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UO administrative bloat makes the Wall Street Journal

We’re the 4th highest of 72 public “high research category” universities in the percentage of total spending that goes to administration. See the data here, story here. “Administrative spending includes management of the university including human resources, legal, financial, purchasing and marketing operations, among others.”

UO spends 12% on this, the median university spends 7%. On the other hand, if you rank by dollars spent, we’re close to the median. See the Bunsis report for the time-series view. It’s increasing at a faster rate than instructional spending. And don’t get me started about research spending.

In a nutshell, we’re a poor university with a bloated administration. Bloated and in denial – click below to see our interim provost Jim Bean in 2009, claiming we spend 38% of what our peers spend on administration:

When I asked Bean for documentation for his claims, he ignored me. When I made a public records request, he tried to charge me to see his data:

The University of Oregon has received your public records request for a copy of memos, budget statements, and or forecasts that Provost Bean used as background for statements he made at the April 14, 2009 Town Hall meeting and at the May 13, 2009 Senate meeting.  The University is now providing an estimate.

The University estimates the actual cost of providing the documents responsive to your request to be $45.63.   Upon receipt of a check made payable to the University of Oregon in the amount of $45.63, the University will proceed to locate, copy, and provide the records you have requested that are not exempt from disclosure.  Your check may be sent to the attention of the General Counsel’s office at 1226 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1226.  Your request for a fee waiver is respectfully denied. 

According to the WSJ data, we spend about $8 million more on administration than OSU does. That’s enough to fund 8% raises for the faculty. Thanks to several anon readers for the links, and the memories. 1/2/2013.


  1. Anonymous 12/31/2012

    Dog Says

    I like the new look to UO matters, but then again, dogs have no taste nor functionality

    In terms of the WSJ article/data – I think its important that UO is definitely in the top 10 because that qualitatively indicates we have administrative bloat.

    In terms of the actual numbers, however, I am not sure this is a meaningful top 10 – is there any real difference between 10% and 12%, for instance.

    The University of Virginia, I regard as one of the best public institutions (because of there very high 4 year graduation rate) and they spend 10%.

    One of our best peers, CU spends 4% and that is a good comparator to claim administrative bloat for UO.

    US is 6% and Michigan is 7%

    So my conclusion is that the UO spends twice as much of its budget on administration than it needs to. We should be, in this index, down to 6-8% in my view.

  2. Bayerische Motoren Werke 01/01/2013

    If you pay Ford prices, you get a Fiesta. But if you pay for a BMW, you get … taken for a ride.

  3. Anonymous 01/01/2013

    Can we start getting rid of people yet, Mike? Or, is Yvette Alex-Assensoh the only one with any backbone around here?

  4. Anonymous 01/01/2013

    Oregon really should be lower on the list, both median amount and percentage. No med school, ag school or engineering school around that need grants watched by admins.

  5. Anonymous 01/01/2013

    How about using the 8% to reduce tuition?

    • Anonymous 01/01/2013

      How about first clawing back the portion of tuition dollars that are supporting the athletic department?

    • Anonymous 01/02/2013

      Reduce tuition? That’s tea party talk. *Raise* UO tuition, then share the wealth by increasing scholarships for low income Oregonians.

  6. Anonymous 01/02/2013

    I wish this were not so depressing to read, but recall Linda Brady talking frequently about how ‘under-admininistered’ the UO is, and how important is to raise administrator salaries. I fear we have lost a sense of what a university should offer, a sense of what faculty should do to educate, and the the appropriate role for administrators is first and foremost to promote those values.

    sic transit gloria universitatis

  7. Anonymous 01/02/2013

    What is the consensus view regarding, 1) whether faculty can do anything to turn this around, and 2) the best course of action to do so?

    • Old Man 01/02/2013

      Two approaches come to mind: (1) Demonstrate outside Johnson Hall. (2) Draft a bill setting limits to Administrative salaries or to total Administrative budget. My guess is that the Senate would pass such a bill, perhaps after referring it to Committee for improvements. The UO Constitution defines the nature of the interaction between Senate and Prexy that then occurs should Prexy have any objections. If Prexy has no objections, the bill gfoes into effect in 60 (I think) days after passage, If Prexy violates Constitution, Senate can take a vote of No Confidence and/or Senate can convene the Assembly to do so, which would make more noise. That’s it.
      I think approach number (2) would be good exercise for everyone.

