On Campus
Apr 02, 2008, 09:05AM

Faculty Fallout

Colleges and universities across the country are hiring more administrators than faculty, undermining their core mission and pushing students to the sidelines. From The Daily Orange.

 Administrators are beginning to outnumber faculty at universities across the country, and some experts are wary of the consequences this poses to education.

A new report states that institutions of higher education in the United States employ more staff positions than teaching faculty members, according to a report by The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in March 2008.

"A concern for students is that faculty will not often be available outside of class time," said John Curtis, director of research and public policy for the American Association of University Professors. "It likely will become more difficult to develop relationships with professors, and students' learning will be affected."

According to the NCES report, 48.6 percent of more than 3.5 million employees in higher education were full-time professors during the 2006-2007 academic year. The remaining 51.4 percent were administrative, student services and support staff.

In the past five years, Syracuse University has hired 285 full-time employees. Of these new hires, 89 were for faculty positions - a 31 percent ratio.

The report also shows an increasing reliance of colleges and universities on part-time and adjunct professors.

There are some higher education specialists who are troubled by these statistics.

Curtis said providing a number of additional services is distracting for universities.

"No longer is there just a little bit of advising or a few student activities," Curtis said. "There is a wide variety."

The number of full-time, non-faculty employees at universities has increased by 281 percent over the last several years, Curtis said.

Nationally, the number of tenure-track faculty has increased by 17 percent.

New requirements put in place on how universities report data, further accreditation processes and increased emphasis on student learning outcomes are causes of the need for more administrative staff. "We believe these numbers show that colleges and universities are getting away from their core mission," Curtis said.

Fewer full-time faculty members increase the fear that students will have a difficult time developing meaningful relationships with their professors.

Curtis said academic freedom concerns could arise from the use of more part-time professors, who are hired on either course-by-course or yearly contracts.

"If faculty are operating on limited contracts, a professor will be less able to teach controversial material or even comment honestly on the operations of the university," Curtis said. "That is not a good environment in which to work."

Some national experts say there is no reason to be alarmed by this trend. The changing nature of how universities operate has necessitated the need for different allocation of resources.

"Colleges and universities must increasingly support areas outside of teaching in order to be competitive," said Allison Vaillancourt, president of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources and associate vice president of human resources at the University of Arizona.

"Twenty years ago, we didn't have the array of student services, IT support, campus recreation services and so on required now to attract high-quality students," Vaillancourt said.

From 1999 through 2007, there was growth in all budgeted staff positions at Syracuse University, said Kal Alston, associate provost for academic administration at SU.

Most increases were in the departments of technological support, student services, student affairs and other staff that "further supports the academic mission of the university," Alston said.

Dining services have also seen a large influx of employees.

"Students want more choices available to them," Alston said. "So there needs to be people who can provide for those choices."

Alston said the number of faculty employed by SU has remained fairly constant in proportion to the number of students enrolled.

"SU is very conscientious of the places where there are needs," Alston said. "We believe we do a very good job keeping an eye on the main issues at hand and providing the full college experience for our students."

This hiring trend raises a debate on the core mission of a university; something Alston said includes all aspects of student life.

"Our mission is to enrich experiences for students on campus," Alston said, "and all good campuses are going to be responsive as to how to deploy resources best."


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