The Volokh Conspiracy

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Volokh Conspiracy

Growing academic bureaucracies are eating academic programs


Alex McHugh has an interesting post at NRO picking up on my essay from a few weeks regarding my futile efforts to reform George Mason's speech code. McHugh notes that additional costs of growing academic bureaucracies is not only that they expanded so rapidly in the good times of higher education but that they have now proven unusually resistant to shrinkage as budgets have tightened, especially those with politically sensitive constituencies. If budgets shrink and bureaucracy doesn't: well, do the math, the savings have to come from somewhere, namely academic programs.

McHugh also notes that as the bureaucracy becomes larger and more sprawling it also becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of what all the bureaucrats are doing and making sure that their behavior is aligned with the academic values of the institution:

The bureaucracies are growing in reach as well as size. At many institutions this is a grave danger to students' rights and to effective governance. With too many moving parts to scrutinize, no responsibility for the overall health of the university, and a preference for placated, rather than educated students, university bureaucrats face incentives that favor bad policy.

As I have argued elsewhere, I think the best way to understand the behavior of academic bureaucracies (or bureaucracies generally within large non-profits) is by reference to the behavior of governmental bureaucrats.