‘Proliferation of administrators’: professors reflect on two decades of rapid expansion


Vaibhav Sharma, photo editor

Over the past two decades, the number of executives and professionals employed by Yale has grown three times faster than the number of undergraduates, according to the University’s financial reports. The group’s 44.7% expansion since 2003 has taken a toll on faculty, students and tuition, according to eight faculty members.

In 2003, when 5,307 undergraduates were studying on campus, the University employed 3,500 administrators and managers. In 2019, before the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on student enrollments, only 600 more students lived and studied at Yale, but the number of administrators had increased by more than 1,500, an increase of almost 45%. In 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education revealed that Yale had the highest principal-to-student ratio of any Ivy League university and the fifth-highest in the country among private four-year colleges.

According to eight Yale faculty members, this administrative size imposes unnecessary costs, interferes with student life and faculty teaching, spreads the burden of leadership, and adds excessive regulation. In contrast, administrators noted that much of this increase can be attributed to the growing number of medical staff and that the University has proportionately increased the size of its faculty.

“I had pointed out to President Salovey during his inauguration that I thought the best thing he could do for Yale would be to abolish a dean or vice-president every year of what I hoped would be a long term. to this post, “English teacher Leslie Brisman wrote in an email to News. “Instead, it seemed to me that he created one higher level administrative position per month.”

In an email to the News, University spokesperson Karen Peart pointed out that while the University’s executive staff has grown over the past two decades, so has the faculty grown, which has increased by 54%. She further noted that the Yale School of Medicine had developed its clinical practice in recent years, which necessitated the recruitment of new staff and “has been vital for the city and the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Increasing government demands on universities may have contributed to administrative expansion. According to a report by the American Council on Education, in 2013 and 2014 alone, the United States Department of Education added new rules and regulations on 10 new sets of issues, including grants, loans and crime on campus. The report further details that, according to data from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, “the number of federal requirements imposed on colleges and universities increased by 56% between 1997 and 2012.”

However, Paul Campos, a professor of law at the University of Colorado and an expert in higher education economics, said the burden imposed by government regulations is “exaggerated” and does not adequately explain the problem. significant growth in the number of directors. He suggested that the main driver has been the desire of administrators to accumulate power and influence within their institutions.

Political science professor James Scott agreed with Campos, adding that although all Ivy League schools are subject to similar levels of government regulation, Yale still leads the group when it comes to the manager-to-student ratio. .

“A [cause] is the huge increase in income generated by these universities which must more or less be spent, ”Campos said. “This means that as income increases, we have to find ways to spend it. And one of the most natural ways to increase spending is to increase administration, the size of administration, and the pay of senior administrators in particular. ”

Since 2003, the University’s operating revenues have jumped 200%, from $ 1.5 billion to $ 4.6 billion.

Campos argued that federal regulations are an excuse, not a driver for expansion. He said the administration intended to increase its power and influence, and administrators were citing issues such as federal regulatory compliance as a rationale for increasing and expanding their power.

English teacher David Bromwich pointed to a similar cause for this growth.

“Yale, like many other universities, now clearly wants to be known not only as a place of teaching, learning and research, but also as a home, a community, an innovative corporate entity,” Bromwich wrote in a e-mail to News. . “Inflated self-image requires expanded oversight, and administrators are the watchers.”

In addition, the growth may come in part from student demands. Hannah Peck, assistant dean of student affairs at Yale College, told the News that the student affairs team has added four new health promotion positions under the YC3 program.

“Students have always requested more mental health support on campus and we are delighted to be able to provide it,” Peck wrote.

Peck further noted that the University must balance student demands with the careful management of Yale’s resources.

University President Peter Salovey noted that administrative growth has been proportional to growth in faculty size and university income. He reiterated that the growth in clinical practice at the Yale School of Medicine has been an important and valid cause for the increase in the size of the administration.

Campos suggested that in addition to the growing desire for power and control within higher education institutions, the growth of administrations can also be attributed to the fact that professors have abandoned their role as managers of the University, relinquishing this post. to external non-academics.

History professor John Gaddis, however, said the faculty’s diminishing role in academic leadership has not been driven by the faculty itself, but by administration.

“The proliferation of directors at Yale, I think, reflects a reluctance on the part of its leaders to lead,” Gaddis wrote in an email to The News.

Regardless of its origins, the increased size of the administration places significant scrutiny on the faculty, while increasing costs for the university, according to six professors.

“I think we don’t have a vice president for left-handed rights yet, but I haven’t checked this month,” Brisman wrote. “I think if there weren’t so many people interfering with student life (eg leave policy) and faculty choices (eg tenure review) there would be a lot funds for more real teaching and research positions. “

Psychology professor Nicholas Christakis concurred, saying that any growth in administration “can often come at the expense of advancing our core mission, [and] is therefore poorly spent and inefficient. He further noted that sociological analysis suggests that “it is in the nature of bureaucracies to grow relentlessly, unless actively controlled.”

Joel Rosenbaum, professor emeritus of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the Yale School of Medicine, said increasing the size of the administration adds administrative burden. Rosenbaum said that any time a faculty member wants to change a course or a department wants to hire a new professor, there is now a lot more administration “to get through.” Rosenbaum has been a faculty member at Yale since 1967.

“The more administrators you have, the harder it is to do anything and everything slows down,” Rosenbaum added.

Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84, Sterling Professor of Law at Yale Law School, also described how the administrative infrastructure creates work for itself.

“My meaning is [that] we have more employees and bureaucrats than we really need, and they generate all kinds of paperwork for the rest of us, ”Amar said.

Lauren Noble, founder and executive director of the William F. Buckley Jr. program at Yale, pointed out that the number of Yale directors today exceeds the number of professors – 5,066 to 4,937 – which “raises questions. important questions about resource allocation, ”she said. “It is not known how such a significant increase advances Yale’s mission.”

Amar also suggested that a large administration that is more involved in the lives of students may have a detrimental effect on the undergraduate experience.

“I think we have a lot of student affairs deans, who aren’t closely related to residential colleges and they balkanize us,” Amar said. “We have a lot of these deans for different parts of student affairs that actually hurt the residential college experience.”

Campos suggested that the growth of administrators facing students is the product of a cultural change in which all student needs must be met. He said the growth of administration informs “the ethics of full service” in large universities, where student needs – “real or perceived” – must be met.

Another major concern of this growing administration is that it drives up tuition fees. Mark Oppenheimer, lecturer in the English department, said one of the main concerns with adding “unnecessary administrators” is that it could come at the expense of lower tuition fees.

Peart did not respond directly to a request for comment on the effect of the size of the University’s administration on tuition fees.

Campos confirmed Oppenheimer’s fear, saying the administration’s disproportionate growth “absolutely” has a role in raising tuition fees.

“It’s a pandemic,” Scott said of the proliferation of directors. “And Yale might have a particularly serious case.”

The University’s staff costs totaled $ 2.7 billion in 2021, a 5% increase from 2020, according to the most recent financial report.


Philip Mousavizadeh covers Woodbridge Hall, the president’s office. He has covered the Jackson Institute before. He is in his second year at Trumbull College studying ethics, politics and economics.


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