Outside Claremont McKenna's Kravis Center.
While college administrations have been expanding for decades, their growth rate has picked up in recent years. Starting in 2003 and accelerating rapidly over the past decade, administrations have grown at a rate far faster than the students and faculty they oversee. In 2021, Yale became the first college to reach administrator to student ratio of 1:1. The greater trend is known as “administrative bloat." Claremont McKenna is one of many schools to experience it.
The Independent looked at CMC's administrative growth since 2015. In November of that year, a student wrote an op-ed in The Student Life arguing that CMC primarily catered to affluent white students. The author then sent that article to Mary Spellman, who was the Dean of Students at the time. Spellman wrote back with sympathy, concluding with, “We are working on how we can better serve students, especially those who don’t fit our CMC mold.” Those last two words sparked outrage. Students protested and two pledged to go on hunger strikes. Eventually, Spellman resigned after the incident received international coverage.
That year, CMC employed 164 administrators. By the start of the 2022-23 academic year, this number had risen to 183, marking an increase of 11.58 percent over seven years with student enrollment increasing by just 2.7 percent. The majority of administrative growth at CMC is accounted for by two departments: the Dean of Students office and Civil Rights Office.
The Dean of Students office increased from 12 to 18 members, or by 50 percent. The Civil Rights Office, which handles matters related to Title IX and other civil rights laws, has grown from one member to five, or by 400 percent, since its inception during the 2014-2015 academic year–mirroring a nationwide trend. The Title IX Coordinator position was established following the Obama administration’s release of new guidance regarding the role of college administrators in adjudicating Title IX claims.
The increase in administrative personnel since 2015 has also coincided with a decrease in faculty members. The number of faculty has decreased by 3.28 percent, resulting in a 6 percent rise in CMC’s student-to-faculty ratio. It remains unclear how many of CMC’s 236 professors are actively teaching classes, as an unspecified number are off-campus each semester for various reasons including sabbatical leave and professor emeritus status. Out of the three categories of CMC employees – faculty, administrators, and non-professor personnel at CMC research institutes – two experienced growth, and one was reduced. Staff of research institutes has expanded by 47.36 percent.
In response to a request for comment, CMC spokesperson Gilien Silsby wrote that “CMC has experienced growth in enrollment over the past two decades and maintained the same staff-to-student (and staff-to-faculty) ratio over the past 10 years.” However, the college’s published data directly refutes this claim. Over the past seven years, the growth in administrative staff has been more than four times faster than the increase in the student body, resulting in a faculty-administration balance that has adjusted from 1.49 professors per administrator down to 1.3 professors per administrator.
Silsby also claimed that “During this time, based on a needs and value assessment, the Dean of Students has worked with College leadership and the Board of Trustees to define several key positions that support students, including: mental health/case management, academic support, accessibility services, the CARE Center, and public safety.”