In an era when expansion is no longer the obvious solution for dealing with curricular change in research universities, the question of how and why institutions allocate resources among departments, the organizational units that deliver curricula, should become increasingly important. Resource constraint has caused widespread restructuring in public research universities, but few studies examine its effects on departments, although the broad goals of restructuring are to redesign institutions to lower costs, achieve greater student learning, give more attention to teaching, and contribute to regional economic development (Guskin, 1994; Gumport & Pusser, 1996; Massey & Zemsky, 1994), all efforts that depend on departmental cooperation. Institutional resource allocation affects departments in a number of ways. The resources available to departments shape who is hired, how much and whom they teach. Quality of faculty and work load, in turn, influence research norms and productivity. Changes in patterns of resour ce allocation among departments are critical to understanding the shape of knowledge in the twenty-first century.
In the 1980s, prompted by periodic state and institutional budget crises, researchers began to study internal resource allocation among departments within colleges and universities (Ashar, 1987; Ashar & Shapiro, 1990; Hackman, 1985; Melchiori, 1982; Morgan, 1983). But in the 1990s, questions about internal resource allocation among departments generally were put in the broader context of restructuring. This shift meant that attention turned away from departments as units that created and delivered particular kinds of knowledge and curricula efficiently and effectively and toward individual faculty performance on productivity measures as well as individual faculty response to institutional incentives (Layzell, 1996; Levin, 1991). If departments were considered at all, they were treated as generic departments that reacted to institutional and professional incentives rather than as departments organized around concrete kinds of knowledge, peopled by faculty with similar characteristics who trained students for specific careers (Fairweather, 1996; Massy & Wilger, 1992; Massy & Zemsky, 1994). Costing studies were the exceptions, but these used econometric models to identify abstract cost structures among departments aggregated in broad fields of study, a process that reified rather than explained patterns of difference in institutional investment (Brinkman, 1990; Dundar & Lewis, 1994).
Along with a relatively small number of researchers using critical theory and feminist perspectives, we see this shift from department to individual, or, conversely, broad field of study (science and engineering, humanities, social sciences) as the unit of analysis, as masking increasing stratification between departments and within universities (Bellas, 1994, 1997; Gumport, 1993; Kerlin & Dunlap, 1993; McElrath, 1992; Slaughter, 1993; Volk, 1995). Critical researchers view faculty and the curricula they deliver as organized in departments that powerfully mediate individual faculty performance. Faculty delivering some curricula may not receive the same resources as faculty associated with other curricula, just as faculty in departments preparing students for certain careers may not be given the same support as faculty in other, more favored departments. Department, rather than individual faculty performance, may be a powerful explanatory variable. Faculty located in underresourced, overextended departments m ay not be able to respond fully to the complex array of institutional incentives and disincentives that characterize multimission public research universities. We think that understanding which departments receive resources and why is critical to understanding the far-reaching reorganization and revaluing of knowledge that is presently occurring.
To explore our questions about resource allocation among departments, we reviewed the several theories that purport to explain variance in allocation. We identified two major perspectives, the rational/political and the critical/political. We decided to see which of the theories best explained resource allocation at a single public Research I university (Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1994), examining all departments except those located in the medical and law schools.  We identified a total of 30 independent variables that represented key components of the explanations offered by the two theories. We looked at standard variables researchers have traditionally used to explain variation in resource allocation among departments such as salary, size, grant dollars, and student FTE. Because we looked at critical/political as well as rational/political factors, we incorporated variables not usually used in departmental resource allocation studies, for example, variables for ascribed chara cteristics such as gender and minority status of faculty and students. We also developed variables that were proxies for closeness of departments to external markets, for example, assistant professor faculty entry salaries. Finally, we examined variables indicative of internal stratification such as lower division, upper division, and graduate student credit hours. We used multiple regression models to assess the effects of our independent variables on the dependent variable, internal allocation of state dollars to departments. After presenting our results, we discuss what our findings from the final model mean for the two theories and for the restructuring of universities, the reorganization of knowledge, and the stratification of academic work within public research universities.
