In 1995 Paul Light published an interesting book entitled Thickening Government, which highlighted the explosion of management/professional positions in government–both vertically (the number of levels of management) and horizontally (the number of positions at each level).
In the academy we have seen the same kind of thickening, which I suspect is a primary culprit behind tuition costs that rise far faster than inflation. This graph (sorry it is fuzzy; see here for a crisper version) shows the increase in the number of positions at universities between 1976 and 2005. The number of part-time and temporary faculty increased sharply, but they are pretty much slave labor and cost very little (I’m not saying this is a good thing!). The number of “non-professional full-time” employees (those people who push the brooms and do the other real work on campus) increased only 20%. Tenured and tenure-track faculty increased only 17%.
The explosion came in terms of administrators and “non-faculty professionals” (NFPs). Sometimes these positions can be described as “faculty support” (especially in terms of research administration), but more often than not they are just layers of administration and bureaucracy whose main function seems to be trying to stop faculty from doing their jobs. I don’t have numbers, but my sense is that NFPs are expensive. They earn not only professional salaries, but they have powerful computers, big offices (with nice couches but no books), and fancy cell phones strapped on their belts.
Tenure-track faculty have done OK (but not great) in terms of salaries, teaching loads, etc., but we haven’t done well in increasing our political base. As the NFP class grows, we are likely to see an ever dwindling influence of faculty on campus governance.
If these people had a few more books in their offices, I’d be less nervous.