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Jeremiad and Eulogy, 2

Pomona Professor John Seery‘s article, “Somewhere Between a Jeremiad and a Eulogy,” is a moving description of the changes at elite liberal arts colleges over the last 30 years. (See here for a shorter version.) Almost everything he writes about Pomona is just as true of Williams, including the death of faculty governance, the growth of college staff and out-of-control administrator salaries. Let’s spend a week going through it. Day 2.

But that cancerous disease—of a burgeoning and expensive administrative apparatus über alles—has infected small colleges, too, and its damaging effects are particularly pernicious there.

An autonomous managerial class has emerged whose immediate and ulterior interests are occupational as opposed to educational (a distinction that ought not to be collapsed), and whose mission is to serve administrative purposes as opposed to teaching purposes (another distinction that ought not to be elided). Perhaps worst of all, the management model of organization, in trying to bring small colleges into the fold of purportedly national “best practices” and procedures, is destroying the distinctiveness, the localism, the teacherliness, the very raison d’etrê, of small colleges, one by one, all across America. Those colleges rich enough to compete for students and brand recognition with the likes of Stanford and Princeton may survive the last shakeout, but I’m afraid it will be at the expense of, as it were, their institutional souls.

An “autonomous managerial class” has certainly emerged at Williams over the last 30 years. Its key members include Collette Chilton, Chief Investment Officer; Steve Klass, Vice President for Campus Life; Leticia S. E. Haynes, Vice President for Institutional Diversity and Equity; and Frederick W. Puddester, Vice President for Finance & Administration and Treasurer. Note:

1) None of these jobs existed 30 years ago. Indeed, there are at least 8 people in jobs that did not exist 15 years ago and who are paid much more than almost any member of the faculty. If the Williams of 1990 could survive with these roles, then couldn’t the Williams of 2018?

2) These people are paid much more than the faculty. From the 2016 Form 990 (pdf), the total compensation numbers are:

Chilton: $1,476,000
Haynes: $122,000
Klass: $378,000
Puddester: $473,000

(The Haynes number is surprisingly low since her predecessor, Mike Reed, made more than twice as much in the same job.)

3) These people are much more powerful than the average faculty member. The easiest way to track power in any organization, other than via compensation, is to examine access. Klass/Puddester meet more with the president of Williams in an average week than the typical faculty member does over the course of a year.

4) This is just the tip of the administrative iceberg. I left out folks like Megan Morey
Vice President for College Relations, Jim Reische Chief Communications Officer and Keli Gail
Assistant to the President and Secretary of the College because those jobs existed 15 years ago, albeit with much less power, and with much lower compensation (relative to the faculty). And then, in the levels below the President’s senior staff, we have scores of new positions/employees.

Seery is correct about the growth of this “class” and its ever increasing power/wealth relative to the faculty. I devoted nine days of discussion to explaining what this meant: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Read it if you want to understand the past/future of faculty governance at Williams. Short version: Faculty governance has decreased each decade at Williams for at least the last 50 years. Falk accelerated/completed that change.

But, is it fair to say that Pomona/Williams are losing “their institutional souls?” He offers no evidence for this much stronger claim. Steve Klass is a good guy! He would agree with everything that Seery says about the centrality of the classroom to the mission of Williams. Klass would just argue that, in addition to great teachers, a multi-billion dollar institution like Williams needs great administrators, people who decide, for example, where to build the new dorm. Does Seery disagree?

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#1 Comment By anonymous On February 13, 2018 @ 9:31 am

Re: #4 above – Morey, Reische and Gail
What are their compensations, and how have their responsibilities changed during the last 15 years to justify their presumably increased compensations? What do they do exactly?

#2 Comment By abl On February 13, 2018 @ 9:55 am

To the extent that administrative creep is a problem, how would one go about addressing it? It seems to me very difficult to cut an administrative position once created, in part because administrators are, if nothing else, excellent at justifying their own existences.

#3 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On February 13, 2018 @ 10:42 am

Click on the pdf for compensation information.

The responsibilities of the positions help by Morey, Reische and Gail have not meaningfully changed, except insofar as everything — budget, staff to manage — is bigger.

The best way for trustees to stop this growth would be to institute a head-count freeze. Williams has 1,000 (?) or so employees. That is enough.

#4 Comment By anonymous On February 13, 2018 @ 10:58 am

There is no stopping it. No administration ever voluntarily reduces itself in size… it’s the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!

#5 Comment By anonymous On February 13, 2018 @ 11:27 am

Wow those salaries are quite something! Not to mention generous additional non-taxed benefits such as tuition reimbursement (which they quite obviously need help with). Are those salaries in line with similar institutions? Or are they lower due to the quite low cost of living in Williamstown versus urban centers? LOL!

