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Ohio State adds staff; expert criticizes faculty-staff ratio

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“It’s almost like every student has his own staff person, you know, like a personal butler.”

That was what Richard Vedder, an economist and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and professor at Ohio University, said about the number of individuals Ohio State employs. The company he works for is a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that researches and analyzes problems facing higher education institutes.

OSU employs 44,434 people, 6,807 of which are faculty, as of an annual Sept. 30 headcount, said OSU spokesman Gary Lewis in an email. This number includes regional campuses and the medical center, and 14,491 of those employees are students.

The numbers are “startling,” Vedder said. “I find the numbers breathtakingly large.”

“Usually at a school with (50,000) to 55,000 students, you need (4,000) or 5,000 to teach, to actually teach students,” Vedder said.

OSU’s Columbus campus had an enrollment of 58,322 students for Fall Semester, and total university enrollment, including regional campuses, was 64,868, according to OSU’s semester enrollment report, but Vedder’s opinion about the ratio remains.

“It’s amazing how little, few of the staff are actually teachers — doing what most people would say is the first thing universities are about, which is the interaction between students and their mentors or faculty in the learning process,” Vedder said.

The OSU employee headcount was 43,630 in 2013 and 42,505 in 2012, according to the information provided by Lewis.

Meanwhile other large institutions, like Texas A&M University, saw somewhat smaller numbers of faculty and staff positions compared to students, which Vedder said wasn’t surprising.

“At most universities, the faculty are a minority of the total staff by quite a margin,” he said.

Ohio University employed 4,958 people in fall 2013, 2,073 of whom were full- or part-time faculty — comprising roughly 41.8 percent of employees. There were 38,857 students enrolled at all campuses the time.

In 2013, Texas A&M University had 7,549 total faculty and staff positions — about 35 percent of whom were faculty — with 56,255 students enrolled at all of its campuses, according to a university website.

Along with the increasing employee count, at least two administrative positions have been created this semester. Of these two positions, neither was posted and both were filled by current OSU employees.

Melinda Church assumed her new role as vice president for advancement integration and communications in October. Before that, she was the vice president of University Communications.

Church’s position was not posted because it is considered a “reclassification,” Lewis said. OSU’s Talent and Recruitment policy contains a partial list of positions that do not require posting, and reclassified positions are on that list.

Susan Williams took the new role of vice dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in November after being vice provost for academic policy and faculty resources.

Williams is considered a faculty member, and there are several scenarios that do not require posting according to university Faculty Recruitment and Selection policy, but Lewis did not specify which one Williams fell under.

Salaries for new positions are determined based on market pricing and similar positions in higher education, Lewis said. As for where the money for these salaries comes from, it differs based on college or unit. “Each unit and college within the university determines the resource needs and allocates their respective budgets accordingly,” he said.

Williams is set to make $207,023 in her new role. That figure includes her faculty base salary, summer salary and administrative attachment. She earned a base salary of $192,669 in 2013.

Church’s salary won’t change. She earned a $295,800 base salary in 2013.

Although both Williams’ and Church’s positions were not posted and were filled by current OSU employees, in general, “newly created positions are open to both external and internal candidates,” Lewis said.

Vedder, though, said he wondered whether the lack of an open search serves the university.

“The only thing I can say in defense of Ohio State — and certainly not much in defense — is sort of ‘everyone does it’ kind of thing,” Vedder said.

4 comments

  1. We have a medical center. The other institutions mentioned in the article do not. What are the number of student workers at them as well? I agree there are places to trim the fat at OSU (mainly with these vice president of whatever positions), but you need to do a proper comparison. Perhaps take away the number of faculty, staff, and student workers at OSU who work for the med center and then run your numbers again.

  2. “Melinda Church assumed her new role as vice president for advancement integration and communications. . . Church’s salary won’t change. She earned a $295,800 base salary in 2013.” I can’t decide which is more obscene: the position or the salary. If the students don’t question these types of BS positions with their ridiculous salaries that run rampant through OSU, then they have no right to complain about tuition increases.

  3. I agree, John P. As much as I typically find myself in the critical category when it comes to OSU’s staffing and compensation decisions, this article does some real apples-to-oranges comparing.

    I took two seconds to go to the Media Room section of the Wexner Medical Center to find that it employs just shy of 20,000 people.

  4. I love though, that she got a $15K a year raise and the puny staff are lucky to see a 2% increase each year.

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