Staff Editorial: Reassessing the GW bureaucracy

The University is firmly entrenched in an era of growth. Increasingly, new faculty members teach in state-of-the-art facilities, and cranes and workers in hardhats seem to occupy a plot of land every few blocks.

But this expansion has also included growth in the size of the administration and number of University staffers, which could hurt, not help, students’ educational experiences.

Across higher education, ballooning bureaucracies have helped accelerate tuition faster than healthcare costs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

At GW, deans’ offices and Rice Hall have reorganized and hired high-paid administrators. And these University leaders earn, on average, almost twice as much as their peers at other institutions, The Hatchet found two years ago.

But administrators do not have a full grasp on just how much their offices have grown over time, and whether it’s been worth the cost.

That’s why it is reassuring that the provost’s office will conduct a review of the bureaucracy, administrators announced this month.

The University should allocate its dollars toward improving the educational experience for students, especially as more of them take on debt to finance their four years. And hiring too many unnecessary administrators takes money away from students and challenges their well-being.

The University has taken many encouraging steps toward this goal already. Most notably, the Innovation Task Force, a group formed five years ago that aims to make GW’s operations more financially responsible, has already saved more funds for academic and research ventures than initially expected. But their work isn’t over, and continued consolidation of high-level offices is needed.

We already see this move to combine administrators’ responsibilities in several recent University decisions.

For example, the University took advantage of its incumbent administration and gave the position of vice president for China operations to GW School of Business Dean Doug Guthrie, instead of hiring a new administrator to fill the role. This was likely a more financially responsible decision, because the University avoided hiring another administrator who would require a six-figure salary.

And instead of bringing in a new admissions dean to replace Kathryn Napper – who resigned in December – the University hired an administrator to oversee numerous departments, including admissions, financial aid and the registrar.

Decisions like these – where the administration maximizes resources at a minimum cost – help the University move in a productive and efficient direction. But we must see more.

If these efforts are continued, it will help combat the stigma of excessive bureaucracy at GW.

Students are often overwhelmed by the red tape they must wade through to achieve any significant progress in common tasks like declaring a major and applying for financial aid. Too many people work in too many offices, and students often rightfully complain.

Students shouldn’t feel distanced from the administration through time-consuming bureaucratic redundancies and paperwork.

Whether or not streamlining the administration will improve these problems has yet to be determined. Regardless, the review – if it produces fruitful results – has the potential to at least alter this damaging campus perception.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.