Yesterday on Minding the Campus, FIRE Co-founder and Chairman of FIRE’s Board of Directors Harvey Silverglate argued that now is the time to "cut the administrative fat" from bloated college budgets.
Supporting his argument with a thorough examination of budget choices made by trend-setting universities in recent years, Harvey grimly notes that while spending on faculty has seen only modest gains, administrative hiring has skyrocketed, buttressed by massive growth in university endowments. Like Harvey says, "the numbers don’t lie – these institutions had money to spend or, as the case may be, to squander on ill-considered socialization experiments in pursuit of some notion of a brave new world."
So now that university endowments are experiencing equally mammoth losses as the economy stumbles dramatically—Harvard, for one, has seen its endowment dip 22% in the first quarter of the fiscal year—Harvey asks: "will the requirements of financial prudence dictate, at long last, that bloated administrations simply have to go on a strict diet?" He concludes that "assistant vice-deans of student life specializing in sensitivity training will likely outlast the professor of European history or the instructor in Chinese, Arabic, or other critical languages."
Of course, that means that FIRE’s battle against speech restrictions on campus across the country will continue. After all, that army of administrators needs something to do—and far too often, they end up justifying their salaries by acting as the self-appointed guardians of the political, moral, and personal lives of their students. But as Harvey notes, "times of crisis also provide opportunities for change," and you can count on FIRE to be pushing for exactly that.