    • Anonymous 01/02/2013

      … or someone could actually do the hard work to determine what administrative positions are unwarranted. I guess that is what a faculty that took its governance responsibilities seriously would do.

    • Publius 01/02/2013

      … I have already suggested that the identification of unwarranted positions begin with the Grad School. The previous comment assumes that it is up to faculty to make a case for doing away with administrators. I should think the opposite is true: it is up to administrators to make a case for themselves. That said, making a case against the Grad School would be difficult. To show that our numerous “assistant deans” etc. do not deserve their high salaries for what they do, I would have to find out what it is precisely that they do–and this has proved impossible, so far. (Read the Grad School descriptions of their jobs and see if they make sense to you.)

      Why don’t we do what the UK did when it was considering abolishing the House of Lords. It asked every member to submit a short statement justifying his or her existence. We could do this with the administration, starting with the Grad School.

    • Anonymous 01/02/2013

      Yeah, that’ll work. Sure.

  8. UO Matters 01/02/2013

    I like the “justify your existence memo”. Nathan Tublitz has a motion up for vote at the Jan 16 motion, requiring Bean to try and do this.

    Bill Harbaugh’s motion to require faculty participation in reviews for all executive admins was approved unanimously in November and a committee is being formed now to implement it.

    Shelton’s RCM was supposed to cap the admin budget, but they keep raising the tax on the colleges.

  9. Anonymous 01/02/2013

    Once again the problem the U of O and every other institution in the state has is the definition of “Administration.” Right now everyone in the system who is not Classified or Faculty is listed as “Administrators.” This includes Academic Advisors, Enrollment Counselors, etc. who don’t really “Administrate” anything. They are simply exempt employees who are not Classified and not Faculty.

    I am not saying the U of O does not have too many administrators, but take the statistics with a grain of salt.

    • Anonymous 01/02/2013

      Yeah, but it’s so much easier to spout off about ratios. These aren’t real people, after all. They don’t need their jobs and their jobs aren’t needed because…we want more money! Wait, there’s some lint in my navel…

    • Anonymous 01/03/2013

      Only in Oregon can someone take a position in favor of administrative bloat. Pathetic. I’m just not buying your crap line.

      Even charities are ranked by administrative expenses. You must be an administrator, yea? Can’t wait to hear this spewed publicly. Go ducks!

    • Anonymous 01/03/2013

      I agree with first comment– what people don’t realize is that at the University, Officers of ADMINISTRATION are everyone who is not classified or faculty/instructors. That’s 1200 people here. Those who run labs and departments, advise students, student affairs, etc. It also of course DOES include everyone up to Jamie Moffit. This really is different than how other universities’ (both in and out of OUS) label “administrators.”
      So maybe consider whether you’d like to got those administrators who make sure you get paid on time, have GTFs hired in your labs, and students enrolled in your courses… It doesn’t happen by magic.

  10. Anonymous 01/03/2013

    The enumerated job duties for this “assistant vice-president” could be summarized in one phrase: “Do the vice-president’s job for her.”

  11. Anonymous 01/03/2013

    “You must be an administrator, yea? Can’t wait to hear this spewed publicly”
    Nope, just happen to have enough sense to realize that statistics don’t tell the whole story. I am not saying that the University might not have an issue with too many administrators. What I am saying is don’t believe that number just because it is in the WSJ. Think about what an “Administrator” really is and what you think it is. For me an administrator is anyone Director level and above. They actually “Administer” something, or at least they should. The problem you have in Oregon, which is likely reflected in that statistic, is that everyone who is not classified or faculty is lumped into that number, including potentially hundreds who “administer” nothing and are below Director and Manager levels. I think it is fair to say that the “bloat” you and the article are focusing on isn’t directed at those folks.

  12. Anonymous 01/04/2013

    “Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.” -Yeats
    Happy New Year.

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