strategic planning that takes enormous energy for no reason. Many of these could just be copied; the end result would be the same. The process of putting these plans together is designed rather like elections in the Soviet Union: the process is designed to give people the impression that people care what they think.
Academics have been outwitted, divided and conquered, by administrators. Which reminds me of the popular quote, spuriously attributed to Gaius Petronius Arbiter:
We trained hard ... but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams we would be reorganised. I was to learn later in life that we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.

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