by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Neetu Arnold writes for the Martin Center about a troubling aspect of plans to step up hiring of new college faculty members.
Most businesses and the general public had a brutal year in 2020—perhaps with the notable exceptions of Zoom and toilet paper manufacturers. Universities suffered as well, with enrollment drops and budget cuts forcing them to freeze hiring and salaries, furlough faculty and staff, and restrict spending.
Some colleges even went insolvent, with many others on the brink of a financial crisis.
But universities have two things most Americans don’t—lobbyists and friendly politicians eager to do their bidding. They spent the last year begging for bailouts and enjoyed a considerable degree of success. Universities received nearly $60 billion in higher education relief funds and are set to receive an additional $40 billion in bailouts. Unfortunately, these relief packages didn’t have restrictions to curb wasteful spending, such as administrative bloat and other non-instructional expenditures.
As a result, some colleges across America continued to spend recklessly on administrative expansion, often at the expense of faculty. A number of institutions cut tenured positions. But two schools, Ohio State University and Syracuse University, hope to buck these trends. Both plan to hire at least 400 tenure-track faculty over the course of several years.
If this were the whole story, we might start singing their praises for hiring long-term professors instead of short-term adjuncts. But longtime observers of the American higher education system should probably know by now that cynicism is a safer bet as it is here.
A closer look reveals that the hiring bump is about promoting political agendas rather than improving education. Identity politics and private- and public-sector influence are hidden inside these academic Trojan horses.
As higher ed recovers from COVID-19 cuts, leaders have a renewed commitment to “social justice” that will be reflected in their hiring decisions.