Shared Sacrifice at Temple: Is it Time
for Some of the Deanlets To Go?
By Michael Sirover, Professor of Pharmacology
"Life imitates Art." Oscar Wilde
Economic scarcity permeates our lives. From the rising cost of oil to the federal deficit, from the loss of home equity to state budget deficits, from the rising tide of credit card misuse to the price of apples, tomatoes and grapes, doubt and insecurity dominate our lives. Like other public and private institutions, Temple University is not immune from this uncertainty. Our eyes are focused neither on the joys of teaching, our research accomplishments nor on the pleasant surprise of a winning football team. Instead, our conversations are dominated by the specter of looming budget deficits, the upcoming report of the Huron Group and the possibility or probability of changes in our policies, practices and structural organization. Our qualms are not assuaged by the sudden plethora of conferences arranged by the administration so that faculty and staff can learn about their retirement benefits.
A basic question which arises is the mechanism through which choices may be made and then implemented over the next few years. It is for this exact reason that the Faculty Senate (with the kind help of the Provost) arranged for the recent symposium featuring Mary Burgan. The title of her presentation, “What Happens to Faculty University Governance in Hard Times?”, focused on a salient question, “What role will the faculty have in the decision making process?”
In accord with the theme of that symposium, our role as faculty should not be to simply “groan and moan” but to offer constructive suggestions with respect to how Temple should proceed. For that reason, the goal of this essay is to consider a corollary of that question: “Will the sacrifices proposed be shared across the University?” As we seek to consider this question, where can we look for guidance? What lessons can be learned from our own experiences, those of our colleagues, family and friends? What clues can we glean from real life events as well as those recounted in our literature?
In the most recent retelling of an enduring legend, the movie “Robin Hood” released in 2010 and featuring Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett, describes the challenges faced by the town folk of Nottingham in a time of economic crisis. Their food supply depends on their agricultural success as does their ability to purchase tools and other essentials. Regrettably, they are beset by two administrative entities, one secular and one ecclesiastical. The former seized their money, the latter their grain. As exemplified by the Court of King John and the Priests at York, each seemed populous and well off. It did not appear that they experienced any of the deprivations faced by the town folk nor did their number appear to diminish during that difficult time. It appeared that shared sacrifice was not the order of the day.
As referenced in the author’s series of articles and letters to the editor which have appeared graciously in the Herald, one of the advantages of age is that you have a sense of history, of institutional memory, and of plans, projects and approaches which have been tried before, successfully or unsuccessfully. During the author’s tenure at Temple, faculty have, for many years, repeatedly voiced concern with respect to the growth of our administration. In each college or school we seem to have an Assistant Dean for this, an Associate Dean for that, and a Senior Executive Dean for something else. Hence the coining of the term “Deanlets.”
The same is true for the Offices of the President and the Provost, irrespective of the individual in that position at the time. When questioned, administrative officials cite a number of reasons for this, including the increase in federal, state and local regulations as well as the inherent complexity of large educational institutions. To the author, this is a far cry from the days when Joe Baum, one of the fifteen Deans, had lunch routinely with us at the faculty table in the Cafeteria, or when Sol Sherry, another of those fifteen Deans, could be engaged informally in meaningful discussion. In contrast, as perhaps a sign of the times, the entrance to the office of our immediate past Dean, John Daly, M.D., was emblazoned with conspicuous lettering attesting to his position, worthy of that seen on a temple of a Pharaoh of old.
In accord with policy concerns, the plethora of Deanlets has a financial consequence. As noted in a recent front page article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, there may be an inconsistency in the alarms voiced by public university officials with respect to the current Governor’s budget proposal. The scenarios they sketch are full of Sturm und Drang, with campuses becoming ghost towns and students deprived of the education which forms the foundation of their future. Yet, as described in the article, the salaries and total compensation received by those individuals are considerable. At stated by the Inquirer, the President of Penn State has a compensation package of about $800,000 while here at Temple President Hart enjoys a $700,000 package. It is unclear to this writer what are the salaries of the individuals on the President’s staff or that of the Provost and his staff, as well as that of the numerous Assistant, Associate, Senior Executive Deans, etc. within each school or college. It’s also unknown to this writer what was the fate of the million dollar Rittenhouse Square apartment purchased by Temple University for then President Adamany, in which he apparently lived rent free.
Accordingly, if the upcoming sacrifices are to be shared there need to be meaningful modifications of administrative portfolios: i.e., it’s time for some of the Deanlets to go. Their portfolios need to be merged. Such administrative changes should be visible, perhaps discussed at special collegial assembly meetings called to consider the changes in policies, procedures and structural organization. At such a meeting, it may be useful for the current Dean of that college/school to present a Powerpoint of the administrative structure as it was and as it will now be (such Powerpoints should be on file, as every administrative structure has an organizational chart to define the chain of command). The attendant cost savings should also be defined.
Of note, there have been budgetary crises in the past, and, indeed, administrative staff has been terminated. However, in those instances, the positions may have been clerical in nature. For example, during one of those times in the Medical School, each department lost one secretary position from their institutional funds. Thus, although the University could claim accurately that they had reduced our administrative staff, in reality the number of Deanlets remained constant. In NIH parlance, with apologies to Native Americans, we kept the Chiefs but removed the Indians.
This begs the question raised in the title of this article: if times are tough then should not shared sacrifice be the order of the day? If expenditures need to be reduced, should we not consider the vast administrative structure in the University and in each School or College as an area where significant funds may be saved?
It may be argued that the savings achieved by reducing the number of Deanlets would be minimal and would severely diminish the quality of our educational programs. It is hard to accept the rationale that combining portfolios affects the latter (as compared to reduction in faculty or to increases in teaching loads). Further, most, if not all, of the Deanlets hold faculty appointments (many are tenured which is ironic concerning the Adminstration’s restrictions on its granting and their expressed concern with respect to the continued presence and the lack of “Matrix-defined productivity” of “over the hill” tenured senior faculty).
Thus, they can return to their full-time faculty status and provide a portion of the requisite man/woman power to assume the postulated increased teaching loads. Further, such a reduction in administrative staff has considerable symbolic value. Would the town folk of Nottingham have been be more willing to shoulder their burdens knowing that the Court of King John was smaller and that the Priests of York were thinner?
The author is a Professor of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine, a member of the Faculty Herald Editorial Board, a Past President of the Medical Faculty Senate, a Former Secretary of the All University Faculty Senate and has the privilege of serving as the Chair of a National Cancer Institute Special Advisory Committee on Cancer Prevention.