My Big Ask: Are Deans an Expense We Can No Longer Afford?

I realize that many might not take my title seriously, or think that I am simply being sarcastic. I am not. In the 1980s and 90s many U.S. corporations cut costs– and increased profits– simply by laying off much of their middle management. In Canada and Europe, health care costs are contained, at least in part, because a public health care system avoids the high administrative expenses necessary in a for-profit system.

I think the U.S. education system ought to consider trimming costs– and reversing the shift from full time tenured professors to adjuncts and the ongoing rise in tuition and fees– by considering radical changes in administrative structure. After reading, “For Deans, Off Campus is Now is the Place to Be for Deans,” I am think that the Dean– and all of its attendant administrative structure– might be one place to start.

What does a Dean do? According to the article, his or her main function now is “college ambassador, chief visionary, and major fund raiser.” Much of this work, it seems to be, could be done in departments, or in an adequately funded public relations department, or in some cases by interested faculty members. As the article points out, because the Dean is busy elsewhere he has to expand his staff, further increasing administrative costs. It’s bloat.

“[Dean] Peña-Mora …. created… a vice dean for research; a vice dean for academic affairs… an adviser for undergraduate education; a senior associate dean for industry, government, and global education; an associate dean for advancement; and a director of strategic communications. ” The cost of his successful cheerleading is a larger, more cumbersome, administration and an implicit cheapening of the institution. It’s not a good deal.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

2 Thoughts on “My Big Ask: Are Deans an Expense We Can No Longer Afford?

  1. YES! The dead body on the sofa, the elephant in the living room that everybody knows about but discuss or at least not openly enough.

    Accountability for teachers, faculty, adjuncts? Let’s have more of it for deans and those in other highly paid administrative positions. Every time someone plays blame the adjunct, throw a dean or a coach back at them. The ROI would be so much bigger too.

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