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Higher Education Watch
Cal State Can’t Explain Why It Needs So Many Bureaucrats

The California State Auditor has delivered a damning assessment of the management practices at the single largest university system in the United States. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:

The California State University system has increased its hiring of managers at a steeper rate than its hiring of other employees over the past 10 years, according to a new state audit.

And in a report on the audit released on Thursday, the state auditor, Elaine M. Howle, wrote that the system could not sufficiently explain why it needed all the new managers, including deans, head coaches, and vice presidents, among other positions. […]

The audit also found that the system’s 23 campuses did not have policies for periodically comparing their spending levels or reviewing their budget limits.

In other words, administrators have been hiring more administrators for make-work positions and giving each other raises without sufficient accountability in a self-perpetuating cycle of bureaucratic decay that is sadly endemic to academia at large.

These findings should give pause to those who think that larger and larger state subsidies are the answer to higher education’s woes. Much of the public money spent on “free college” schemes championed by left-wing populists would end up being pocketed by the ever-expanding bureaucratic class of student services directors, Title IX coordinators, and HR managers, raising costs while steadily diluting quality.

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  • CA should have no problems and need no federal help or anything. It’s full of illegal aliens and has a huge bureaucracy of it’s own. If the illegals are so valuable and contributing, and the ginormous bureaucracy is so necessary, then whoa..CA should be in just tip top shape. Can I get citizenship in the People’s Republic of Calommumism now?

    • ——————————

      With all the financial, brain, natural, and business resources Cali has, it is incomprehensible that they could be in such a mess….

      • Jim__L

        Not really.

        Much of California (particularly, Berkeley) suffers from the delusion that since there are so many intelligent people all together in one place, all of their ideas must be without flaw.

  • Beauceron

    I would imagine a lot of universities are over-weighted with management.
    Our educational system has added an entire layer of administrators to enforce SJW rules and other narratives that have little or nothing to do with education students.

  • FriendlyGoat

    A lot of these folks get paid for merely reading some things and writing some others. Why don’t they hire us from the comment section?
    Give ’em Hell, Harry! (Or something like that.)

    • ——————————

      If they hire from the comment section then I think they should hire Fat_Man…I believe he would cut through the nonsense quickly…….

      • FriendlyGoat

        It’s a lefty place out there, remember?

        • ——————————

          I lived and done business there for 7 years…boy do I “remember”!….

  • Fat_Man

    Wage, price and staffing controls are the only thing that will save the higher eduction system. Hard and fast rules such as no more than one administrator for each 100 students, no salary higher than the Governors, no faculty member to make more than a teacher in the nearest big city school system. No more than 20% out of state or foreign students.

    • M Snow

      You had me until you suggested faculty should make no more than teachers in the nearest big city school systems. There are two ways to equalize their pay. Guess which one would be chosen?

      • Fat_Man

        By whom? The fat cat professors, or the legislators trying to balance budgets.

        • M Snow

          The fat cat professors will insist that the legislators raise the teacher’s pay before they agree to lower theirs. I don’t know where you live, but here in Nevada the legislature just switched to Democrat control. “Balancing the budget” means raising taxes.

          • Fat_Man

            I don’t see the professors as having very much leverage. If primary school teachers go on strike, parents have to stay home from work. If college professors go on strike, the students will engage in their favorite pastimes (drunkenness and fornication) and won’t notice that they classes they are skipping aren’t being taught.

          • M Snow

            They must have some leverage because they have certainly managed to become the completely overpaid nitwits that seem to populate many of our colleges. The exception is the STEM instructors.

          • Fat_Man

            Their leverage is solely in our heads.

          • M Snow

            You mean politicians heads.

          • Fat_Man


    • Professor X

      In CA, starting teachers don’t make much less than starting assistant professors, at least in most universities, and particularly in the Cal State campuses. Business and possibly engineering are exceptions, because of competition with private industry. (I am still jealous, of course, but not bitter, because it’s reasonable that they make more.) But the cost to become a tenure-track faculty member is much greater than to become a public school teacher. It took me eight years of full-time graduate school, with a perfect GPA, vs. one year post-baccalaureate in CA for a teaching credential.

