Stanford’s Student Affairs department, which oversees such entities as the Vaden Health Center, Judicial Affairs, and the cultural centers, has seen significant growth in the past year with the addition of several new administrative and student services positions. The new positions deal with issues such as diversity, sexual assault, and alcohol policies, and accompany a nationwide trend of growing university administrations.
According to data provided by Vice Provost of Student Affairs (VPSA) Greg Boardman, Student Affairs eliminated 10 staff positions and created 22 new positions this year for a net gain of 12 and a total of 257 staff members in the 2011 fiscal year.
In 2007 the department had 223 people on staff, which climbed to 232 in 2008 and dropped to 220 in 2009 due to budget cuts. Fiscal year 2010 saw a large increase of 25 personnel due to hiring and the movement of the Student Services Center to the department.
Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and economist Dr. Richard Vedder said that a trend in administrative growth is not uncommon at the national level, especially for private institutions like Stanford.
“The big growth in personnel in universities nationwide for several decades has been in what we can loosely call administrative staff,” Vedder said. “I find the trend somewhat worrisome.”
Vedder proposed a general national statistic for American Universities which says that in the 1970s there were roughly three “non-instructional professional” staff for every 100 students and that that ratio doubled in the last decade. Meanwhile, instructional faculty went up a minimal five to ten percent, according to him.
He added that even with the recent endowment collapse a couple of years ago and a leveling off of private donations, non-instructional staff size has continued to grow at private institutions on a national level, albeit at a slower pace. At the same time, he said, often the percentage of money for instructional purposes has taken a hit.
The 2011-2012 Stanford Budget said that the number of non-teaching employees (a greater number than that of administrators alone) as of December 15 was 11,411, an increase of 3.2 percent over last year, while the total number of professorial faculty (including professors and associate professors) was 1,903, a decrease of 0.3 percent under last year’s numbers.
Contributing to the non-teaching employee growth are the several new administrative positions and offices the VPSA has recently created.
In April, Tommy Woon filled the new post of Assistant Dean for the Diversity and First Generation Programs office. The office is a “resource” for first generation and lower socio-economic background students, according to Boardman.
“This community is growing in number and often encounters exceptional challenges in adapting to campus life,” Boardman wrote in an email to the Review.
Last month, Angela Exson became the Assistant Dean of the Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Prevention office (SARA), which will provide a “consistent, coordinated” response to these two issues, Boardman said. Student affairs received provisional three year funding for the new office from the University. According to Boardman, continued funding after three years is dependent on evaluations of SARA’s impact.
This past month also saw Ralph Castro’s initiation as head of the Office of Alcohol Policy and Education. Castro works with two staff members in his office, whereas previously a similar position of Alcohol Educator used to work under Vaden’s Health Promotion Services. Boardman said that the office’s purview includes alcohol outreach, education, data collection and analysis, and planning alcohol-free social events.
According to Vedder, private universities have continued to command greater and greater amounts of funds through increased tuition fees and “very large” endowments among other resources. But he explains that they have often used those resources on “whatever the fad of the moment might be,” such as sustainability or alcohol control, for appearance’s sake instead of using those funds to lower costs to students.
“[Ten] years ago we didn’t have sustainability coordinators and it didn’t take a special person working 40 hours a week to deal with sexual assaults on the campus the size of Stanford,” Vedder said. “A single position of the kind you’re talking about is clearly a [six] digit figure.”
Growing administration and bureaucracy is also a problem in public universities across the country. In March, the Hartford Courant reported on Connecticut State legislators’ concern over the fact that 60 percent of the Connecticut State University System staff is not instructional.
The office of the Vice Provost for Student Affairs said they do not release detailed budget information.
Boardman stated that the new positions in the past year were a result of “both reallocation of current funding and budget requests” and that only one of the 12 positions eliminated in 2009 have been refilled. He said that he is pleased that the student affairs has made “substantial progress” on initiatives in student mental health and well-being, Residential Education, program assessment, and technology development and integration.
In response to a question about future growth of the office, Boardman said, “I don’t expect to see a substantial increase in staffing levels any time soon.”