By Peter C. Herman
The story by now is old and familiar. Thanks in good part to the economic crisis, the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty in the California State University system has plummeted. But surprisingly administrators have been spared, and even more have been hired.
In 1991, 63 percent of the faculty were full-time. By 2009, the percentage had dropped to 49.9. The funding situation was so dire in 2009-10 that faculty chose (although “extorted” might be a better term) to accept furloughs, losing 10 percent of their salary. And everyone knows the results of losing billions of dollars in state support: overcrowded classes, no support for the library, students not graduating on time because not enough classes were offered.
Better economic times have led to a significant rebound in hiring. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, “CSU spokesman Michael Uhlenkamp said officials have made it a priority to boost the number of tenure-track professors on campuses now that the system is getting more funding and its enrollment is growing, this year by about 6,000 students.” San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman successfully proposed a small “excellence fee” that would boost hiring even further. (The CSU is now examining whether such fees should be allowed in the future).
But good times are hardly here again. Even with the uptick in hiring, we are nowhere near making up the number of faculty lost and could not be replaced due to the near total hiring freeze. And determining which departments get to hire has become something of a blood sport. As for faculty salaries, the California Faculty Association (our union) and the CSU administration have agreed on a faculty contract that includes a raise, but a truly miserly one. Many will receive only 1.6%. If you gave that amount as a tip, it would be thrown back as an insult, and you would never be welcome at that restaurant again.
Spurred by these paltry increases, I went to the State Worker Salary Database hosted by the Sacramento Bee to find out how our athletics colleagues have fared over the last few years. Sure enough, the numbers are scarifying. But what I found goes way beyond how much this or that coach makes.
Between 2007 and 2013—the years covered by the database — as the number of faculty kept sinking, the number of high-level administrators, all making six figure salaries, kept rising across the entire system. Here are SDSU’s figures:
Admin IV Admin III
2007: 28 44
2008: 24 47
2009: 26 53
2010: 33 63
2011: 37 73
2012: 33 72
2013: 41 67
According to the CSU, “administrative and management are categorized according to “a flexible personnel program consisting of four very broad generic classification levels (Administrator I, II, III and IV) and correspondingly broad salary ranges.” Admin IV seems to comprise of Deans of Colleges, head coaches, and directors of programs; Admin III consists of people who report directly to Admin IV.
Note that during the annus horribilis of 2009-10, SDSU added seven more people to the highest level of administration, and ten more to the level below. You would think that if there is no money to pay for faculty, there would be no money for more administrators, but you would be wrong.
While the number of level IV administrators dips in 2012, eight more are added in 2013, giving SDSU the highest number of level IV administrators ever. Hiring in level III also continued apace, regardless of the economic situation
You see exactly the same pattern on different campuses across the system. While most, if not all, departments have fewer professors now than they did in 2007, the number of administrators has not declined in the least.
Administrators also frequently enjoy handsome raises. The President’s Chief of Staff at San Jose State, Dorothy S. Poole, suffered a bit from the economic downturn, as her salary dipped from $154K in 2008 to $145K in 2010. But then Poole quickly made up the lost revenue. Her salary rose back to $154K in 2011, jumping to $175K the following year. William D. Nance, Vice President of Student Affairs at the same institution, seems to have been unaffected the CSU’s financial straits. His 2009 salary of $161K rose to $176K in 2010, and moved even higher in 2011: $212K.
Switching campuses, William Watkins, Vice President for Student Affairs at CSU Northridge, went from $141K in 2009 to $173K in 2010 to a whopping $212K in 2012. That’s a sixty percent increase over three years. Level IV administrators often do better than university presidents, most of whom have not seen a raise since 2011, although several received substantial boosts before then. Donald Para, President of CSU Long Beach, went fro $201K in 2010, to $230K in 2011 to $271K in 2013. True, his pay is below the average for CSU Presidents. But then again, CSU faculty are paid below the nationwide average. I could continue, but I assume you get the picture. Go to the SacBee website and you can find lots more examples yourself. (I asked CSU Spokesperson, Michael Uhlenkamp if he had any reaction to these numbers; he declined to comment.)
What makes all this so infuriating is that much of the hiring and the raises occurred at the same time that the system cried poverty due to the draconian cuts imposed by the legislature. While the CSU shed lecturers, nearly stopped hiring, and froze faculty pay, the number of well paid high-level administrators continuously goes up along with their salaries.
Certainly, the ongoing hiring of administrators at the CSU while the number of faculty dwindles is part of a much larger problem in higher education. Benjamin Ginsburg, of Johns Hopkins University, shows in The Fall of the Faculty that “every year, hosts of administrators and staffers are added to college and university payrolls, even as schools claim to be battling budget crises that are forcing them to reduce the size of their full-time faculties.” Between 1975 ad 2005, the number of administrators at America’s colleges and universities increased by an amazing 240%. A 2010 study by the Delta Cost Project found that while instructional spending went up by 22 percent, spending on administration and staffing rose by 36 percent.
And in turn, the growth of administration at the expense of faculty is part of the general movement toward impoverishing the middle class while the 1 percent get richer and richer, as Thomas Picketty argues in copious detail in Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
But that does not excuse the CSU’s expanding the ranks of high-level, high-cost administrators while slashing the instructional budget and offering pathetically low raises in contract negotiations.
The CSU is supposed to run according to the principles of shared governance, meaning, faculty and administration collectively make decisions for the greater good of the university. Everyone is supposed to work together as a team. But the State Worker Salary Database clearly shows that faculty and administration occupy two different, unequal worlds when it comes to compensation and hiring. The restrictions imposed on faculty clearly do not apply to all.
Thanks to the hiring squeeze, the number of full-time faculty has dwindled. In 2007 for example, the English department had 25 professors. Today we have 16. We’ve had to drop Shakespeare as a requirement because we cannot staff the course.
Yet every CSU campus now has more administrators than in 2007. SDSU has 47% more Level IV, and 52% more Level III administrators than we did seven years ago. CSU San Luis Obispo has 78% more Level IV (14 in 2007; 25 in 2013) and 48% more Level III (39 in 2007; 58 in 2013). As for compensation, at the same time that faculty salaries have remained largely static for at least the last five years, many administrators received dramatic raises, and those administrators whose salaries went down due to the Great Recession very quickly had their losses made good.
At SDSU, at least, the pattern seems to be changing. 2014-15 will see a drop in the number of administrators and a rise in the number of faculty, although it remains to be seen whether SDSU is an outlier or if the entire system is shifting. One can only hope that the privileging of administration over the faculty who teach courses, do research, advise students and run academic programs is a thing of the past. It is certainly no way to run a university system.
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