Students, educators and administrators from across the state will descend on the state Capitol today for an "Educate the State" rally.
The aim is worthy: To promote the value of higher education to the state and protest rapidly increasing student fees, fewer courses and larger class sizes.
The issue of declining support from the state for higher education is real. Thirty years ago, 10 percent of the general fund went to the University of California and California State University and 3 percent went to prisons. Today, nearly 11 percent goes to prisons and 7.5 percent goes to our public universities.
But given California's deep economic and budgetary crisis, it is not enough to demand that the state just increase higher education funding.
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Higher education advocates need to show they understand the state's financial situation and are responding to it.
A prime area for action: the unrelenting growth of administration — an ever-wider assortment of associate and assistant vice presidents, deans and directors. Some refer to this growth as "bureaucratic accretion," others as "administrative bloat." Elsewhere, this growth has jokingly been referred to as a proliferation of "deans of dean services," but it is no laughing matter. Administrators are among the highest paid people on the campuses, typically earning $100,000 or more.
The University of California stands out in this trend. Charles Schwartz, an emeritus professor at UC Berkeley and a lone crusader on this issue for 20 years, has noted: "Administrative growth is not unique to UC, but the rate of growth is higher at UC than most public or private universities."
Thus, the University of California should take the lead in cutting the explosive growth in senior management. It would put public universities in a better position in calling for the state to shift its own spending priorities away from prisons and toward higher education.
The university's hiring trends are going in the wrong direction. Systemwide over the past 10 years, student enrollment at the UC has increased 40 percent. During the same period, total employment has increased 30 percent. That looks reasonable.
But two categories of UC employment stand out: The number of full-time senior administrators has nearly doubled — from 4,299 to 8,470. In contrast, the numbers of full- time tenure-track faculty have grown from 7,175 to 8,851, a 23 percent increase.
Said another way, the university now has nearly as many senior administrators as faculty. In the mid-1990s, UC had two times as many faculty as senior administrators. Two decades ago, UC had nearly three times as many faculty as senior administrators.
The Board of Regents and top executives have shown little stomach for confronting this issue. Last year, while student enrollment increased 1.8 percent, total employment decreased and faculty numbers remained flat, the numbers of senior administrators increased 3 percent.
If the university wants more money from the state, the regents, system President Mark Yudof, the 10 campus chancellors and 250 top executives must shrink the disproportionate growth of middle management ranks.
This isn't just a matter of cost. It is a matter of priorities — bolstering the core missions of teaching and research.
The current recession has led to a flattening of administrative structures and consolidation of functions in businesses and public institutions throughout the United States. It must also extend to California's public universities.
This means reviewing every job title. It means asking whether everyone needs their own information technology professional, whether faculty can expand their roles in administering research grants, whether regulatory compliance can be consolidated, whether the drive for student amenities unrelated to learning has gone too far.