The theories that guide researchers who study internal institutional resource allocation among departments generally fall into one of two frames: rational/political or critical/political. Rational/political theorists highlight the role of a small number of decision makers at the apex of the institution and emphasize the functional use of resources to maintain and enhance institutional efficiency and effectiveness (Morgan, 1983). Although they emphasize rationality, rational/political theorists are sensitive to political dimensions of internal budgetary processes and allow for interest group bargaining, acknowledge power differentials among departments, especially in the ability to win external grants and contracts, and recognize that groups external to the university can sometimes intervene to influence allocation (Ashar, 1987; Ashar & Shapiro, 1990; Hackman, 1985; Morgan, 1983). However, rational/political theorists generally explain resource allocation among departments by productivity and meritocratic cri teria: funds flow to departments that are central to mission and workload, are productive in terms of student credit hours, grants and contracts and faculty scholarship, and are high in quality. Rational/political theorists acknowledge politics as an important factor, but never see politics as determining resource allocation to the point where they overwhelm institutional economy and efficiency.
The rational/political model initially drew heavily on organizational theory that treated institutions as self-contained and was concerned primarily with internal priority setting. As higher education continued to restructure (but not downsize, see Leslie & Rhoades, 1995) and economics became the preferred social science idiom, the market was incorporated into rational/political models in the form of human capital theory (Breneman, 1988; Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Youn, 1989). This purportedly linked external labor markets for individual professional skills more closely to internal academic reward systems. Because human capital theory assumed markets to be free, rational and impartial, they were invoked by rational/political theorists to explain and justify increasing differences in salaries by department (Lee, Leslie, & Olswang, 1987).
In contrast, critical/political  theorists see resource allocation to departments as shaped by gender, race, power and service to external constituencies dominant in the broader political economy (Bellas, 1994,1997; Gumport, 1993; Kerlin & Dunlap, 1993; McElrath, 1992; Slaughter, 1993, 1998; Volk, 1995). Like rational/political theorists, critical/political theorists see politics and power as playing a part, but critical/political theorists foreground politics and power, arguing that differentials in political economic power among departments explain the majority of variance in resource allocation among departments. They read political power as patterned by gender, race, and relation of departments to federal and corporate research markets, high-end private sector markets for professionals, and the social welfare function of the state (Slaughter, 1997, 1998). Critical/political theorists make the case that concentrating institutional resources on departments close to federal and corporate research markets as well as high-end private sector markets for professionals loads institutional resources on departments where there are many graduate students and few undergraduates, creating systemic productivity problems for public research universities (Volk, 1995). They argue that marked inequities in resources among departments place faculty in some departments--particularly those with heavy lower-division teaching loads--at a disadvantage in responding to the complex array of institutional incentives and disincentives characteristic of multimission public research universities. Because the departments with the least resources and the highest undergraduate teaching loads are often departments with a relatively high number of women and minority faculty, critical/political theorists point out that this pattern of resource allocation undermines some institutional missions and goals, for example, the undergraduate teaching mission and the goal of equity.
Data and Methods
Our study included all departments (72) within a public research university, excluding the medical school and law school. The amount of state appropriated dollars to each department was the dependent measure.  We developed various measures on each of the 70 remaining departments. Data defining these variables were gathered from departmental profiles developed and maintained by the Office of Institutional Research, from the Sponsored Projects Office, from the Office of Student Affairs, from the Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Office, and from a 1992 University-Wide Quality Review, commissioned by the provost, of the centrality and quality of all departments.
Like Ashar (1987), Ashar & Shapiro (1990), and Hackman (1985), we did not focus on full professor salaries, a measure that traditionally explains most of the differences among departments with regard to state dollar allocations. We wanted to avoid …