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Albany Law School to fire tenured faculty based on merit evaluations?

[ 87 ] January 31, 2014 |

Updated Below

That seems to be at least a strong possibility, from a reading of the documents made available here, by the Albany Law School chapter of the AAUP (this chapter came into existence two months ago).

In his message [Chair of the Board of Trustees Daniel] Nolan stated that “relevant financial circumstances facing the School require a headcount reduction, including faculty.” Enclosed with his message were criteria — under the headings “teaching,” “scholarship,” and “service” — that Mr. Nolan said the administration had proposed to use “in considering faculty reductions.” . . . Faculty sources have further reported that [Dean Penny Andrews has] stated both privately and publicly that terminations of faculty appointments would be effected without regard to whether the appointments were non-tenure track, probationary for tenure, or tenured.

The chapter claims both that the school has not demonstrated that it is facing a bona fide financial emergency (“exigency” in the jargon of higher ed force reductions), or that any tenured faculty should be dismissed for incompetence.

This isn’t an area that I know much about, but I’m unclear what legal relevance, if any, these arguments have. As far as I’m aware Albany isn’t under any obligation to follow AAUP standards in these matters (The AAUP takes the position that tenure-track faculty and other permanent faculty should only be fired upon the showing of a genuine financial emergency that can’t be dealt with by other means, and that, in the case of such an emergency, untenured faculty should always be let go before any tenured faculty, who should only lose their jobs either for “incompetence,” or, in the case of a financial emergency, if firing all the untenured faculty isn’t enough.)

In this case the AAUP standards seem to be merely precatory, as lawyers say, which means that the only cost Albany incurs by ignoring them is reputational, assuming of course that the school follows whatever procedures it’s contractually obligated to follow when firing employees. (Update: A three year old version of the school’s faculty handbook says tenured faculty can be fired only for cause or financial exigency. See Appendix B at 14).

But that reputational cost could be quite considerable, if the school were to go so far as to fire tenure-track and especially tenured faculty because it’s in such severe financial straits (Ex post facto rationalizations that such people were fired as a result of “merit” evaluations are likely to ring hollow).

A school is likely to go to great lengths to avoid the bad publicity such a move would produce, by firing lower-level staff, offering buyouts to senior faculty, cutting faculty salaries, and taking every step short of the most radical possible interventions, which are, in ascending order of radicalism, firing tenure track faculty, opening a Holiday Inn Express where the library used to be, and not giving top administrators greater than COL raises this year.

So just how bad are things at Albany? Here’s a quick look at the school’s financial picture.

In FY2010 the school had an operating surplus of $3.3 million on total revenues of just under $35 million. (Salary and benefits for all employees made up 52.6% of operating expenses, which is actually on the low side for a law school — this figure is typically in the 60% to 70% range).

In FY2011 the school’s operating surplus increased to nearly $4.9 million, as revenues went up by 3% while employee compensation remained flat.

In FY2012, employee compensation actually declined by more than $600,000, and revenues exceeded expenses by $3.45 million.

As of July 2012, the school reported that it had $90.46 million in assets and $24.1 million in liabilities.

This does not look like much of a financial emergency, subject to a couple of caveats:

(1) July 2012 was 19 months ago, and things have been going very badly for law schools since then.

(2) Tuition revenue declined between FY2009 and FY2012, from $30.1 million to $28.8 million, and will probably be a million or two lower than that in FY2014. This is a function of declining enrollment. After a massive run up over the previous eight years, during which time it nearly doubled, tuition increased fairly modestly from $39,050 to $43,248 over this four-year stretch. More problematically, applications to the school fell in half over the last two years.

Year Applications Matriculants

2009: 2215, 255

2010: 2572, 236

2011: 2153, 235

2012: 1771, 196

2013: 1193, 187

The school has reduced the median LSAT of the entering class from 155 in 2009 (63.9 percentile) to 152 (52.2). It has not, apparently, increased its tuition discounting practices, as slightly less than two-thirds of each class continues to pay sticker price, while around one third of the class continues to get an average of 50% off sticker tuition.

