Opinion: Report alludes to administrative issues at App State

Opinion: Report alludes to administrative issues at App State

Cory Spiers

Everyone attends college for different reasons, but many are ultimately looking for a quality education.
We come and pay money to access that service and hope that the priorities of the university will be oriented to educating students above all else.

A student’s education may be hindered if funds are not distributed correctly by the university. Too much money being allocated for university administrative purposes harms students and represents a troubling discovery within higher education.

According to the Watauga Democrat, a 2013 study that analyzed salary data from 1990-91 through 2011-12 for all positions that included “chancellor” or “provost” in the title by the university chapter of the American Association of University Professors suggests “administrative bloat” may be a true issue at Appalachian State University.

The report found that over the past 20 years, the amount of administrative positions has increased by more than 200 percent while faculty numbers have only increased 35 percent. Money spent on “student instruction” dropped from 48.7 to 32.5 percent.

That sounds alarming and it certainly addresses a critical issue, but there is reason to believe that the report is flawed and that more studying should be done on the issue.

Vice Provost Timothy Burwell reviewed the data and took issue with how the study measures what it intends to by focusing too much on high-level, tenure track positions and neglecting actual monetary allocation.

“The proportion of resources dedicated to all support staff positions as a percentage of available spending actually declined,” Burwell said. “Instructional positions as a percentage of total spending actually remained essentially constant.”

In that same time, the percentage of state budget expenditures on support staff positions has lowered from 28 to 25 percent while faculty salaries have decreased from 39.4 to 38.4 percent.

Burwell is right to say that we should take a comprehensive view of the issue and see what is necessary and what is not.

We should be wary of excess administration, but should not lose a nuanced view of the issue. This campus has changed a lot over the past 20 years, so some administrative growth is to be expected.

At the same time, we must also be critical of any unnecessary administrative costs and how to reduce or streamline them.

We should not be afraid of letting go of certain administrative positions simply because they have become entrenched. All administrative function should exist to address legitimate issues at the university.

I do not know why this report is as flawed at it seems to be. But, it seems that better, more thorough work needs to be done.

This issue affects all who pay for the services of the university, and so we all should be engaged on this issue and look forward to more and better information going forward.

Opinion: KEVIN GRIFFIN, Opinion writer