Skip to main content

Growth in the number of staff (#1020)

Topics/tags: Grinnell

Among the things that seem to cause tensions between faculty and staff, at least from the faculty side, is an enormous growth in the number of staff positions during Kingston’s tenure, with very little, if any, growth in the number of tenure-line faculty positions. I’ve heard that we added 100 plus staff positions during his tenure. The numbers vary—114, 140, 138—but all of them are over one hundred.

Now, I get as upset as anyone about Kingston’s seeming refusal to consider growing the faculty or even to discuss new faculty positions in comparison to new staff positions. That shouldn’t be a surprise; I’ve raised the issue at multiple faculty meetings, in meetings with the president, and in my musings and rants.

However, I accept that significant growth in the number of staff was necessary. Let’s consider some reasons.

There are two clear reasons that we needed to expand the number of staff. As Kate Walker was fond of mentioning, we had deferred maintenance on the staff. That is, we had neglected to expand the staff as needs for staff grew and as the number of faculty grew. I think, in particular, of ITS, which was not only understaffed but also which had undercompensated staff. I don’t know that we have enough ITS staff yet [1,2] and I’m pretty sure that they are still somewhat undercompensated [3]. We also needed to add some positions for federal compliance; the Title IX officer is one obvious case, but there are likely others. But there are also many other reasons to add positions, some of which I’ll get to a bit later in the musing.

Where did all of the positions get added? I’m pretty sure that someone has a list, or could easily create a list. However, that list is not public, or not available to me, or something like that. So I’m just going to report on some of those that I know about.

We added some positions in Development. That should be a sensible addition. A good development officer more than pays for themself in the funds they bring in [4].

We’ve had huge growth in Careers, Life, and Service. I recall hearing numbers on the order of twenty new positions, but I think it’s a bit less than that. We just added another because of the unionization discussion, someone who can look more closely at the educational benefits of student positions. We added a student employer manager in HR a few years back to help bring some consistency to student employment. Kington attributes the growth in CLS to improvements in applications and retention. I don’t think you can tie things that closely; there have been a lot of changes. The trend line also seems to correspond to the increase in the number of CS majors after Grinnell was identified as one of four CS curricular exemplars in the ACM/IEEE Computing Curriculum recommendations [5].

Anyway, back to CLS. Jobs are important in this economy (and in any economy). A strong CLS can have an important impact on our students. I also appreciate that CLS helps reduce my workload. They know more about jobs than I do and can spend more time on advice. They can run sessions that help our students. I’ve appreciated working with the CLS Community Leader in the Sciences; they are someone I appreciate very much.

I believe that there has been growth in HR. I’ve mentioned one position already. I also hear a different name when employees complain about HR, even though the old name still works there. There may have been others. These expansions are likely necessary, possibly for compliance reasons.

We’ve added folks to support the academic program. I’m even responsible for one of them, the half-time Peer Education and Outreach Coordinator for Computer Science and Upper-Level Statistics, or whatever we titled the position. There’s also the data scientist who supervises the students in the Data Analysis and Social Inquiry Lab, or whatever DASIL stands for. Those are unlikely to be the only ones.

Speaking of DASIL, there’s the separate issue of shifting faculty to administrative-like roles. I think the DASIL director gets a course release or two. In addition, we now have a faculty member directing the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment, a Center that did not previously exist. We also have a full-time faculty director of the Institute for Global Engagement. The Chief Diversity Officer is a faculty member [6]. I don’t recall when we went from two Associate Deans to three, but that also takes another faculty member out of the classroom [8].

The CTLA and IGE are also responsible for a bunch of new positions. CTLA has two high-level staff positions, an Academic Support Assistant, and folks like the Curricular Technology Specialists. The two high-level staff positions and the ASA are new. I don’t know how many positions IGE added. Some were certainly necessary; with the growth in the number of International Students and the added complexity of life for international students in the US, we needed more people to support those students [9]. And I like that we’re thinking more about how we support broader global engagement in the curriculum.

There’s been some useful and necessary expansion in student support, including a whole new sub-department in Student Affairs that focuses on diversity and inclusion and a whole new department for Disability Services. Of course, Disability Services also supports faculty and staff. The broader wellness movement at Grinnell also represents an expansion of people who support students, faculty, and staff, although I’m not sure how many that’s added. While I think most of the positions are in SHAW, I’m pretty sure that there are positions elsewhere.

At some point, the administration decided to professionalize Safety [10], replacing some student positions with staff positions. I thought that was an interesting decision; it was certainly a good student position: There was time to get homework done. Plus, you got to work with Russ [11]. There have, of course, been other changes to Safety. They have a much bigger patrol area. Plus, the new cars are intimidating, much more so than the Honda Ridgelines!