      That said, staffing controls are a good idea. These administrators don’t just take up resources, but create additional tasks that require additional administrative bloat to deal with. And it’s easy to forget that every Associate Vice President for Yet Another Important Thing needs a staff, and office space… Even in IT, the panjumdrums worry too much about vision and not enough about making things work.

      • Fat_Man

        Cost has no relation to price, other than as a limit on supply.

        It is well known that in most humanities and social science fields that there are far more Phds than there have been open tenure lines. This has led to a breed of academic gypsies known as adjuncts, who teach courses for fixed, and very modest stipends. The evidence is that the supply far exceeds the demand.

        • Professor X

          Indeed. The “freeway flyers” get paid so little it is scandalous. And this is also why I grill anyone who tells me they think they want to move on to a Ph.D. I explain the facts of life, and ask hard questions they’d never thought about, and very few still want a letter of recommendation once that’s done. On the other hand, I’ve had three students over the last 12 years or so that I really thought would be great Ph.D. material, but none of them wanted to do it. Too smart to get a doctorate, I guess!

          • Fat_Man

            Ergo, existing faculty can be replaced — cheap.

          • Professor X

            I’m not sure I can persuade you on this, but here goes.

            And a nice restaurant can hire waiters off the counter at McDonald’s–cheap. Having nothing but part-time faculty would be exploitative, as is the overuse of them right now. (It’s impossible to avoid having a few, but truly, using them for the majority of teaching is ethically wrong.)

            For all the work that needs doing on campus (advising, admissions in graduate and professional programs, reviewing junior faculty performance for retention/tenure/promotion, faculty hiring committees, curriculum development or revision, and giving input into what actual user IT needs are–just to name the first few things that come to mind), you need full-time faculty. Also, part-timers do little or no research, nor can they, given their need to teach so many classes, often at different schools. Finally, without tenure, it’s almost guaranteed that research will not be independent, topics will be restricted, and findings will be massaged to correspond to what is desired. Similarly, committees will be rubber stamps, and (just to pick an example) nobody will dare tell the administration that the new pet IT project is less effective than the cheaper thing it is replacing.

            Now, on tenure, yes, there have definitely been some abuses. But tenure is what allows me to occasionally disagree in a faculty meeting about something (Let students miss class for a BLM die-in? Give extra credit for going to a protest? Sorry, no thanks…), without having to worry about losing my job. My main risk from being outspoken would be ostracism, not unemployment. Tenure means that I can pursue my favored research agenda, which not too many people are interested in, but which I think has the potential to make a small but real improvement in language teaching and testing. Tenure means that when a friend’s research indicated the federal emperor was wearing no clothes (problems with the US citizenship test), he could still pay his mortgage. It means that I don’t have to parrot whatever the U.S. or CA Dept. of Education has told the campus is the approved thing to write–I’ve seen that sort of thing overseas, and it’s not what we want in our country.

            What we need, rather than abolishing tenure, is fixing the hiring and faculty evaluation processes, reestablishing and maintaining diversity of viewpoint, and protecting freedom of speech. So, if my colleague wants to use a Marxist lens to analyze her area, great, so long as she doesn’t refuse to work with me on committees just because I think critical theory is an amusing party game. And when I’m on the committee that probably grants her tenure down the road, we’ll look at how well she taught her classes, and how many articles she got accepted in selective/competitive journals, and how much committee work she did. And if she does that when she reviews a conservative that we hire, everything is great. And that is what we need to be pushing for, not more vulnerability to the whims of campus executives and their latest faddish priority.

          • Fat_Man

            “Having nothing but part-time faculty would be exploitative, as is the overuse of them right now.”

            I was not proposing the use of part timers. I was merely pointing out that the supply of college teachers far exceeds the number of openings. So far, that it has led to practices that you correctly describe as exploitative. It means that my proposal to cap college teaching salaries at levels equal with high school teachers would not result in a shortage of teachers.

            “Finally, without tenure, it’s almost guaranteed that research will not be independent, topics will be restricted, and findings will be massaged to correspond to what is desired.”

            You mean unlike the politically correct bilge that current tenured faculty members pump out. The academic freedom argument has died an ugly death. The reign of academic terror has extinguished the voices of those who do not sing with the PC choir. This is what tenure has bought us. It was not worth the purchase.

