The more the merrier?
In the past six months, Kenyon has restructured its administration through a series of organizational shifts and new hires, changes President Sean Decatur say reflect the goals of the 2020 plan, the strategic vision introduced in the first year of his presidency.
“I see this as not a net growth of administration, but rather making sure that we are getting the right people focused on collaboration across the campus,” Decatur said.
Decatur is not concerned that the changes will cause the College to become overly bureaucratic, characterizing them as a “rearrangement of positions, and consolidation of some offices.” He noted that only one of the positions created by the reshuffling — vice president of student affairs — was entirely new.
Jacob Griffith-Rosenberger ’16 is wary of the changes.
“These new administrators are, generally, professional administrators, which seems questionable in a college setting,” he said. “A college supposedly focuses on a college and the students, instead of being a kind of organization.”
In January 2015, the College hired Meredith Harper Bonham ’92 as vice president for student affairs. In March, the College hired Andrea Goldblum as Civil Rights Coordinator and Title IX Coordinator, and the interim holder of the post, Linda Smolak, became Deputy Title IX Coordinator.
In July, Marc Bragin, the College’s Jewish chaplain and director of Hillel, became the inaugural director of spiritual and religious life. In the same month, Jennifer C. Odenweller of the United Way of Ohio was announced as the first director of the Office of Community Engagement, a position she will assume on Oct. 1. In August, Public Affairs announced it had been renamed the Office of Communications, and Mark Ellis, formerly director of Public Affairs, now holds an associate vice president title, as other administrators now do.
The changes come amid an increase in the number of administrators in higher education. A 2014 report prepared by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR) observed that American universities and colleges added more than 517,000 net administrative positions between 1987 and 2011; Kenyon’s individual data included in the report show that the school was not immune to this trend.
In those 24 years, the number of the College’s full-time administrators increased by 69.4 percent, while the number of full-time professional staff increased by 121.4 percent. (In general, administrators oversee departments, and professional staff fulfill other duties, such as clerical and office work.) These rates contrast with a more modest student population increase of 19.3 percent.
Erika Farfan, director of institutional research, wrote in an email to the Collegian that the Department of Human Resources does not compile its human resources data until Nov. 1, so most recent figures aren’t available.
The reorganization of certain offices advances the 2020 plan by bolstering the first and third of the plan’s central elements: positively impacting the “arc” of the student and the post-graduation experience, and expanding the College’s community outreach efforts. Decatur said he expects the latest round of changes to improve communication between departments and thus facilitate those elements of the 2020 plan.
“I think there is a bit of a gulf between the student affairs and academic affairs,“ Decatur said. He added that people or groups working on certain projects often do them separately, when more direct communication between them would be more productive. To some observers, however, the conclusion that these offices will enhance the 2020 plan’s effectiveness is not a certain one.
“It may make more sense to invest that money directly in carrying out the 2020 plan, instead of hiring a bunch of new people who may help carry it out,” Jacob Griffith-Rosenberger ’16 said. “I don’t see how our traditional system of administration could not carry it out.”
It is the College’s policy not to release information regarding employee salaries, leaving the cost incurred by creating or rearranging positions uncertain.