The Corner


Each Yale Undergraduate’s Own Personal Bureaucrat

A student walks on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Conn., November 12, 2015. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

An old Reagan-era joke about bureaucracy:

Cap Weinberger used to regale Reaganauts with the Legend of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Seems that an outsider stumbled into the musty bureau one day. As far as the eye could see, rows of bureaucrats sat staring at little piles of paper. Every hour or so, noiselessly, each gray-faced bureaucrat would pass his stack of paper on to the next desk and stare dully at the new stack on his own. All was serene routine; but then the visitor spotted a commotion in the back of the vast room. “Why is that man crying?” he wondered. Sure enough, one of the bureaucrats was hunched over his desk, sobbing, as if bereft of his reason for being. The visitor accompanied the bureau’s administrator down the long row of desks to the devastated official. Asked why he was distressed, the bureaucrat replied, “My Indian died!”

I was reminded of that when reading this item from the Yale Daily News:

Over the last two decades, the number of managerial and professional staff that Yale employs has risen three times faster than the undergraduate student body. . . . In 2003, when 5,307 undergraduate students studied on campus, the University employed 3,500 administrators and managers. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on student enrollment, only 600 more students were living and studying at Yale, yet the number of administrators had risen by more than 1,500 — a nearly 45 percent hike. In 2018, The Chronicle of Higher Education found that Yale had the highest manager-to-student ratio of any Ivy League university, and the fifth highest in the nation among four-year private colleges.

The 2020-21 financial report notes that the university employs “4,937 faculty, 1,428 postdoctoral associates, 5,066 managerial and professional staff, and 5,205 clerical, technical, service, and maintenance personnel” compared with 4,703 undergraduates and 7,357 graduate students. In other words: the college has more “managerial and professional staff” than undergraduates. It also has more faculty than undergraduates, and more “clerical, technical, service, and maintenance personnel” than undergraduates. Even accounting for the fact that Yale has 56% more graduate than undergraduate students, that is still a preposterous ratio, and it is growing far more imbalanced every year.

Things that cannot go on forever, eventually stop.


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