Lawyer course

Civil rights lawyer says he can trade bureaucracy for affordability at Harvard

If elected, he will fire nine out of 10 directors, he said

Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense and civil liberties litigator and co-founder of the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, is an acerbic critic of college administrative overgrowth.

He is a candidate for the Harvard Board of Overseers, an influential governing body whose members are elected by alumni.

Silverglate identified two fatal consequences of too many administrators: obscene college costs and coddling of academic minds. To remedy this, he came up with the boldest proposal I’ve seen.

Tuition fees have increased by 169% between 1980 and 2020, according to Forbes. Silverglate noted tuition inflation during his five-decade career involved in higher education legal issues, he wrote in a recent essay for Quilting.

“Administrative bloat” is the reason he cited.

At Yale University, there are as many administrators as there are undergraduate students. Bureaucracy in elite schools has grown exponentially.

“Each dean, it seems, has a vice-dean; with assistant deans sometimes having multiple assistant deans,” Silverglate wrote. “Many of these positions come with secretaries and other forms of administrative support.”

This dean diet is quite expensive. Silverglate cited the example of the University of Michigan, which in 2019 was paying $10.6 million a year to 76 diversity officers on one campus.

“This kind of encroachment has been subtle, but faculty members and other longtime observers of higher education can recognize the phenomenon even if it eludes precise description,” he wrote. .

Admins are supposed to “create a home”

More so, the Deans’ Army has created “a school within a school, teaching content based on the mandate of their respective offices (accommodating the disabled, diversity, anti-discrimination, sustainability, improving student life, etc. ),” Silverglate wrote.

Administrators overtook academics as gatekeepers of university life, and student character may have changed as a result.

When a Yale student burst into anger in 2016 at professor and housing administrator Nicholas Christakis following an email from his wife warning of hypersensitivity to Halloween costumes, she reacted to him like a pseudo-parent who was supposed to build a house, not like a teacher who wanted to challenge her.

She treated him, in short, as an administrator.

Deans and their assistants arrange extensive orientations, administer student housing and activities, facilitate sports teams, manage housing and “residential life,” and provide extensive student support services to manage complaints, mental health , Title IX problems and the thousand natural shocks that frosh are heirs to.

“What concerns us, my colleagues and I, is the growing expectation of parents and students that college administrators are not there to guide young people, whatever their challenges, in mastering the tasks of life. ‘adulthood, but to spare them,’ Lee Burdette Williams, former dean of students at Wheaton College and the University of Connecticut and a higher education consultant, wrote Aug. 31 in Common sense.

No number of helpful administrators can give students all the basic skills to thrive as young scholars. Students must learn adult skills on their own; they can’t ask everything from their deans.

But that won’t stop colleges from continuing to hire them.

The solution to administrative encroachment is with “college and university boards of trustees, which are usually composed of non-university alumni and civilian leaders who perform the equivalent role of civilian commanders-in-chief overseeing the military” , wrote Silverglate.

“These governors must wrest control away from the bureaucrats who have a vested interest in maintaining (or even exacerbating) the status quo, regardless of its disastrous effects on these academic institutions,” he continued.

Conservative boston globe columnist Jeff Jacoby agrees.

Silverglate is rightly “alarmed by the very heavy ‘administrative state’ of the university,” Jacoby wrote on October 30 in The globe.

“Harvard’s administrators now outnumber faculty by 3 times – a considerably higher ratio than at other top schools,” he continued. “Since 2002, according to Silverglate, Harvard has increased its administrative expenses by 176%, while spending on university education has increased only 43%.”

As he backs Silverglate for the Board of Overseers, Jacoby recognizes he must be elected through an unconventional route.

“Ordinarily, invigilators are chosen from a list of insider candidates selected by a committee of the Harvard Alumni Association,” Jacoby wrote. “But there is an outside route: Nominees can be enrolled if enough Harvard graduates sign a petition nominating them.”

“If 3,188 alumni register [Silverglate’s] petition, he will be listed as a candidate for the 2023 Warden election next spring,” Jacoby said.

If his petition is accepted and he is elected, Silverglate has an elegant solution to the problem of administrative over-expansion.

“My campaign promise? If elected, I will move to remove nine out of 10 trustees and then reduce tuition accordingly,” he wrote.

Former supporters shouldn’t need my urging to sign the petition and vote Harvey for Harvard.

MORE: Administrators are not your parents


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