Academic Leadership in Hard Times
Should Start with an Administrative Hiring Freeze
—David Waldstreicher, Faculty Herald Editor
“Was at the dentist this morning. He was talking about Temple’s proposed cuts. He said they should start with all the administrators….He’s at least the 5th person in the last month who’s said something to me about the number of administrators.”
--A faculty member in a private message to the editor
The conventional wisdom around universities is that the first to go among the faculty in a budget crunch are the adjuncts and the instructors on one year contracts. Problem is, they do so much of the teaching work that even though there are so many of them it is likely that
only a marginal savings can be made by squeezing more out of fewer of them. Then there is the option of raising presidential faculty course loads, as had been done here before. Many of us who came ca. 2004 as I did were warned that this is contractually possible. But it would undermine Temple’s attempts to raise its research profile and no doubt lead to much time consuming resistance on the part of the faculty. I would argue that it is the duty of the faculty, nevertheless, to start talking about how this ought to be done if it is necessary, rather than leaving it to deans and chairs to accomplish it at the last minute.
The last option we are likely to hear from the administration or its outside consultants is to cut non-essential administrative positions and stop hiring new administrators. But it is the one that most needs consideration. It is also the option most consistent with Temple’s traditions and its core mission.
Hard data on administrative hires is hard to come by. But no one who has been here long can fail to notice the profusion of vice presidents and their assistants at Temple. Individually, it might be hard to argue against these accomplished and very professional
individuals. I myself have enjoyed getting to know them. Collectively, though, they represent a new and large set of expenses. They do things that contribute to making the university a better place but are arguably not essential to the university’s present mission of teaching and research. Their presence – and especially their salaries and perks - reflect the very expensive corporatization of the university which has made us vulnerable to the corporate types who now look to raid our budget in order to avoid raising taxes. It could be argued that some government regula-tions make the hiring of some of these folks necessary.
It could also be argued that many of the community oriented activities and programs that they manage contribute to the research and instructional mission of the University. It could also be argued that it is important for Temple to actively partake in and even be a leader in activities and programs that improve our communities – state, local, city, and country. However, if the existence of these programs is so little valued that our legislators see fit to cut $90,000,000 from Temple’s budget, all of these activities should be held in abeyance for the foreseeable future, the supporting staff let go, and the involved faculty have their energies redirected – perhaps to some of the extra courses that we may all be asked to teach.
Provost Dick Englert has shown a profound sensitivity to public opinion in asking us not to post the Budget Detail on line. (See the minutes of the Representative Senate for Jan. 24 and Feb 15 in this issue and Phil Yannella’s article in our last issue). President Hart and Vice President Wagner have shown admirable PR savvy in response to the state appropriations. It is curious why they have not yet realized that the best way to demonstrate that we are serious about cutting costs is not to hire university architects or expand administrative apparatus – even if such moves follow the current corporate best practices of planning. When faced with sudden budget cuts because of state appropriation shortfalls in 2009, Provost Lisa Staiano-Coico announced a hiring and administrative pay freeze within her portfolio.
The administration instead seems to be putting its considerable creativity into more new positions such as the revived Presidential Faculty Fellows program (two instead of one), and a town meeting on “academic leadership” on April 11. (The new Presidential Faculty Fellows are Thomas Marino of SOM and Susan Jansen Varnum of CST. We have not heard much about their specific roles. But it seems safe to assume that they would be logical people to contact about the question of administrative costs at Temple.) Perhaps academic leadership should include a willingness to go against the conventional wisdom and not hire outside consultants and expensive headhunters and lawyers in order to replace administrators or to accomplish administrative goals that are within the considerable abilities of our current leadership… not to mention the faculty.
The Faculty Herald remains dedicated to promoting a dialogue with and among the faulty of Temple University and invites readers to write the editor in response to anything in this or a previous issue, or on other topics of interest and import to Temple Faculty. New letters sent to the editor will be published to a prominent place on the Herald’s website (www.temple.edu/herald) within one or two weeks of the editor receiving them and will be included in the next issue of the Herald. Readers are also welcome to post comments on select articles presented on the new Faculty Herald blog at http://www.facultyherald.blogspot.com.
|Letters to the editor should be emailed to David Waldstreicher at firstname.lastname@example.org