Grinnell bought a golf course. Well, we bought a country club, but we mostly bought it for the golf course. There are many factors at play in that purchase, but it seems reasonable to ensure that the golf course is maintained for the golf teams. The golf course’s staff page [12] says they have two full-time staff members [14]. One of them appears to be in a department I hadn’t heard of before: Auxiliary Services and Economic Development. That department also lists one VP [15] and a swimming pool manager.

Of course, new buildings, like the golf course and the expanded HSSC require more ancillary staff, such as more members of Facilities Management to keep them working and clean. I don’t know how many folks were added there.

I know that Grinnell added a procurement manager sometime in the past decade. Like the folks in development, a procurement manager should pay for themselves, although in savings, rather than donations. I’m still waiting for the College to set up an in-house travel manager, which we discussed when Houston D. was still in Student Affairs and he and someone else knew a variety of strategies for saving money. As far as I can tell, external travel agencies neither save us money nor provide the additional services I’d want, such as support when someone misses a plane. Of course, both a procurement manager and a travel manager can create hassles because there is more paperwork. But sometimes that is necessary.

It scares me that we likely need more staff. I’d like to see a Web Accessibility Specialist in Communications. I know we need more folks in ITS. We probably need more counselors at SHAW. It would be cool to have a Wellness Czar separate from SHAW [16]. I’d like a Rabbi on campus. That may have to become a full-time position to attract one. I don’t know where we stand on our Imam. It’s also clear to me (and to others) that many staff members seem to do the equivalent of at least two full-time positions. What happens when they retire?

Do I want more tenure-line faculty? Yes. Do I think many of the positions I mentioned above are at least as important or more important than faculty positions? Certainly; Do I think we should be discussing whether funds should go to a new staff position or a new faculty position [17], rather than keeping new faculty positions completely off the table? Obviously. Would I like to see the list of added (and removed) positions? That would be enlightening.

Postscript: I would be remiss if I did not mention that I think there’s been an expansion in Senior Lecturer positions. These are regular, part-time positions that I think carry much better compensation than, say, three adjunct-rate courses.

Postscript: I had hoped to draw some information from our Form 990s. Unfortunately, there’s not much there on lower-level positions. Surprisingly, some upper-level positions, such as VP for Communications, seem to appear and disappear from the list of Officers or Key Employees. It might be interesting to track the five highest-paid employees who are not officers or key employees and see how it changes over the years. But that’s a musing for another day [18].

Postscript (added after initial release): A friend reminds me that some of the staff additions have come through specific gifts to the College or from grants and therefore affect the College’s budget differently.

[1] And I might have chosen a different set of positions.

[2] We’ve also seen enormous growth in the number of systems on campus and the number of cybersecurity issues that ITS must consider.

[3] No, I’m not using this comment to make friends among the staff; good computer skills deserve to be compensated.

[4] I’ve heard Kington suggest in public meetings that, when he arrived, there were development staff who hadn’t been meeting that goal.

[5] Yes, I’m bragging. However, I do know that some students came to Grinnell because of that. More importantly, I want to challenge Kington’s narrative. There are a host of issues that likely changed our pool and retention. The most important is likely the work of our Admissions Office.

[6] The CDO [7] does not need to be a faculty member; they can come from outside the institution. I know that there’s some debate as to whether or not the new CDO should have faculty status. I think that status gives them more freedom, but I agree that it’s a complicated issue.

[7] Chief Diversity Officer, not Career Development Office or Chief Development Officer. Nor, I suppose, Career Development Officer, if such a position exists. I mention this only because, during spell checking, I saw CDO and assumed I was using the CLS’s old initials.

[8] The College typically replaces faculty in Associate Dean positions with term faculty.

[9] That may represent only one new position in IGE.

[10] Formerly Safety and Security, formerly Security.

[11] I know that Russ is retiring soon. I wonder why there hasn’t been an all-campus announcement. He feels like such an important part of the Grinnell experience.

[12] Why does the Golf course get a separate Web site?

[14] Plus a dog.

[15] Did we need another VP? Ah! They are also responsible for the bookstore, catering, mail services, and conference ops. I don’t think it’s a new position, just a rebranding. The person in that role used to be VP for College Services.

[16] I may be suggesting that position because I admire the person who had that unofficial title.

[17] I’d rather we didn’t have to put those positions in competition. But budgets always involve some competing priorities.

[18] Don’t worry, I’m unlikely to list most salaries, even though it’s public information.

Version 1.0 of 2020-02-16.