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From: Len Gutkin
Subject: The Review: The Report Yale Doesn't Want You to See
“University professors,” David Graeber wrote in these pages in 2018, “have to spend increasing proportions of their days performing tasks which exist only to make overpaid academic managers feel good about themselves.” That’s an assessment corroborated by a draft report on the “Size and Growth of Administration and Bureaucracy at Yale,” dated January 2022 but not yet released.
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“University professors,” David Graeber wrote in these pages in 2018, “have to spend increasing proportions of their days performing tasks which exist only to make overpaid academic managers feel good about themselves.” That’s an assessment corroborated by a draft report on the “Size and Growth of Administration and Bureaucracy at Yale,” dated January 2022 but not yet released. (At the moment, the report appears to be in limbo, circulating privately but with no official stamp of approval. Karen Peart, a spokeswoman for Yale, said only that “the Senate voted at its closed-door May 2022 meeting to postpone discussion of the report until a future date.”)
In an appendix, the authors of the report — the seven-person governance committee of Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences — have collected several anecdotes from faculty members that they say are symptomatic of an increasingly intolerable burden of bureaucratic oversight. “Disrespectful,” “demoralizing,” “infantilizing,” “opaque” — these are some of the adjectives that appear. One professor compared dealing with Yale administrators to “interacting with an insurance company.”
The governance committee’s thesis is that these afflictions all stem from the numerical increase in administration even as the size of the faculty has remained stagnant. The authors cite a 2018 Chronicle report showing that Yale has the fifth-highest ratio of administrators to students in the country, and the highest in the Ivy League (for comparison, peer institutions like Columbia, Harvard, and Stanford were 24th, 35th, and 55th, respectively). Between 2003 and 2022, the draft report states, “we note increases in administrative positions in various units of at least 150 percent. ... This compares with an increase in just 10.6 percent” for tenure-track jobs in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
And not only is the number of administrators growing, but so are their salaries. The seven “upper administrators” who remained in the same role between 2015 and 2019 received “roughly 8.25 percent per year” raises, a rate far out of step with what faculty members got. As depicted in the report, Yale’s upper administration is both bloated and greedy.
The report is — or will be, if the university ever releases it — the result of a long period of concern over the ballooning administration. For the Yale Daily News, the student journalist Philip Mousavizadeh reported on that concern in November of last year. “According to eight members of the Yale faculty,” Mousavizadeh wrote, the administration’s “size imposes unnecessary costs, interferes with students’ lives and faculty’s teaching, spreads the burden of leadership, and adds excessive regulation.” (One of those eight, Nicholas Christakis, also sat on the governance committee that authored the report. The other members of the governance committee were Hélène Landemore, David Bercovici, R. Howard Bloch, Gerald Jaynes, Maria Pinango, and Larry Samuelson.)
In response, Provost Scott Strobel wrote a letter to the editor construing the professors quoted in Mousavizadeh’s article as pitting faculty against staff. “I take strong exception,” Strobel wrote, “to any view of Yale that privileges the needs of our students and faculty while dismissing the invaluable contributions of any of our staff.” He went on to sing the praises of health-care workers, IT specialists, mental-health counselors, and so on, all of whom helped Yale to weather the pandemic. “While I and many of my faculty colleagues could continue our work from home, many of our staff were on our campus, in our buildings and with our students. Staff have been essential workers on the front lines, readying campus for our safe return.” The professors quoted in Mousavizadeh’s article were talking about deans and deanlets; Strobel pretended to think they were also talking about facilities workers.
To advertise the letter, Nate Nickerson, Yale’s vice president for communications (and therefore, according to the draft report, one of Yale’s 20 highest-paid employees — albeit clocking in at the bottom of the list) sent an email to managers encouraging them to share Strobel’s “beautiful tribute to what we together do ... with staff in your units. No pressure, of course — just forward the link above as feels natural.”
The authors of the report, presumably anticipating more criticisms like Strobel’s, take pains to define their targets. “The committee emphasizes that this report is not primarily concerned with the many members of the Yale community who fill staff and support positions. Our primary focus is on the general administrative structure of the university.” Elsewhere, the committee “reiterates that its focus is not presently on the number or allocation of the staff that keeps Yale’s daily activities running on the ground. Many of the personnel at Yale do not play a role in the increasingly burdensome policies and procedures of the administration.”
The authors acknowledge that their data-gathering is somewhat improvisational, a necessary evil, they say, given the administration’s failure to provide official figures on many of the relevant topics. Running like a refrain throughout the report are pleas for more information. “Despite repeated efforts on the part of the Senate Budget Committee over the past few years to obtain meaningful information about the budget and its deployment, the administration has not made current and past administrative costs transparent.” Later, a note of irritation creeps in: “We note that the lack of transparency about this topic by the administration is itself a problem.” And later still, buried in a footnote, “We cannot know, because we do not have the requisite transparency to make such an assessment.” Perhaps the administration feels too burdened by onerous paperwork to find the time.
Recommended: a Salman Rushdie Roundup
- “Reese is home in Pittsburgh recovering from a fairly superficial knife wound to his eyelid, which he sustained while holding down the legs of the man stabbing the novelist.” In The Atlantic, George Packer on the people who saved Salman Rushdie.
- “It has always been clear to me that god is unlike human beings in that it can die, so to speak, in parts.” In Granta, Salman Rushdie on literature and the sacred. (From 1990, when Rushdie was in hiding.)
- “Forget for a moment about the imperative to defend the freedom of speech — which, however important, remains a merely ‘formal’ freedom; here is something even more important: to love someone who has the sense and wisdom, almost totally unknown in our mendacious and shitty age, to pursue the truth in the mode of wonder.” In The Point, Justin E.H. Smith on terrorism, expression, the fragile human body, and presidential assassinations.
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