Category Archives: Administration

Woke Bloat at Virginia’s Universities

by James A. Bacon

Step aside California! Public universities in Virginia have built larger diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) bureaucracies than taxpayer-funded universities in any other state, concludes a new backgrounder by The Heritage Foundation. The DEI bureaucracy at the University of Virginia includes 94 employees listed on its website, says the report. Virginia Tech has 83 DEI personnel, while George Mason University has 69.

Expressed as a ratio of DEI bureaucrats to tenure-track faculty members, GMU earned the top spot as DEI top-heavy, with a ratio 0f 7.4 to 100. UVa was close behind with 6.5, while Tech was 5.6. In comparison, uber-woke Cal Berkeley has a 6.1 per 100 ratio.

(I’ll have to stop making quips about UVa being the Berkeley of the East Coast. From now on I’ll describe Berkeley as the UVa of the West Coast.) Continue reading

UVa’s Ever-Expanding Bureaucracy: Student Advising Edition

by James A. Bacon

University of Virginia old-timers (like myself) remember what it was like to find help in picking courses and deciding majors. We’d latch ourselves onto a professor who took an interest in us, and he or she would walk us through the process. It did require some initiative on our part to reach out, but then, we were accustomed to taking matters into our own hands. I was fortunate. My advisor, history professor Joseph C. Miller, was not only a charismatic teacher and a leading scholar in his field, but he regarded the care and tending of students — even lowly undergraduates like me — as part of his vocation.

That’s not the way it works anymore. Faculty members are still expected to play a role in advising students, but it is a much diminished one. At UVa, responsibility for dispensing advice has been bureaucratized.

At the UVa Board of Visitors meeting Wednesday, the Ryan administration highlighted what it is doing to improve student advising. The dominant themes of the session were (1) the student experience is lacking for many, and (2) the answer is hiring more advisors and investing in the latest, greatest technology.

The picture that emerged is that UVa has numerous fragmented initiatives at the school and college level but no coherent university-wide vision. Practices vary widely. The cost of programs was not discussed. No cost-benefit analysis has been conducted. With no clear objectives beyond “we want to be the best,” there are no logical limits to an endless expansion of programs.

It was evident from the presentations that some very earnest, well-meaning people have been working on the issue for a considerable time, but the Board heard no analysis of how the perceived problem came to be, nor did anyone suggest that the answer might be returning responsibility for advising students to the professors. Blasted with a firehose of information, Board members were given little time to formulate questions.

One obvious question, never posed, is how much it costs to advise students. The inflation-adjusted cost of “student services,” of which student advising is a significant component, increased 22.4% between 2012 and 2022. To what degree does expansion of advising programs contribute to the ever-rising cost of running the university — costs that must in turn be covered by higher tuition? Continue reading

How Many UVa Students Feel Sense of “Belonging”?

by James A. Bacon

As the University of Virginia Board of Visitors grapples with contentious issues such as equity, inclusion and racial preferences, it could benefit by knowing how well the policies of the Ryan administration have succeeded or failed in making UVa a more welcoming place for students across “every possible dimension” of diversity, to use President Jim Ryan’s words.

The administration possesses considerable data to answer the question. During the final year of the Sullivan administration, 2018, the university conducted a comprehensive, in-depth “campus climate” survey. Since then, the university has participated in biennial surveys conducted under the auspices of the Student Experience in the Research University (SERU) consortium, which, th0ugh less comprehensive than the 2018 effort and fraught with discontinuities in the questions asked, does contain useful information.

The university’s office of Institutional Research & Analysis posted results for 2022 for public viewing in August. The graphic below summarizes student responses to the statement, “I feel I belong at university.”

Three of five (60%) students agreed or strongly agreed with the sentiment that they belonged at UVa. Seventeen percent expressed various degrees of disagreement. 

Is that a good finding or a bad finding? It depends on context. Continue reading

UVa Spending on Staff Surges, Spending on Students Trails

Inflation-adjusted percentage increase of UVa E&G expenditures (in millions of dollars) compared to those of all 15 Virginia public four-year higher-ed institutions.

by James A. Bacon

Always alert for opportunities to arm the University of Virginia Board of Visitors members with statistics they don’t see in their board presentations, the Jefferson Council presents the table above, compiled from data published by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

The takeaway: UVa boosted overall E&G (educational & general) spending faster than Virginia’s other public four-year colleges and universities between fiscal 2011-12 and fiscal 2021-22, but UVa funds were more likely to flow to faculty and staff and less likely to go to student instruction, student services, or research support.

E&G expenditures represent spending on an institution’s core educational mission. Under SCHEV’s accounting methodology, E&G strips out spending on athletics, dormitories, food service, and auxiliary enterprises. The Council’s data portal adjusts for inflation over the 10 years displayed above, so these figures reflect real spending, not funny money.

SCHEV breaks down E&G expenditures by seven broad categories so the public can get a clearer idea of where the money is going. The data is consistent with the interpretation advanced by the Jefferson Council in previous posts that UVa has experienced excessive growth in administrative overhead. Continue reading

Student Vets Win Back Their Space

Military memorobilia at the Veterans Center. Photo credit: WVIR-TV

by James A. Bacon

The Student Veterans of America (SVA) at the University of Virginia notched up a small win Friday when Student Affairs officials reversed a decision to expropriate some of the Veterans Center space at Newcomb Hall. But the veterans’ battle for recognition and respect at UVa is far from over.

