I've worked in IT at two major East Coast Universities for the past 12 years. There is a boatload of bureaucracy to be sure at almost all levels. Then again, some of it is warranted. Gone are the days of a researcher just getting a grant and spending it all on the research. You need to have grant administrators to make sure the grant is written properly and meets the needs of the funding agency, then you need them afterwards to let you know if you can spend the money you got on the things you want - these grants often times have strict rules on them.
Then there's all the federal regulations. Are you in a lab that got private (not public) money for doing stem cell research? Awesome! Just make sure that any equipment you use (staff payroll, PCs, consumables, anything) hasn't been paid for by a federal grant. So now you have to buy everything twice and make sure you don't cross the streams.
Even if you get a $500,000 grant, anywhere up to 2/3 of that goes immediately to the university you work for for overhead. Aforementioned administrators, physical space, power, cooling, IT...hey, so let's talk about IT for a bit.
So each researcher thinks they're the best thing to ever hit the institution and the way they do things is right. Forget the fact that your IT staff has way more experience and would be happy to help you design whatever you need - they're idiots! So you go off and design your own system and have the grant pay for it, but you ten forget that you don't have any IT staff, so you have a few postdocs take care of it until you realize they're spending all their time working on that and not doing research, so you call up the CIO and yell at him for a while. An IT person shows up and starts identifying problems with your design and why didn't you consult him when you were writing the grant but that's not your concern. So now you're telling the researcher you need a blue Hadoop cluster and you need it right now otherwise you'll take your entire lab across country where their IT staff is apparently more organized than yours. So the IT guy is building the blue Hadoop cluster, burning through IT budget since the CIO promised you they'd take care of it. IT is now underfunded and can't afford the $3 million for a new storage array since every other researcher is doing the exact same thing. But now there's a bigger problem - you ran out of storage space! Where are you supposed to put the 75TB of data you just remembered you needed a postdoc to download? Those stupid IT guys, saying that storage is $.50/GB. I can go to Best Buy and get a 2TB drive for $100! Why can't they just use those drives?
Hmm...I seem to have gone off on a rant. Anyway, a former director described one location as "land of 1000 CIOs". In a way it's true since it's the researchers that are bringing in money, way more than the students. So the researchers generally get their way or else they'll take off elsewhere and take all that research money with them.
And where's my blue Hadoop?