Is the U Too Administration-Heavy? Review Underway

There is some disagreement about whether the University of Minnesota has too many administrators-and claims that there are prompted the University Senate Committee on Finance and Planning to conduct a review of vice-presidential units, which will be completed in the coming weeks.

As the University of Minnesota grapples with a budget crisis following cuts in state funding, the school is coming under a microscope over questions regarding administrative efficiency-namely, whether there are too many administrators and whether they are paid too much.

The Minnesota Legislature has previously brought up the issue, and the University Senate Committee on Finance and Planning (SCFP) reacted to claims of administrative bloat with a review of vice-presidential units, according to the Minnesota Daily. A report on the subject will be completed in the coming weeks.

Some officials have defended the school's current staffing structure, but a report draft obtained by the Daily indicates that the committee's basic conclusion is: “There appears to be considerable duplication of functions within the University.”

The Minnesota Daily analyzed salaries from the Twin Cities campus and found that 50 top administrators-ranging in title from assistant vice presidents to the president-were collectively paid more than $10 million in the 2010 fiscal year, which equates to an average of about $200,000 per administrator. Those salaries together comprise 1.2 percent of the U of M's total compensation payout.

Meanwhile, the U of M's 987 full professors averaged $128,000 annually, accounting for 15 percent of payroll, according to the analysis.

SCFP committee member Terry Roe said that it was the recent presidential transition-from Bob Bruininks to Eric Kaler-that triggered a review of the school's central administration.

Some, including Roe, say that criticism about administrative bloat stems from excessive rhetoric and confusing job titles. Kaler-who took the helm in July-has already asked the U's Office of Human Resources to “more clearly identify the roles of people,” according to the Daily.

In the draft of the SCFP report, committee chairman Russell Luepker reportedly wrote that many units within the school have their own public relations staff, and so does the central administration.

According to the Daily, the report also points out the volume of “centers, institutes, and programs” within units, indicating that “some may continue to play vital roles but others do not.”

But some people, including Roe, defended the duplication when questioned by the Daily-and Office of Human Resources Vice President Kathy Brown said that there's logic behind it. It makes sense for individual colleges' human resources staff to conduct performance evaluations, for example, but employee health care is addressed more efficiently at a central level. She also said that her office does market analyses to ensure that U of M salaries remain competitive with other schools.

One critic of the U's administrative efficiency is Steve Sviggum, who sits on the school's Board of Regents.

“Does every school need its own communications staff?” he said to the Daily. “Does every school need its own fundraising staff? Does every school need its own . . . human resources staff?”

“When you start looking at aggregate, the number and the salaries, and then the assistants and the legislative assistants, you have to start shaking your head a little bit,” Sviggum added.

To read more in the Daily about claims of administrative bloat and how various stakeholders have responded, click here.