June 14, 2016
A controversy concerning the dismissal and reassignment of senior administrators at Appalachian State University has recently erupted. While Appalachian’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) does not believe that it has the information to weigh in on the substance of these disputes, it feels this matter is a fitting occasion to remind the university community of some disturbing trends in higher education and to reassert a few core principles:
1. University governance should be transparent, inclusive, and shared. The principle of shared governance between administration and faculty is one of the defining features of the American academic system. There has, however, been a disturbing tendency to “presidentialize” university leadership (witness “cabinets,” “chiefs of staff,” and so on). These trends go hand in hand with a marginalization of the tradition of faculty governance, as seen in recent decisions by the Provost and other top administrators to disregard or fail to respond to Faculty Senate decisions. We believe that a university administration that takes inclusive governance seriously will be less exposed to institutional instability and community frustration resulting from unexpected and seemingly arbitrary administrative changes.
2. The expansion of administrative positions (“administrative bloat”) undermines shared governance and is a disservice to the university community. ASU’s AAUP chapter has long been concerned with the way our campus has mirrored the troubling national trend towards the expansion of administrative positions, particularly at the vice-provost and vice-chancellor level. Administrators in these roles are often paid six-figure salaries, at a time when faculty and staff salaries are essentially stagnant and student debt is ballooning. Frequently, these administrators are not academics and have little familiarity with university culture, and they are often hired through expensive and non-transparent search processes. In addition to being a questionable expenditure of resources in an age of constantly declining public funding, the rise in administrative positions also undermines the faculty’s central role in university governance. The shift towards an “all administrative university” that gives disproportionate influence to highly paid administrators creates a top-heavy structure in which personnel disputes among administrators will unnecessarily disrupt the university’s mission and damage its reputation.
We call upon the administration and university community to be mindful of these important principles.
- The ASU Chapter of the AAUP Executive Board