Anyone who has spent time at a bureaucratic agency (think DMV) can attest to the frustration and wasted dollars. Bureaucratic sprawl is just as exasperating and expensive at the university level. Take, for example, the University of Missouri system, which is referred to as UM and includes University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL), University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), Missouri University of Science and Technology, and the University of Missouri-Columbia, or Mizzou (with Mizzou referred to separately as MU).
A recent Columbia Daily Tribune article shed some light on the extent to which the administration in the UM system has grown to a quite complex and increasingly burdensome size. From the article:
“UM has a president; MU has a chancellor. UM has a vice president of academic affairs, MU has a provost in charge of academics. UM has a vice president of finance; MU has a budget director. UM has a vice president of research; MU has a vice chancellor of research. UM has a PR office as does MU.”
It is clear that there is significant overlap in duties, which adds to confusion in the system but, more importantly, accounts for unnecessary spending in a rapidly tightening budget. This example does not account for other administrations at state universities in Missouri, such as Northeast Missouri State and Truman State. If the UM system focused on cutting back on costly (not to mention superfluous) administrative expansion rather than chipping away at smaller expenditures such as the university press, they might find it easier to fit into a smaller budget in a much shorter time frame.
As I have said previously, less funding from the state government does not mean that educational quality at Missouri’s colleges and universities needs to suffer. Instead, universities should see it as an opportunity to address the bloated state of their administrations and to re-focus their goals as an educational community. Taking an ax to the beast that has become the oversized bureaucracy in the UM system may seem drastic. But it is far more effective in terms of budgetary savings than the wishy-washy goal of “focusing on strategic priorities” — a phrase that sounds as grossly bureaucratic as the board of administrators that produced it.