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The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why it Matters Hardcover – August 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"This book takes a hard, clear-eyed look, with few holds barred, at the growing number and influence of full-time administrators in colleges and universities. It recognizes the large increase in government and other demands on the bureaucracy. But it dwells on the manifest fact--too often slighted--that administrators have their own fish to fry. Let us hope that his cautionary tale has a wide impact."--Morton Keller, Professor Emeritus of History, Brandeis University

"During my nearly 60 years as a professor, I believe this is the only comprehensive analysis of the academic civil war between the professors and the deans. Ginsberg demonstrates why and how we're losing--or have already lost."--Theodore J. Lowi, Professor of American Institutions, Cornell University

"Ben Ginsberg knows a thing or two about academic bureaucracy. He has had extensive experience with administrative impediments that come between his ideas and their realization. Instead of ranting, he has written The Fall of the Faculty, where he has employed his political insight to examine administrative bloat in higher education and to explain the many ways in which administrative authority has elbowed aside faculty governance in the running of today's colleges and universities. As a recovering deanlet and one-time acting dean, I know whereof he speaks."--Matthew A. Crenson, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University

"In his lacerating "The Fall of the Faculty," Mr. Ginsberg argues that universities have degenerated into poorly managed pseudo-corporations controlled by bureaucrats so far removed from research and teaching that they have barely any idea what these activities involve. He attacks virtually everyone from overpaid presidents and provosts down through development officers, communications specialists and human-resource staffers but he reserves his most bitter scorn for the midlevel "associate deans" and "assistant deans" who often have the most direct control over the faculty. Mr. Ginsberg refers to them as "deanlets," but at my institution they are often called "ass. deans." The Fall of the Faculty" reads like a cross between a grand-jury indictment and a call to arms. Yet as bracing and darkly pleasurable as this call is, it is hard to imagine professors joining the resistance with so few weapons at their disposal."--The Wall Street Journal

About the Author

Benjamin Ginsberg is the David Bernstein Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for the Study of American Government, and Chair of the Center for Advanced Governmental Studies at Johns Hopkins University. His previous books include Downsizing Democracy, American Government: Power and Purpose, and We the People: An Introduction to American Politics.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019978244X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199782444
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #784,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard B. Schwartz TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 31, 2011
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Once upon a time, within living memory, universities were essentially run by the faculty. The faculty took responsibility for what we now term `student life' issues as well as the curriculum. They even dabbled in athletics. Knute Rockne, who graduated magna cum laude, taught chemistry before he became Notre Dame's head football coach. When I attended Notre Dame many years later there were faculty living in Lyons Hall, a sophomore dorm. The prefects and rectors throughout the dorms--C.S.C. priests, by and large--were also members of the faculty. Faculty lived with students at other universities, of course, Harvard and Princeton, e.g., and dealt with `student life' issues there.

When I taught at the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1969-1981) every significant academic administrative post was held by a faculty member and all of the supporting positions (associate deanships, e.g.) were held by a part-time faculty member. Some associate deans served longish terms, some only three years. The requirement was that you would continue to teach and do research in your department while you held the administrative position and return to your department when your term was completed.

While not entirely gone and not entirely forgotten, that world has been replaced by a bureaucratized university filled with administrators and administrative staff. Dr. Ginsberg tells this story and describes its implications in this bittersweet book. The story is sad; fortunately, Dr. Ginsberg has not lost his sense of humor. Moreover, he has not lost his courage, for he names names and names institutions as he details the most prominent offenders.
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Most contemporary critics of American higher education (e.g., Andrew Hacker, Claudia Dreifus, Naomi Shaefer Riley, Charles Sykes, and others ad nauseam) take a perverse populist pleasure in hating on the faculty. According to an oft-repeated, basically anti-intellectual argument (each time trotted forth as if it were a shocking new discovery), the woes of the modern college or university all emanate from overpaid, underworked, vain academics who pursue ever more abstruse topics to the detriment of the students whose educations they neglect. Benjamin Ginsberg's "The Fall of the Faculty" bursts onto this tired scene with a spirited defense of the faculty and of the traditional aims of the university: fostering original research and the education of students. These activities are the responsibility of the faculty, who historically have not only performed that research and education but who also for generations took responsibility (with the help of a few administrative staff members) for governing and running their schools. This is the faculty that has made American higher education preeminent in the world. But it is indeed a faculty that is under siege.

As Ginsberg meticulously lays out in his analysis (unlike the author of many a trade book, Ginsberg knows how to use a footnote), the number of academic administrators over the past forty years has been growing far more rapidly than that of students or faculty members, and the financial investment needed to support them is mainly responsible for many of the worst sins of higher education, including galloping tuition increases and the creation of an underclass of powerless and underpaid contingent faculty. Administrators and other professional staff now far outnumber faculty.
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As a tenured faculty member of 20 years, currently employed at a research university that was mentioned a number of times in Ginsberg's book, I quite looked forward to reading what he had to say. I found several elements of the book lived up to my expectations. I found Chapter 5 (describing the rise and fall of the tenure system) to be fascinating. I thought his idea that the media should deduct points from institutional rankings for administrative bloat to be inspired; while I suspect that its long term practical result would be the "creative reclassification" of many administrative activities as teaching activities, in the short run it would focus governing boards on how to cut university staff. His arguments that administrators--rather than faculty or students--are the group most motivated to support institutional policies leading to political correctness were intriguing. I also felt that his recommendation that doctoral student output be reduced in fields where supply outstrips demand for new hires was both courageous and sensible.

Despite these excellent elements, I find myself unconvinced with respect to Ginsberg's central thesis: that the growth of administration in U.S. universities can be explained as a quest for power. There are two reasons for my skeptiscism. The first doubtless reflects the difference in our underlying disciplines. Whereas his (political science) tends to view motivation from a power perspective, mine (business) tends to rely more heavily on economic consequences. For example, I view money money as fungible. From my perspective, then, the complaint that FSU earned nearly $400 million from licensing pharmaceuticals to BMS (p. 189) but also laid off tenured faculty from several departments as a result of budgetary problems (p. 192) are necessarily related.
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