I’m kind of speechless. Perhaps they should include those in the “pay it forward” envelopes they send us. I’m sure it would encourage more generous alumni contributions.

#6 Comment By ZSD On February 13, 2018 @ 12:55 pm

Lt Pulver was ‘Officer-in-Charge of Laundry and Morale’… ‘Mr Roberts’.

Could be a very important administrative duty. I have always felt there is a strong relationship between the two.

#7 Comment By Baltimoreguy On February 13, 2018 @ 1:27 pm

Hayes assumed her role on July 1, 2015 (https://president.williams.edu/letters-from-the-president/announcement-regarding-the-vice-president-for-institutional-diversity-and-equity-2/), so presumably the salary listed on the 990 is for half-a-year’s work.

#8 Comment By David Dudley Field ’25 On February 13, 2018 @ 3:03 pm

I believe that the Form 990 follows the July 1 to June 30 fiscal year, so I don’t think that is the explanation for the Hayes/Reed pay discrepancy . . .

#9 Comment By Whitney Wilson ’90 On February 13, 2018 @ 3:34 pm

In regards to the costs associated with the “new” (since the 1980’s) jobs, I guess the question that needs to be answered is “what do these new jobs contribute to the education (defined broadly) of Williams students?” If the answer is “not much,” then perhaps we need to rethink whether they are necessary.

#10 Comment By anonymous On February 13, 2018 @ 3:55 pm

Another change from the 80’s is the infirmary. There are ELEVEN mental health providers working there. What is the cost associated with this? Is this necessary? If so, should we be concerned?

#11 Comment By Hi On February 13, 2018 @ 3:58 pm

The numbers are so high because williams needs to lure TALENT from private industry, where they would surely be paid more

#12 Comment By anonymous On February 13, 2018 @ 5:06 pm

These aren’t the costs that really matter (and “talent” has to be ironic). Seery is really talking about the hidden costs of turning college from a community of individuals consumed by ideas into a corporation selling a luxury commodity to consumers. In the former, the administration listens to and serves the faculty and students; in the latter, the administration calls the shots. What happens when the administration cares more about selling the commodity than the actual ideas?

#13 Comment By Hi On February 13, 2018 @ 6:03 pm

Baby boomers rewarding each other with ridiculously well paying jobs

#14 Comment By Doug On February 13, 2018 @ 8:05 pm

Those numbers are quite shocking. I’m particularly shocked that Steve Klass is paid 378k a year. Could we really not find another qualified individual to do his job for, say, 200k a year? I bet I could find someone with impeccable credentials who would sign on for his position at that salary, and I’m not even a recruiting agency. That saved money could held endow two full-scholarship students. Totally mind boggling. His job isn’t even that important.

#15 Comment By Doug On February 14, 2018 @ 12:36 am

Also, why is Robert Fisher (“faculty member”) paid over 500k a year? I can only find him on the website as a physical education professor emeritus.

#16 Comment By Munzer On February 14, 2018 @ 5:31 pm

There is bloat everywhere, and it’s not just in administration.

Why are professors teaching only 2 classes per semester? That is ridiculous.

A close friend audited a literature class a few years ago. It met once a week from 1-4. The professor…
– showed up late every week
– canceled 2 classes out of 10
– couldn’t grade students’ papers for weeks
– taught from the same yellow legal pad he’d used for years and years with what seemed to be zero updates.

That’s just lazy. In the private sector, he would have been fired.

#17 Comment By Doug On February 14, 2018 @ 7:18 pm

Munzer: perhaps it was a faculty on the verge of retiring or with several thesis students? I’ve never had a young faculty member behave in that way, and even the older, long-tenured faculty I’ve had have always been prompt, including with grading.

I keep checking this thread because I am looking for someone to shed light on how the college gets away with paying its administrators so much. I can’t believe that market forces are requiring such an astronomical salary for a VP of student life. He’s making more than the average anesthesiologist

I’m a pretty pro-Williams person, but I now think it would be unconscionable to donate to the institution after this. I’ll happily donate to my prep school, though, which runs a much tighter ship administratively, with many of the “deans” also teaching classes each semester. I just can’t justify donating to Williams when it’s forking over this much money to non-essential workers who have declared snowdays more than once in my time here, while facilities and dining services workers who live across state lines are still asked to come in.

#18 Comment By amunzer On February 14, 2018 @ 7:57 pm

Doug, I would agree this is probably an anomaly. When I was a student 30 years ago, most of my professors were excellent, and all were competent.

I would ask the group what power the school has to get rid of a professor who is no longer meeting minimum standards for teaching. Is tenure a guarantee of employment even if you are “retired in place”?

This blog tends to favor faculty governance rather than administration governance. Does the group think that does more or less to hold professors accountable? I really don’t know.