Last fall, university president Dr. Everett Piper made headlines when he warned students that college was not intended to be a day care, but “a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up.”

The realization that many of today’s university students have not grown up has caught on with the general public, and many are now wondering how such a thing happened.

One of the individuals pondering this development is Professor Jonathan Zimmerman. In an article for Aeon, Zimmerman opines that increased emphasis on campus bureaucracy may have been a major contributor to the “infantilizing” of today’s students:

“[The years between 1976 and 2012] witnessed a dramatic shift in patterns of university employment, away from faculty and towards administrators. In 1975, universities had almost twice as many professors as administrators; 40 years later, the administrators outnumber the faculty. Over this span, the number of ‘executive, administrative, and managerial employees’ at universities rose by 85 per cent; meanwhile, so-called ‘professional staff’ – accountants, counsellors, and so on – ballooned by an astonishing 240 per cent. Part of the reason lay in the perverse economic competition between different schools, which offered a host of new student services and amenities in order to attract more paying customers. There was also a growing maze of federal and state regulations, which required new teams of officers to ensure compliance. …

As universities layered on more and more bureaucracy, students came to believe that every campus problem had a bureaucratic solution. Officials are expected to remove every trace of racism, ranging from outright bigotry to smaller ‘microaggressions’; examples include asking a minority student if she is from ‘the ghetto’, or whether she was admitted to school under affirmative action. Protesters in November demanded that universities institute penalties for these types of comments, like mandatory diversity training for miscreants. Never mind that regulations of campus speech have been found unconstitutional by every court that has addressed them, or that most studies of diversity training have failed to show that it improves race relations. Symbolically, at least, adding a new rule or requirement will show that the university is ‘doing something’. And when it falls short, as it inevitably must, it will be asked to do more.

Once upon a time, colleges and universities were institutions where children as young as 15 were treated as adults capable of handling deep thinking and being intellectually challenged. Now, they are increasingly dominated by an administrative bureaucracy that coddles their student-clients.

Is it too late to encourage colleges to start acting like actual institutions of higher learning rather than a glorified form of preschool?

Image Credit: Michael Lowell