Joe McLaughlin, vice president of Ohio University’s chapter of American Association of University Professors, or OU-AAUP, said administrative bloat happens when an institution increases its administrative footprint, in terms of both people and financial resources.
The average base salary for a full-time faculty member, including instructional and tenure or tenure-track faculty is $86,511, while it is $74,204 for a full-time administrator, Carly Leatherwood, a university spokesperson, said. However, the majority of faculty only serve nine-month appointments.
In the last 10 years, McLaughlin said, there has been a visible increase in the number of administrators at the university and in the money going to administrative salaries and benefits. Conversely, he said, the same metrics for faculty members have stayed relatively stagnant.
The university was unable to provide an accurate number of new administrative hires in the last year at this time. However, Leatherwood said the university has invested in “key areas” with new administrative positions, such as Enrollment Management and OU Online programs.
“I think that the frustration on the part of AAUP and faculty, in general, is the fact that the university is dealing with some pretty significant budget issues and rather than looking at this issue of administrative bloat, their solutions continue to be to look to cutting faculty,” McLaughlin said.
In turn, McLaughlin said those choices affect students as they result in larger class sizes and a decrease of diversity in curricular offerings.
McLaughlin highlighted the class and program cuts made in the Department of Modern Languages, which now lacks Russian classes and is only able to offer a minor in German rather than a major.
“I think that the frustration on the part of AAUP and faculty, in general, is the fact that the university is dealing with some pretty significant budget issues and rather than looking at this issue of administrative bloat, their solutions continue to be to look to cutting faculty.” —Joe McLaughlin, vice president of Ohio University’s chapter of American Association of University Professors
“Those don’t seem like strategies to deal with enrollment issues,” he said.
OU President Hugh Sherman said at both the administrative and faculty level, there are no plans for future layoffs. There is, however, a voluntary retirement and separation program, or VSRP, targeted to certain departments where the university feels there is a surplus of faculty.
In a report provided to OU-AAUP by a faculty member, research indicated from 2012 to 2019, the salaries and benefits paid to the top 250 administrations increased by 38%. Taking inflation into account, this is a 23% increase, he said.
“(The) analysis seems to indicate that about 25% of our current budget deficit at the university can be attributed to the above-inflation increases to the top 250 administrative salaries,” McLaughlin said. “What AAUP would like to see is some right-sizing.”
OU’s current pay administration guidelines “reflect both the role of the job within the university and external market practices,” according to OU Human Resources website.
“The university will continue to monitor the market and will recommend adjustments to the pay structure, as appropriate, to ensure that it continues to reflect competitive pay,” the website reads.
New hires in administrative and professional positions who have a starting pay offer above the 25th percentile of the pay grade must have that offer reviewed by the Planning Unit and by Compensation prior to making the offer, according to the website.
An Administrative and Staffing History study from 2020 shows from 2008 and 2019, OU hired roughly 314 new administrative positions and only increased faculty positions by about 124. Classified positions were decreased by 149 employees in this same time frame.
“Several years ago, there was a redefinition of what is an administrator and whis is classified staff, and a bunch of people were moved to administrators from classified,” Robin Oliver, vice president for university communications and marketing, said.
In the study, OU said average salaries for faculty and administrators have increased at “basically the same rate.”
“The reality is that there have been increases in both faculty and non-faculty positions,” Oliver said.
Including both full- and part-time employees from 2020 to 2021, OU stood at 1,607 administrative positions and 1,629 faculty positions. However, the number of part-time faculty is significantly higher than that of part-time administrators.
“We’re really being careful and strategic when somebody leaves,” Sherman said. “There’s a lot of flow that naturally happens of people who leave voluntarily. That’s our biggest way that we can assess the need to replace that person.”
Sherman acknowledged the previous faculty layoffs and the effects those layoffs had on the university and staff. However, he said he is working to keep repeating the message that OU is not planning any further layoffs.
“The university is in really good shape,” Sherman said. “This university has been well-managed financially over the last 10 years, and even though there are some difficult times, they made sure that we have the financial resources to invest.”
“The idea that administrators are getting bonuses, while letting go of over 400 people last year and buying out a bunch of faculty this year is outrageous. They're congratulating themselves when they are flushing the university down the toilet.” —Judith Grant
Looking to the future, Sherman said he is focused on recruiting and retaining junior faculty members to bolster the student experience. He said there is no plan to increase administration and said administrative positions have actually been reduced over the past few years.
Some professors still see problem areas in the current administrative structure — one of which includes bonuses.
Judith Grant, a political science professor, and John O’Keefe, a history professor at OU’s Chillicothe campus, spearheaded a resolution in Faculty Senate to exclude deans, vice presidents, presidents, provost, chiefs or anyone holding a Department of Athletics position with a base salary exceeding the governor of Ohio’s from receiving monetary bonuses, according to a previous Post report.
“I felt like (the reaction from Senate) was really positive,” Grant said. “In fact, the resolution that John and I initially proposed was not as what not as strong as the one that passed. We proposed limits on the bonuses and one of the senators said, ‘Why are we having bonuses at all?’”
Grant said she did not initially think about the resolution in this way because she believed there was “no chance” the university would do that, given it is commonplace in higher-education institutions throughout the nation.
“The administration is treated like business executives, and therefore they have bonuses,” she said. “That is a relatively new practice, and I don’t think it should continue.”
O’Keefe said the issues, such as administrative bloat, that OU-AAUP is bringing awareness to are important conversations many people agree with and care about. He said by skewing the cost of administration, or paying administrative above-inflation rates, it can cause issues for students, such as concern about having the course offerings to facilitate a timely graduation.
“The idea that administrators are getting bonuses, while letting go of over 400 people last year and buying out a bunch of faculty this year is outrageous,” Grant said. “They're congratulating themselves when they are flushing the university down the toilet.”