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Columbia has more full-time employees than undergrads, including an Earth Observatory DEI director

ANALYSIS: Columbia has 1,602 more full-time employees than undergrad students

Columbia University’s Earth Observatory has its own DEI director and two supporting administrators as part of its 6,756 administrator army.

The office currently includes Associate Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Vicki Ferrini, Senior Manager for Academic Affairs Nicole deRoberts, and Deputy Director David Goldberg.

They are just three of the 9,856 full-time employees at Columbia University, compared to 8,262 full-time undergraduate students. This works out to 1,602 more full-time workers than undergrad students, according to a College Fix analysis.

“The Office of Academic Affairs & Diversity at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory…is committed to fostering a diverse, vibrant, and inclusive work environment,” its website states.

“We have failed science and ourselves over the last half century by unintentionally and/or intentionally excluding representative numbers of Black people, and other people of color, from our ranks,” a statement reads.

“A renewed and effective dedication to anti-racist practices is imperative to the operation of a just institution and our ability to undertake the most creative, innovative, salient, and beneficial research,” the department wrote in June 2021.

The Fix analysis looked at the 2022-23 school year, the latest year information is available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

The gap has grown from a decade ago. In the 2013-14 school year, there were 996 more full-time employees than undergraduate students. However, there were 785 more full-time employees in the 2017-18 school year, according to IPEDS data.

The difference is driven largely by the 6,756 administrators. There are 818 administrators for every 1,000 students, or roughly two administrators for every three students.

This includes student and academic affairs divisions, IT, public relations, administrative support, maintenance, and legal and other non-academic departments.

Specifically, there were 2,467 “management” employees in the 2022-23 school year, making an average salary of $128,298 per year.

These workers were supported by 1,341 “office and administrative support” employees making an average yearly salary of $73,661.

Columbia University’s Director of Communications for Media Relations Samantha Slater and Vice President of Communications Ben Chang did not respond to two emailed requests for comment in the past month. The Fix asked what specifically the Earth Observatory DEI team does and for further insights on employee headcount.

MORE: UMich botanical garden employs DEI manager

The university is “somewhat worse” when it comes to “administrative/non-faculty bloat” than other top 50 universities according to Paul Weinstein, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. He also worked in the Clinton White House and teaches management courses at Johns Hopkins University.

He shared an August 2023 study he did on “administrative bloat at colleges.”

“The ratio is 1 non-faculty employee for every 3 students compared to 1 faculty for every 18 students,” Weinstein told The Fix via email. He used total student enrollment compared to faculty and non-faculty.

Asked for a reasonable ratio, Weinstein said: “I would argue [the] ratio of students to faculty compared to students per administrators should be (at a minimum) equal. That doesn’t mean increasing faculty, but rather cutting administrative and other non-faculty slots to help reduce tuition.”

Some of the hiring is due to external pressure, Weinstein said.

“The rise in administrative bloat is partially due to government regulations, but it is also the result of demands made by accreditors (which in most cases do nothing to improve the quality of student education), the demands of students for clubs, services, etc., and the tendency of administrators to solve problems by hiring more administrators.”

MORE: At Harvard, there are 2,600 more administrators than undergrads

IMAGES: Del_ Xima/Getty Images; College Fix edits

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.