Perhaps there’s more here than meets the eye, but I’ve looked at a lot of law school budgetary situations in the last few months, and Albany’s appears to be, if anything, healthier (relatively speaking of course) than average. So why is the school apparently on the verge of firing a bunch of faculty, including, perhaps, tenured faculty? Perhaps someone inside the school can shed more light on the situation (any communications will be treated in strict confidence).

Update: A comment from ichininosan has inspired me to to look more critically at Albany’s financials. It turns out the OP’s back of the envelope calculation understates the school’s current financial problems. Thanks in large part to Kent Syverud’s efforts, the ABA Section on Legal Education now provides much more transparent data on a number of matters, including law school enrollments. Looking at this data, it’s possible to calculate quite precisely how much nominal tuition (pre discounts) Albany is getting in FY2014 from full-time JD students, part-time students, and non-JD students. The answer is $25,148,712. But we must take into account that the school is likely to have around 50 fewer students this fall, as the “normal” sized entering class of 2011 is replaced with another small class (the fact that Albany’s dean and board are acting so aggressively indicates that applications are continuing their steep recent decline). Assuming the school raises tuition by $1,000 (the average over the past five years), Albany will be down another $1.6 million in gross tuition revenue. Thus tuition revenue (pre discounts) will have fallen from just under $29 million in FY2012 to around $23.5 million in FY2015. Indeed, in constant dollars tuition revenue will have fallen by 30% between FY2009 and FY2015 — and tuition revenue represents about 85% of the school’s operating revenue. That would seem, given its current overall budget, to put the school a couple of million dollars in the red, which is obviously a problem for a free-standing institution that doesn’t have a central administration to bail it out. And of course there’s no way of knowing if the decline in demand for law school admissions has hit bottom yet.

Comments (87)

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  1. NewishLawyer says:

    It often seems that market corrections start off by hurting those with the least amount of blame (but possibly a largely amount of naivete) and if not controlled or true market connections spiral upwards to people with higher degrees of culpability in the excess.
    Of course even when people with actual cupability suffer, they take the blameless with them.

    If Albany shuts down, there will be plenty of supportive staff who find themselves out of a job. Students from the last graduating classes with no where to go and an even more useless degree possibly, etc.

    Albany is an odd school by being pretty old but freestanding. The net tells me that they were founded in 1851. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson spent sometime as a student at Albany. In a more sane and less globalized world, Albany would have been able to be a good regional law school for upstate New York. Of course we don’t live in a sane world and it is all about rankings rankings rankings.

    One wonders how all this would have played out without the US News and World Report rankings. This is an impossible hypothetical of course.

    • Anonymous says:

      The issue with law schools is not really due to “rankings” but the huge oversupply of JDs. If JD “supply and demand” were balanced, rankings wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

      Note that US News and World Report also ranks MD programs. But I haven’t heard that lower tiered MD programs, to the extent that they exist, are in the same kind of dire straits as a lowly ranked JD program.

  2. Andrew says:

    I wonder if there is some fundamental problem or inaccuracy with Albany’s books that the administration and the trustees know about, but that the faculty and general public do not. Bookkeeping errors compounded year after year? Confidential settlements for threatened legal actions? Intentional fraud?

  3. maxx says:

    For some back and forth on what Albany’s financial condition actually is, see the comments on this post at The Faculty Lounge:

    http://www.thefacultylounge.org/2014/01/financial-exigency-at-albany-law-school.html#comments

  4. maxx says:

    Worth highlighting:

    “taking every step short of the most radical possible interventions, which are, in ascending order of radicalism, firing tenure track faculty, opening a Holiday Inn Express where the library used to be, and not giving top administrators greater than COL raises this year”

  5. Ken says:

    criteria – under the headings “teaching,” “scholarship,” and “service”

    So what are the criteria for evaluating administrators? Obviously not any of those three.

  6. BoredJD says:

    One problem is what you identified; the first ranked school to declare financial exigency and to fire TT or tenured faculty is going to take a huge hit in the “academic reputation” score (which otherwise would remain relatively stable YOY). That’s 25% of a USWNR ranking. Common wisdom says that the ranking drop will lead to lower quality students, which leads to a lower LSAT/GPA median, further depressing the rankings.