            Further, we need to confront the fact that most research conducted by college professors is worthless. In the humanities as much as 90% of it sits on the shelves unread. Even in Biomedical sciences, there are enormous problems with research quality. The time has come to disassemble the 19th century German university model. Research should be conducted at institutions separated from educational institutions with separate governance, separate financial arrangements, and separate payrolls.

  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    If we can’t fire them, can we at least bring back the three-martini lunch (or three-joint lunch nowadays, I guess)? The story is that the American economy boomed in the 50s and 60s because managers and bureaucrats got so snockered at lunch that they could only interfere with productive work during the morning hours.

    • Professor X

      Brilliant. I know three nice watering holes within a 5-minute walk of my campus president’s building, and the other hive–I mean, building with lots of administration. And even if it didn’t work entirely, they’d be in a better mood and easier to outwit. Not that’s necessarily so tricky now, mind you…

      • HoustonGrandma

        Given that you are a college professor and I am a working class social conservative, the odds are that you and I agree on very little. Still, I find your sense of humor most entertaining. I have dealt with the hive myself, a few times….

        • Professor X

          Thanks! And I think we might disagree less than you’d expect. There’s a reason I stay anonymous on here… (I didn’t pick this name because of the X-Men, not there’s anything wrong with them. Rather, it’s from Comrade X. I need to keep at least one foot in the political closet, if nothing else so I can avoid becoming a social leper. Plus, it’s amazing what people will say when they think you might agree with them…)

          Anyway, I think most of my colleagues suspect I’m some sort of sortof-conservative or libertarian or something, but if they knew my thoughts on abortion, for example, there would probably be a general cry of “To the stake with the blasphemer!” Ditto for my support for concealed carry on campus (although we’d have to legalize concealed carry for CA first–but I think the early prison releases might take care of that eventually), my belief that 14 carrier groups might be enough, my utter opposition to affirmative action, my concern that too few crimes carry the death penalty… 🙂

          • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

            Wild guess here — you’re not a professor of gender studies, are you?

          • HoustonGrandma

            Good Heavens! You are an heretic! Take care of yourself, you stranger in a strange land.



  • Professor X

    Students don’t believe it at first, but it’s true: Faculty are a minority of the campus employees at most CSUs (if not at all of them). The more administrators there are, the more administrative tasks there are for faculty, and the more administrators are needed to help handle everything. Some of this is because of federal and occasionally state mandates that have to be met, but a lot of it is just empire building and hiring troops to help keep the peasantry (faculty, low-level staff, and students) in line.

    And don’t get me started on the “independent” foundation that is attached to each campus. All external grant money is funneled through those, they own the bookstores, they control all the hiring and finances in the extended education programs, and they are immune to scrutiny because they are not part of the university, but private charitable foundations (on whose board the campus president sits).

    • mikekelley10

      I read somewhere that CA had more administrators in its public colleges than tenured faculty.

      • Professor X

        It is true, at least in the California State University system (23 campuses), and certainly on my own campus.

  • LarryD

    Bureaucracy grows to consume all available resources. In the private sector, there are countervailing forces. In the public sector, there aren’t, until the system collapses of its own mass.

    • Crazy Jane


      Private sector bureaucracies have used IT to eliminate whole tiers of middle managers and support staff. There are incentives for supervisors to improve efficiency and get more done with smaller teams of subordinates.

      In colleges, there has been no IT bonus, and the incentives actually run the other way: If you supervise more people, you are paid more because that’s how the salary steps are calculated. This leads to featherbedding and more featherbedding and new vice-chancellors and more people all the way down the line. It is not uncommon for college administrative staffs to have tripled in the last couple decades even as the numbers of professors and students have remained the same. Student costs (and debt) have gone up, and alumni support has curdled into revulsion. The damage is self-inflicted, and there doesn’t seem to be any institutional interest — at any school — in corrective action. Very unfortunate.

  • ljgude

    Send them to the countryside for reeducation. In line with 19th century Scottish inventor McAdam’s proposals for the indigent of his day they could be set to work with hammers to reduce large rocks to small ones of just the size required for efficient road construction. It would be a win win.

  • Robert Burke

    Defund Prog Ed in K-12, university and grad school; replacing the anti-brain and anti-republic pedagogy with Western Enlightenment.

    Defunding is the greatest thing in the Western Enlightenment victory program. Defund Prog Ed… because Prog Ed is insane to the utmost.

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