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The B.B. Dougherty Administration Building on the Appalachian State University campus. File photo by Anna Oakes.



Originally published: 2013-09-10 18:27:22
Last modified: 2013-09-10 18:44:41

Faculty: ASU has 'administrative bloat'

by Kellen Short

Some faculty members at Appalachian State University are concerned that the university is suffering "administrative bloat," as evidenced by a 200 percent growth in high-ranking administrative positions since 1990, a new report states.


The report, created by the ASU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, analyzed salary data from 1990-91 through 2011-12 for all positions that included "chancellor" or "provost" in the title. The study did not include the chancellor's position.


The study found that in 1990, ASU employed seven of those executive administrative positions with a combined salary of $533,920.


By 2011-12, the number of positions had grown to 17, and their combined salaries totaled $2.42 million, the report states. The study did not adjust for inflation.


During that same period, the percentage of university expenditures that went to student instruction fell from 48.7 percent to 32.5 percent, the report states.


The report also compared the growth in administration to the growth in other sectors of the university. The number of full-time faculty members, for example, has grown only 37 percent during the same period that high-level administration has grown by nearly 200 percent.


"Upper administrative pay growth has outstripped teaching load growth, the number of full-time faculty, state support for the university, inflation and almost any indicator except tuition growth, which suggests an accelerating burden on parents and students to support an increasingly costly and cumbersome upper administrative caste," the report states.


While official figures for 2012-13 were not available for the study, the authors -- professors Jeffrey Bortz, Sheila Phipps and Gregory Reck -- noted that in fall 2012, the number of administrators had grown to 18 and aggregate salaries to $2.64 million.


The university also planned to fill three new positions this academic year: the associate vice chancellor for research, the association vice chancellor for equity, diversity and compliance, and the special assistant to the provost. Those positions were expected to add another half-million to the salary total, the report states.


The growth in administration has come during a time of declining state appropriations. The concern, according to the authors, is that that growth has come at the expense of the university's primarily missions: education and research.


"We think we should minimize 'clerks' and maximize teaching and research," Bortz said Monday at a meeting of the Faculty Senate.


Reck, who also worked on the report, said the apparent growth in administration also is at odds with the UNC Strategic Directions 2013-18 document, a plan of action for the system in the coming years. The report specifically instructs universities to reduce excess layers of management, simplify unnecessary bureaucracy and focus on the academic mission.


Greg Lovins, vice chancellor for business affairs, provided some explanations for the numbers during the Faculty Senate meeting.


He pointed out that in the 1990s, the university paid some people who were not faculty -- including coaches and the athletic director -- from the "faculty" line item.


A few holdovers, such as academic advisors, still remain, but many non-faculty positions have been culled from that line, he said.


As a result, the percentage of funding paid toward faculty may have appeared to drop when it actually resulted from the elimination of positions in that category.


Lovins said when accounting for other factors, the percentage of spending on faculty salaries is roughly even compared to 1990.


Chancellor Kenneth Peacock, who also addressed the Faculty Senate, welcomed the faculty to bring up such concerns, saying he wanted ASU to protect its core mission.


"If we get off course, if the train gets off track, hold us to the fire, and let us know," Peacock said.


The AAUP committee that compiled the report intends to look further into the issue, possibly to examine growth in mid-level administrators.


Reck stressed that the committee does not bear any ill will toward anyone at the university and does not intend to rank or prioritize the administrative positions currently filled. 


Instead, he said he hopes the information will become part of the conversation as ASU continues to consider how it functions with less state funding.


"We at least need to have this data enter our consciousness as we proceed in talking about efficiencies ... because we need to protect the core mission of the university, which is teaching and research," Reck said.