    • Barry says:

      ” Common wisdom says that the ranking drop will lead to lower quality students, which leads to a lower LSAT/GPA median, further depressing the rankings.”

      That’s not the problem; the problem is that they’d probably suffer a further loss of student numbers.

  7. Andrew says:

    Or more simply, they have half the students so they need half the professorate? Does law faculty actually demand to be paid to just sit around not teaching?

    • BoredJD says:

      You don’t understand.

      Law professors are the most awesomest bestest of lawyers. They are so smart that they don’t even HAVE to do legal work. They are just paid to sit around, think, go to conferences in Hawaii, teach a class occasionally, complain about teaching a class occasionally, and serve as a vital national resource for thinking about stuff. Forget everyone else, only the “law professor” can truly reflect on the institutions in our society. And of course, they are not free to do so unless they are being paid, courtesy of Uncle Sam, $200,000 per year (not including benefits).

      God forbid they have to enter legal practice.

      • maxx says:

        “what qualifies a person…to teach law is not experience in the work of a lawyer’s office…not experience in the trial or argument of cases…but experience in learning law”

        Christopher Columbus Langdell

        http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/09/making-the-case-html

        Today’s law school professors are Langdell’s heirs in every sense of the word.

      • Uncle Tom says:

        You don’t understand.

        OK, that was really entertaining.

      • facts please says:

        I think your rant may better describe law school deans and administrators!

        I highly doubt that a typical Albany law prof make anything like $200K or have the benefits you are fantasizing about. And I bet they long ago put their benefits on the table to keep from losing their jobs.

        • BoredJD says:

          Perhaps, but what little info we have suggests I’m pretty close to the truth. On page 33 of the Form 990, we can see some salaries from Albany:

          http://990s.foundationcenter.org/990_pdf_archive/141/141338309/141338309_201206_990.pdf

          Outgoing Dean Thomas Guernsey is the top earner. He made a cool $355K lat year. Sheldon Halpern, the VP, makes about $286K

          The rest of the highest paid employees are professors and all make over $220K (plus a “discretionary spending account”), in Albany, which isn’t exactly NYC or San Francisco in terms of COL.

          Of course there are far more than just six faculty members. Based on that chart, though, there’s definitely some room for them to eat less. And hey, they can all run off to the 55th floor of the SullCrom building on Broad Street like they’ve been threatening for years.

          • anon says:

            Yes, the Administrators at Albany Law school (the Deans and Associate Deans) have been making ridiculous bank! Guernsey, Bloom, etc… I wonder how much $ they threw at the new Dean Andrews and her associate dean!?? If they want to cut costs, they should start with administrators. A look at the ALS website suggests that most highly paid faculty have left the school as laterals or maybe buyouts.

            Salaries at Albany are not high at all, however. Entry level LRW earn around 40-60k a year; entry level tenure track earn less around $90-95k a year; and the average compensation of tenured faculty is right around $110k according the salary surveys produced by SALT.

            • BoredJD says:

              The school website verified that the remaining highly paid faculty on the list all still teach at ALS. And you should know that “LRW” teachers are not considered “faculty” in any real sense of the term, but are treated like adjunct faculty.

              One correction (my mistake): The VP is Victor Rauscher and makes 220K all-in, not Sheldon Halpern who appears to currently be a Professor Emiritus.

              • facts please says:

                No, all but one of the highly paid faculty members have left the law school or stepped down from their administrative positions. The dean presumably has a big salary though.

                • BoredJD says:

                  Did they not update the website then? I could find everyone except for one person on there.

                  Presumably those who have stepped down as Deans are still well-compensated or someone else has stepped up to fill the void.

                  That SALT survey everyone keeps harping on shows a “base salary” median of $133,000 for tenured faculty- not including several categories of non-base compensation, and a median summer stipend of $10,000 (boy do I wish I got paid extra to do my job during the summer!!!). I may not have been far off in my assessment of $200K, and there are certainly a certain number of faculty members making that amount or over. But please, let me here more about the partnerships all the professors are going to take.