What they need most, student veterans say, is for Student Affairs to designate someone with specialized knowledge of the G.I. Bill and other veterans issues to help them through UVa’s bureaucratic maze.

Veterans comprise a tiny fraction of the undergraduate student body at UVa. SVA leadership estimates there are only 60 veterans among the 17,000 undergraduates. That count may not have identified every undergraduate veteran, but Tomas De Oliveira, president of the club, says it represents most.

“It’s a chicken-or-egg problem. There aren’t enough vets to justify a significant commitment of UVa resources,” De Oliveira says. But the lack of support makes it difficult to recruit veterans cycling out of the military. UVa vets have friends. Word gets out. “Why would I recommend UVa?” Continue reading


by James A. Bacon

In two recent stories about administrative bloat and faculty bloat at the University of Virginia, I published inaccurate information. I stated that annualized full-time-equivalent student enrollment between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2022 increased 1.1%. The correct figure was 8.8%. The result of the error was to exaggerate the degree to which the increase in salaried staff and teaching faculty outpaced the increase in student enrollment.

However, the larger point of the articles stands: The increase in staff and faculty exceeded that of enrollment by a wide margin. The headcount of salaried staff increased 25.4% over the same period and the headcount of tenure-track faculty, instructors, and lecturers increased 25.7%.

I regret the error and moved to correct it as soon as it came to my attention.

Faculty Bloat at UVa

Data source: office of Institutional Research & Analytics
by James A. Bacon

A key cost driver at the University of Virginia is the increasing size and declining teaching productivity of its faculty. The topic appears to be taboo.

The Board of Visitors hasn’t discussed it, and there is no indication from publicly available sources that the university administration has engaged in any introspection. The slender evidence available to the UVa community is found on the website of UVa’s office of Institutional Research & Analytics (IR&A), a 17-person office deep within the bowels of the university. While that office does publish limited data online, it has not released any reports of an analytical nature.

Employee salaries, wages and benefits comprise roughly half of the university’s cost structure. While a 25.4% surge in salaried staff accounts for much of the growth in UV’s cost structure between fiscal 2012 and fiscal 2022 (see our article, “Hard Numbers on Administrative Bloat“), a 9.5% increase in “faculty” was a significant contributor as well. If we count teaching faculty only (tenure-track professors, lecturers and instructors) and exclude departmental-level administrators, whose numbers have been slashed, the “faculty” headcount bounded ahead by 25.7%.

By contrast, annualized FTE enrollment rose 8.8%. Continue reading

Cornell Alumni Provide Blueprint for Free Speech, Viewpoint Diversity Reforms

The Cornell Free Speech Alliance (CFSA) has published a masterful critique of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion programs at Cornell University, “Lifting the Fog: Restoring Academic Freedom & Free Expression at Cornell University.”

The issues identified in Cornell are common to other elite higher-ed institutions, including the University of Virginia. The Jefferson Council is pleased to join the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, fellow alumni groups, and allied organizations in endorsing the report.

Among the recommendations:

Adopt the Chicago Principles of free speech. UVa has already adopted its own version of this document.

Adopt the Kalven Committee Report regarding the university’s role in political and social activism. The Kalven Report asserts, “The university is the home and sponsor of critics; it is not itself the critic.” UVa, which purports to be “great and good” is, as an institution, exporting its social activist ideals to the surrounding community. Continue reading

Hard Numbers on Administrative Bloat

That bloated feeling. Image credit: Microsoft Image Creator

by James A. Bacon

A number of University of Virginia Board of Visitors members have expressed concern about UVa’s runaway costs. Administrative bloat has swollen the university’s cost structure, they say, and  higher costs have been cited in turn to justify tuition increases. So far, the fiscal hawks have been unable to force a discussion of the topic during regular board meetings. Indeed, simple requests for data on headcounts and salary costs have gone unanswered.

The refusal of UVa leadership to share the data is all the more remarkable in that the statistics are readily available. Indeed, much of it is maintained on the UVa website by the office of Institutional Research & Analytics (IR&A). The 17 members of the IR&A staff have the mission of supporting “the University community” — which, presumably, includes the Board of Visitors — in “assessment, planning, and decision-making.”

As it turns out, the IR&A data confirms the suspicions of the fiscal hawks. Between the 2011-12 academic year and the 2021-22 year, UVa’s academic division (excluding the healthcare division) saw the ranks of salaried staff grow dramatically — at twice the pace of faculty — even as enrollment barely budged.

Student enrollment (full-time-equivalent): +8.8%
Total faculty: +9.5%
Total salaried staff: +25.4% Continue reading

Student Veterans Want Their Space Back

David A. Sauerwein, assistant dean of students, at the 2021 opening of the veterans center. Photo credit: UVA Today

by James A. Bacon

Student veterans at the University of Virginia are up in arms, so to speak, about a decision by the Ryan administration to carve out space from the Veteran Student Center in Newcomb Hall to make room for an assistant dean of students.

“Our Veteran Student Center at UVA has been encroached upon,” states a petition launched by the UVa chapter of Student Veterans of America. “Over the summer of 2023, our conference room inside the VSC was reallocated as a Dean’s office without our permission or consult.”

The Center opened in 2021 as a place for student veterans and ROTC students to congregate. The petition characterizes the move as a step in the right direction to “address the shortfalls of UVA in comparison to other military friendly schools.” President Jim Ryan participated in the ceremonial opening, saying, “It’s a place that I hope will help remind you that you belong here at UVA.” Continue reading