Who Runs Our Colleges– Administrators or Faculty?

Ron Lipsman:

Easy question. Administrators do. Odd as it may sound today, faculties have long assumed the right and duty to set the campus agenda–to establish admission standards, control research and curriculum, run visiting speaker programs, and set the academic and professional criteria on which promotions, prizes and appointments are based.
Historically, the faculty actually did control these things, in part because it was viewed as the natural way to run a university, and partly because there were no countervailing forces to prevent it. The administrative layers that accompanied and facilitated faculty control of campuses were fairly thin. That is, the percentage of professional, full-time campus administrators was small compared to that of the faculty. Furthermore, many of them were drawn from the ranks of the faculty (to which they returned after relatively brief stints in campus administration) and so although these faculty functioned as administrators, they still thought of themselves as faculty and comported themselves accordingly.
The Army of Deans
All of this has changed dramatically over the last fifty years. The number of campus administrators has exploded. Instead of a single dean of an all-encompassing college of arts and sciences, we see a host of deans spearheading numerous units into which the large college has been split. These deans enjoy the support of a gaggle of assistant and associate deans, dragging in tow scores more chairs, heads and directors. This is accompanied by a proliferation of new academic units on campus – e.g., Urban Studies, Gay and Lesbian Studies and countless other “Studies” departments representing “compelling” fields of academic study that we didn’t know existed in mid-twentieth century.