          • ichininosan says:

            “And hey, they can all run off to the 55th floor of the SullCrom building on Broad Street like they’ve been threatening for years.”

            Good point. This could be a real boon doggle for S&C and the like. I mean why hire 26-year old single indebted-to-their-eyeballs HLS and CLS grads to bill 70-hour weeks, and spend countless allnighters performing due diligence, when you can hire a 55-year old professor of internattional law who is very accustomed to “working from home” most of the time. I pity the class of 2014 — the competition this year is going to be fierce!

    • Murc says:

      Or more simply, they have half the students so they need half the professorate?

      I would submit that, even after firing all their adjuncts, if they still find they can’t provide all of their tenured professors with students, the proper response is to halve the class sizes.

      I mean, that’s a win-win. The professors get to keep their jobs and the school provides a MASSIVE increase in the quality of the teaching done.

      In fact, if Albany is really running a surplus every year, they ought to look into reducing class size anyway, as a service to their students.

      • TWBB says:

        It’s not a win-win for the students, who will continue to pay exhorbitant tuition for possibly no benefit at all (small class sizes simply do not necessarily mean better).

        • Murc says:

          Statistically speaking, smaller class sized almost always mean better.

          If a college is running a financial surplus, and has exclusively tenured faculty on the payroll, then reducing class size is absolutely what it should be doing. Assuming the classes are already very, very small (say ten students per session) at that point you look into slashing tuition. It’s only if there is literally nothing for them to do, or genuine financial hardship, that you should start cutting your labor force.

          • TWBB says:

            No, it doesn’t. Lecturing to 10 people and lecturing to 20 people is not noticeably better. Actually, with 20 people you are more likely to get a wider variety of questions, which can enhance the class period.

            Law school classes used to be far larger than they are now, but I haven’t met anyone arguing that law students today receive better training than they did 30 years ago.

            • Barry says:

              “No, it doesn’t. Lecturing to 10 people and lecturing to 20 people is not noticeably better.”

              I might agree, but what do 20 student class sizes have to do with law school?

              • TWBB says:

                Meant to say lecturing to 10 people is not automatically better than lecturing to 20 people.

                • Nathanael says:

                  If the teacher is remotely competent, yes, lecturing to 10 people is automatically better than lecturing to 20 people.

                  You are more able to answer all the students’ questions if there are fewer students.

            • ChrisTS says:

              Do they do nothing but lecture in law schools?

              Even if that is true (which would be sad), the fewer papers one has to grade,the more one can give to responding to each piece of work. And that is better for students.

              • kindasorta says:

                Smaller seminars would offer the value you described, but the majority of classes in law school are graded on the basis of one issue-spotting exam at the end of the semester.

          • Ahuitzotl says:

            Statistical fallacy – schools with smaller class sizes tend to get better results, but not because of the smaller class sizes, but because the attitude that makes them want small class sizes is reflected in more money for equipment, better salaries and more attention to teaching quality, etc. Simply taking a poorly performing school and shrinking its class size does not improve learning or performance, it’s been tried. Too often.

  8. Nobdy says:

    If the school is financially healthy why does it want to fire faculty? It seems like quiet nips and tucks (Senior faculty buy outs, suggestions to tenure track faculty that they probably won’t be receiving tenure and should look elsewhere) could shore up the financials without plastering “Albany Law School in Dire Straights” all over the web. Won’t that cause an even greater drop in enrollment? I would imagine announcing that the ship is sinking is something you only do in desperate times when you’re running something like a law school where customers have interest in the health and long term future of your organization. Nobody wants to get an education from a sinking ship. You want a strong alum network and a vital respected name to throw out there during your career.

  9. Eli Rabett says:

    All depend on what the faculty handbook says.

  10. Burt Harbinson says:

    Could this be just the latest shoe to fall in the concentration of wealth at the expense of those not quite at the top of the pyramid? Just like at many firms, partners being cut out, associates being asked to bill more at lower compensation, while PPP reaches new records.

    • BoredJD says:

      Of course.

      These guys left legal practice but took the sense of entitlement with them. God forbid they sacrifice their research stipends or conference reimbursements to save some administrative assistant’s job.

