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  • The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters
  • Peter Lamal
The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters Benjamin Ginsberg. 2011. New York: Oxford University Press. 264 pp. Hardback ISBN: 978-0-19-978244-4 ($29.95).

During approximately the last twenty years and particularly during the last ten, increasing attention has been paid to two developments among American universities. One is the increasing size and power of universities’ administrations. The other is universities’ widespread adoption of business models. These two developments are intertwined. A number of analysts have taken a dim view of these developments (Altbach, Gumport, & Berdahl, 2011; Berman, 201l; Birnbaum, 2000; Bok, 2003; Lamal, 2001; Menand, 2010; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Smith, 2000; Tuchman, 2009). One of the most recent contributions is Benjamin Ginsberg’s The Fall of the Faculty. Ginsberg taught at Cornell and is now the David Bernstein Professor in the Johns Hopkins Department of Political Science.

Ginsberg is concerned with the expansion of university administrations, their makeup, and what they do. He says that administrators were generally individuals drawn from the faculty, but today’s administrators have little, if any, experience as faculty and tend to consider management as an end in itself with their primary goal being to expand the administrator ranks. For them, the support of teaching and research is less important than adding to their ranks. At the same time, university presidents and other senior administrators have been able, at most universities, to weaken and even dispense with meaningful faculty involvement in complex matters. Professors lack much power even in areas that are very important to them, such as the appointment of senior administrators, the development of new programs and curricula, and the setting of budgetary [End Page 146] priorities. As with the other topics he discusses, Ginsberg provides examples of what he describes.

There has been a huge increase in the number of university administrators and staffers. The latter outnumber full-time faculty at our colleges and universities, and Ginsberg presents data that further support the conclusion about the burgeoning administrative population. So what do all these staff and administrators do? Because their numbers have so greatly increased, Ginsberg says that in recent years there has not been enough real work to keep them busy. So what do they spend a considerable amount of time doing? According to Ginsberg, they engage in make-work activities: “They attend meetings and conferences, they organize and attend administrative and staff retreats, and they participate in the strategic planning processes that have become commonplace on many campuses” (p. 41). The development and continual revision of the school’s strategic plan can occupy administrators and staffers for years at a time. A significant activity is polishing the university’s image and garnering favorable publicity. Another is fundraising as an ongoing, not periodic, enterprise, and universities employ full-time fundraisers. Because faculty are typically out of the loop, the purposes for which funds are raised are generally determined by senior administrators.

The chapter “Managerial Pathologies” has short sections on administrative sabotage of the goals of teaching and research and administrative shirking of efforts to attain the institution’s goals. A longer section describes administrative squandering of the university’s money and the reasons for doing so.

At the start of the chapter subtitled “The Rise and Fall of the Tenure System,” we learn that only about 30 percent of the professoriate is tenured or even on the tenure track. The other 70 percent can be dismissed at any time. Tenure has traditionally been seen as a guarantor of academic freedom, but in recent years federal courts have decided that professors are not entitled to academic freedom. Furthermore, during the 2009–2010 economic recession, a number of colleges used the opportunity to dismiss tenured professors. Ginsberg does not claim that tenure is a perfect system. Some individuals who do not merit tenure nevertheless get it. And some who apparently deserved it fail to live up to expectations after they get it. But, as Ginsberg states, “without tenure there is no academic freedom” (p. 158).

With respect to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4640
Print ISSN
0022-1546
Pages
pp. 146-148
Launched on MUSE
2012-12-30
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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