Who needs professors at the all-administrative university?
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That administration can go beyond being simply costly—it can be downright spend-crazy. American University’s president, Benjamin Ladner, and his wife (who called herself AU’s “First Lady”), demanded that AU build them an expensive new “official residence” complete with a waterfall. Before Ladner was eventually dismissed he and his wife had managed to spend $220,000 on chefs, $54,000 on drivers, $44,000 on alcohol, and $100,000 on a social secretary.
THE PROBLEM FOR GINSBERG is that he neglects to make a positive case for the faculty. It’s no small thing. The assumption that the faculty has somehow been chafing at the bit to take on more responsibility in administration defies common experience. Ginsberg himself makes note of Cornell Prof. Theodore Lowi (at the time of my attendance, the school’s highest-paid professor), who boasted of writing a popular book on the presidency while being truant from meetings he was expected to attend. Ginsberg thinks the example explains why professors mustn’t cede authority to administrators who will fill the vacuum, but it really illustrates the cavalier way in which many tenured professors treat any administrative activity as a burden on their academic freedom. Small wonder administrators have decided to look elsewhere for help in staffing the kinds of programs that college rankings favor. Few serious scholars in physics want to develop dormitory housing programs.
Tenure (and the disappearance of mandatory retirements) has made it all too easy for professors to dodge administrative responsibilities. Why bother with this small stuff when you can dwell in the library or your study without consequence? Meanwhile, Ginsberg notes with sadness that tenure has become increasingly rare, thanks to a glut of desperate Ph.D.’s willing to forgo tenure-track positions in favor of the rare paycheck. But these “mini-professors” are the very product of an inflated university system that pumps out graduates without regard to the markets they enter.
In fact, AU’s Ladner himself was a philosophy professor prior to becoming the spend-crazy president who gave rise to scandal. Hunter S. Rawlings, a very popular classics professor at Cornell, became president, yet during his tenure made no notable effort to reduce the infamous “Big Red Tape” that only contributes to a competitive and stressful campus environment. His successor, David Skorton, recently wrote in the Huffington Post that the cost of going to college is far too high, all while announcing a new multi-million-dollar research facility on Roosevelt Island in New York City.
When professors enter administration, they are just as likely to continue the endless campaign for growth.
It’s not simply that faculty members are reluctant to make changes. The book ignores the links between faculty ideology and bureaucratic efforts. While Ginsberg rightly indicts the trendy attempts to enforce measures of political correctness on campus, he makes no effort to point out that these views were in vogue during faculty summits in the late 1960s and 1970s, when, as Thomas Sowell says of his tenure as a Cornell economics professor in A Personal Odyssey, administrators and faculty alike worked toward establishing more “relevant” curricula. The new bureaucratic bloat is the illegitimate stepchild of that era.
The university needs a shake-up regardless, and Ginsberg’s enjoyable and accessible book makes that absolutely clear, using data and anecdotal experience gathered within the walls of the Ivory Tower. It’s a rude awakening for all those who saved money for college, and instead got a four-year sleepover.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online