The Harvard Crimson’s Brooks Anderson went searching for information on parking permits one day and emerged from the administration’s labyrinth of empty offices with some new questions about just how many people actually worked at Harvard University and what exactly they did all day.
After some digging, Anderson discovered that Harvard employs 7,024 full-time administrators, which comes to more than three administrators for every professor and almost equals the size of the entire undergraduate population (7,153).
As to what all these administrators do all day, Anderson recounted an email he had recently received from the dean announcing the release of a final report by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Task Force on Visual Culture and Signage, which was composed of 24 members, including nine faculty members, nine administrators, and six students.
These 24 members produced a 26-page report based on input received from a survey, focus groups, and meetings with over 500 other people. Anderson summarizes the report’s conclusions: “A presidential task force led to the creation of an FAS task force which, after expending significant time, effort, and resources, led to the creation of a single administrative job and a committee with almost the exact name as the second task force.”
Well, at least another bureaucrat got a job!
But is this really why Harvard exists? More importantly, is this why the federal government grants nonprofit educational institutions tax exemptions, so that they can sustain such bureaucracies?
Harvard has a $53.2 billion endowment. Is that money being spent on educating more people? No. The size of Harvard’s undergraduate population hasn’t changed since 1982.
Congress already passed a 1.4% endowment tax on the wealthiest educational institutions, including Harvard, in 2017. When Purdue University successfully kept tuition from rising for a decade, the first thing it did was cut administrative bloat.
Until Harvard does the same, maybe it is time to up that excise tax again.