Alumni challenge bureaucracy

by Christopher Johnson | 5/11/93 10:00pm

A watchdog group made up of conservative alumni has complained about the number of administrative bureaucrats at the College.

At issue is a dispute over how many people actually work at Dartmouth, and how to count them.

The Ernest Martin Hopkins Institute, a 2,000-member alumni organization based in Arlington, Va., contends that there are too many support workers at the school. Using "a crude breakdown" of College employees, the group calculated that there is one administrator for every three students here.

But the College says the administrative staff is lean. Senior officers said the Hopkins Institute's counting is misleading because the important issue is total salary payments, not the number of workers.

The Institute spearheaded an alumni campaign last May to reduce the student-administrator ratio. It demanded that the College evaluate its costs, cut administrative spending and publish secret recommendations made by an auditor.

This March the Institute reported that a one percent cut in administrators had resulted from its efforts, but it said the number of bureaucrats might have actually risen because of more part-time and outside contracting support.

Bill Grace '89, the Institute's executive director, said that if the College's bureaucracy is really shrinking he would like to see some evidence. "We're just trying to get the truth," he said.

Grace said the numbers used in the Institute's report are "a crude breakdown of all the College's employees," including administrators, managers and support staff.

That count also included employees from outside the actual College, such as the Hanover Inn and other companies the College owns.

Grace said those numbers are the closest estimates he can attain. "It's somewhat crude but it's the best we can do," he explained.

"We have been trying valiantly to get as much information about the College bureaucracy as we can," Grace said in a telephone interview. "The administration has resisted our attempts to get data on the size of the bureaucracy."

Grace said he would not speculate on why the College would not provide him with a head-count of all the administrators on campus.

"They've told us that the data is not available," Grace said. "They've just been unwilling to provide it."

Lyn Hutton, the College's vice president and treasurer, said the Hopkins Institute's numbers are off the mark.

For example, Hutton said, sometimes the College replaces one high-salaried worker with two lower-salaried workers, saving money but increasing the number of people who work on campus.

"Counting heads is not relevant in measuring the cost of the administration," Hutton said. "The way to measure administrative costs is through the total number of dollars, not through a body count."

Hutton said she did not know how the Hopkins Institute got its numbers. She said it would be difficult to count the number of administrators because that number changes on a monthly basis. She said workers are taken off the payroll when their projects are finished.

Hutton defended increasing the number of administrators in some cases. She said some services are more cost-effective if the College accomplishes them instead of hiring an outside company, which would make a profit on top of the actual cost of doing a job.

The College surpassed Freedman's goal of eliminating about 50 positions, Hutton said. She said the College eliminated 75 positions over a three-year period through attrition and early retirement.

But Hutton said the College has hired other workers, many for sponsored research projects at the Medical School and physical plant work at the new Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, which the College bought last year.

Hutton also said that because education is labor-intensive, eliminating positions means eliminating programs. "I don't think there are unneeded or unproductive staff here. We're as lean as we can be," she said.

But English Pofessor Jeffrey Hart, who is a vice president of the Hopkins Institute, said last year that there are too many administrators. "If I were the president of Dartmouth, I'd fire 50 percent of all administrators," Hart said last May.

The Institute, which prides itself in nipping at the heels of the College administration, is headed by Grace and Gregory Fossedal '81, both former editors of The Dartmouth Review. Fossedal founded the conservative off-campus publication in 1980 after quitting his post as head of The Dartmouth.

Grace said the Institute is "committed to improving the liberal arts education at Dartmouth," which means changing some of the College's policies.

For example, Grace said the College should have a core curriculum, where students are required to take certain specified courses.

The Institute also sponsors speakers on campus. Grace said the organization is "helping to improve the Dartmouth experience" by bringing speakers such as Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and Henry Louis Gates to campus.

In 1989, the Institute hired Charles Sykes, an author and former editor of the Milwaukee Journal, to evaluate the College's curriculum. Sykes published his conclusions in a book titled "The Hollow Men," which scolds higher education in general and Dartmouth in particular for kow-towing to liberal interests.

But Grace said he would not qualify his organization as conservative. "I don't believe that wanting a core curriculum and slimming the bureaucracy are conservative positions," he said.

Hutton challenged Grace's description of his group. "I believe they have another agenda altogether that is not on line with the best interests of the College," she said.