Universities Are Expertocracies In Minature

Universities Are Expertocracies In Minature

We have been warning you for well over a decade that what happens at universities does not stay at universities.

All of us laugh and marvel at the great idiocies, and even greater evils, that happen in our august institutions of “higher” learning. Yet few of us are terribly concerned about these signs, happy enough not to be amidst the swirling seas of lunacy.

This was a terrible mistake. The cancer was recognized early—the very moment a “degree” was created in “college administration”—and a cure could then have been effected. All funds, and bodies, could have been cut off, and the cancer starved. A radical treatment, yes, because this would have destroyed some healthy tissue along with the bad. But all wars, medical and metaphorical, come with casualties.

It is too late now. Yes, we could, in theory, take out universities. We could, as was suggested many times, nuke them from orbit, salt the ground even as it glows, and build enormous fences around the pits of the kind Tech Lords in San Francisco protect their houses with.

It won’t matter. The disease has escaped. The graduates, tainted after half a century of exposure, have taken over all positions of power. If we destroyed the old buildings, our rulers would create new ones. We could exile all professors to Venus, but our rulers would credential new ones. It is too late to save the old structure.

What we can still do is learn from the universities. The form of governance they have created for themselves is the form we are rapidly entering into, because our rulers will be led by the university credentialed. The form is the one we have been discussing, an oligarch-directed expertocracy.

Let’s take one of their strongholds, Yale. We have a lovely story that laments softly that the number of administrators now equals the number of students.

Go on and laugh, if you like. But I warn you. This form of governance is coming to you.

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, according to University financial reports…

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.

I remind you the first name for the expertocracy was the managerial revolution.

Now the point of the article was eight faculty members who decry the situation, who rightly say “this administration size imposes unnecessary costs, interferes with students’ lives and faculty’s teaching, spreads the burden of leadership and adds excessive regulation.”

Memorize this, for again I warn you this is coming everywhere. Word for word, it is a perfect description of an expertocracy. Increased bureaucracy in its myriad forms, wasteful spending at odds with stated goals, excessive and ludicrous interference (“micromanaging”) in every aspect of life, a diffuse leadership structure enforcing rule by oligarch-directed Consensus, and hence banality and error, and (I’ll just quote it) “excessive regulation.”

It will all happen. It is happening.

The more important point is that these professors’ correct and damning complaint will not be acted on in any way. It will be dismissed. The level of caring of these professors—and it is, the story takes pains to show, high—means nothing. That they are inside the system means nothing. That they want only the best for Yale means nothing.

One prof said the “main driver [of growth of admins] has been the desire of administrators to accumulate power and influence within their institutions.” This is true. This is how it works. This is why it can’t be dismantled inside that system.

What you must grasp is that most want this. Ask and it shall be given.

Additionally, the growth may have partially stemmed from student requests. Hannah Peck, the assistant dean of student affairs at Yale College, told the News that the Student Affairs team added four new health promotion positions as part of the YC3 program.

“Students have consistently requested more mental health support on campus and we are thrilled to be able to provide it,” Peck wrote.


No one man has the power to tear down what should be torn down. Inexorable growth is the result, creating increasing weight which will eventually kill the organization.

But not for a very long time.

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  1. bruce g charlton

    “the first name for the expertocracy was the managerial revolution.”

    And it is still a better name for the phenomenon than ‘expertocracy’ in my opinion!

    When people think of managers/ bureaucrats, they don’t regard them as experts – when they think of ‘experts’ they don’t think of managers.

    I really don’t think expertocracy is ‘going to fly’ as a name for this phenomenon! – long since recognized under other names e.g. Upper Class, Establishment, Priests, ‘Mandarins’, Officials, Administrators, ‘the Cathedral’, “the wallahs back at HQ flying a desk” (RAF) etc…

  2. Sheri

    Blame the idiot parents who support this drivil and indoctrinate their kids with it. It’s obvious Americans WANT this and will PAY to get it. You can rant all you like, but when people will pay thousands to shaft their offspring, you have little chance.

  3. James Kalb

    “Technocracy” isn’t a bad name for it. Rule by people who base their claim to rule on supposedly neutral expertise.

  4. Ann Cherry

    “Students have consistently requested more mental health support on campus and we are thrilled to be able to provide it,” Peck wrote.”

    Perhaps these universities should save the “mental health support” for AFTER the students graduate, when they discover that their quarter-million-dollar (at least) Ivy-League degree in Gender Studies or Climate Injustice is unmarketable, and their student debt is not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and that they will, effectively, be indentured servants for the rest of their lives.

  5. Forbes

    Students request more “mental health” services because their immaturity makes them unsuited to higher education–especially so the sudden appearance of available liberties, lack of parental and adult supervision, and the day-to-day experience of nearly complete personal freedom of college life.

    In other words, the transition from structure (helicopter parents and politically correct schools), to unstructured (chaotic) life is mentally upsetting/unsettling. Adolescents are a pressure cooker, with college as the relief valve where the excess steam blows off. Students arrive on campus primed to let loose. Unfortunately, none of their formative years have prepared them for the environment now encountered.

  6. BDavi52

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach. And those who always and forever ‘choose not to’ … well they just tally, critique, and obstruct. And they are very, very, very good at all of that…and getting better.

  7. Milton Hathaway

    I’m with Sheri on this one, with the caveat that Yale is indeed privately funded, then I don’t care how inefficiently they run their campus. One possibly revealing tidbit from Wikipedia (is that spelt Wikipaedeo in the UK?): “As of 2021, the university’s endowment was valued at $42.3 billion, the second largest of any educational institution.”

    Shortly after graduating college and starting my engineering career, my boss set the stage with what was an eye-opening revelation for me at the time. He said that his group was funded at x% of revenue, where x varied from 5% to 10%, depending on the anticipated ROI of the particular project. The funding had to cover my salary and all the overhead of employing me (benefits, floor space, equipment, project materials, etc). Salaries were always the lion’s share, though. Then he went through some typical numbers and said something along the lines of “in the next hour, your actions need to create y dollars in sales so that the company afford your salary”, and y wasn’t a small number. The number was even scarier factoring in all the inefficiencies, such as the ‘busy work’ that nonetheless had to be done. On the other hand, the job satisfaction was considerable when successful. I have since always greatly admired the self-employed, and felt sorry for the make-work bureaucrats with no prayer of providing any sort of value that was even a fraction of their salary.

    Clearly Yale faces no substantive competitive pressures, and is more akin to an over-funded monopoly than a typical private college. I’d want more data before extrapolating from the situation at Yale. It looks like Yale is well-positioned to survive suicidal idiocy for a long time.

  8. Incitadus

    It’s all been downhill since Gutenberg. With enough time and money the echo-chamber
    can turn pulp fiction into stark reality.

  9. C-Marie

    Our daughter was a tenured Professor at MSU for ten years, and she told us what was being taught in many classes. I did not take it so seriously, and now, I so wish that I had done so. At length, she changed professions as all was tightened down so very much. Students were being taught What to think and not to think and examine and to arrive at well thought out conclusions of their own
    God bless, C-Marie

  10. Thomas

    I’m still troubled by how many students learn statistics but can’t tell when they’re being lied to.

  11. Kneel

    ” Students were being taught What to think and not to think and examine and to arrive at well thought out conclusions of their own”

    Yes, along with “safe spaces” it is what they want.
    And there is virtually no-one to stand up and say “You are at college to have your ideas challenged, not to be safe. This will, in the end, make you better placed to fight for what you believe is right – if you do not or cannot face the ideas of those you oppose and beat them down with logic and reason, you will lose.”

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