  11. Jameson Quinn says:

    This is my announcement 3 of 5 that, if you live in the Boston/Cambridge area, I’d like to invite you to a housewarming/welcome-my-wife-to-the-US party in a few weeks. If interested, please email me, firstname dot lastname at gmail. I might also contact you for future regional LGM meetup purposes, not more than once a year. I’ve gotten one response so far; I’d be happy with 3 or 4.

  12. ichininosan says:

    The Form 990 that Albany filed for the fiscal year ending in June 2012, suggests that Albany was earning about $39,700 per student. Comparing the incoming 2012 class to the outgoing 2009 class, you have a loss of 59 students. That’s 2.34 million. So the 3.45 million in profit reported as of the end of June 2012 was probably about 1.1 million at the end of June 2013 (all else being equal). Comparing the incoming 2013 class to the outgoing 2010 class, Albany had a loss of 49 additional students (1.95 million more in lost revenue), which would appear to put Albany about $850K into the red for the current fiscal year. Assuming a class size of 175 next fall Albany will lose another 60 students over the 2011 class. At that point, they would be losing about $3 million per year.

    If you look at the balance sheet, they had $1.6 million in cash at the end of June 2012 and another $5 million in savings and temporary cash investments. Clearly these would dry up pretty quickly in the current environment. There is an additional $48 million in publicly traded securities, but it appears the school is choosing to right-size the cost side of the ledger rather than draw down it’s assets. This is what any business would do.

    • williamockham says:

      Good to see a data based comment.

    • Dr. ???????? says:

      Do you think all the discounts and scholarships to bring in the students year after year plays a part in the future stability of their financial reserves? In this current application climate, the competition for future students must be fierce, because other law schools have the same financial reserves, but also intangible factors like, prestige, part of a main college system, in a “hot job market” in a regional sense, their specialty rankings, etc. to entice the same small applicant pool with Albany’s???

      Perhaps , a realization now that maybe all those $colarships and Discounts that are recouped or backed by their cash reserves are slowly reaching a point of being unsustainable year after year?

      This is also focuses on the contingency that future enrollment will not allow the institution to regain any further revenue, since enrollment continues to decline.

    • Happy Alum says:

      Where are the most recent financial statements? I would imagine that the strength of the stock market in the last year will have had a positive effect on current finances. However, I’m not disagreeing that lower enrollment puts pressure on stand-alone law schools like Albany Law. However, being a stand-alone school provides some real opportunities for smart and strategic planning – would it be a novel idea to include the faculty in such planning? It’s also important to know that the law school has also had a significant reduction in faculty over the last two years- more than 20%. This was at precisely the same time that applications have declined (by 20+ percent). Also, right-sizing the cost side of the ledger rather than drawing down its assets is certainly one way to deal with the situation. But it doesn’t seem like the most sensible way if it requires breaking the law to do it (i.e. breaching contractual promises).

      • facts please says:

        To repeat: over 20% of the faculty have left during the last two years and were not replaced. So the number of faculty has already been downsized by attrition to numbers that approximate the drop in student enrollment over the same period. So why the threats to fire further faculty? Obviously has nothing to do with financial planning.

        • Correlation? says:

          Is there some reason to think that the 20% who departed were teaching a correlated number of students each year? For example, one of the departures was Sheldon Halpern, who according to the ALS website only taught Copyright, Trademark, and Defamation. Those aren’t exactly 1L 100 person lecture hall type classes.

    • anon says:

      The most recent financial documents (not reflected on the 2011 990 form) actually demonstrate that Albany Law was well in the black for the current fiscal year (despite the dip in enrollment). The school also enjoys significant unrestricted funds (over $20 mil it seems) that reflect an average yearly surplus of over $3 mil every year for at least the last decade, in addition to a healthy endowment. As campos and others earlier stated, its hard to see a true fiscal exigency currently.

      Additionally, as others have noted, ABA and AALS regs require schools to consider alternative cost-cutting measures before disregarding tenure in the name of exigency. It seems the faculty and staff have offered to make various concessions, but were rebuffed by the admin.

      It is also unclear what Albany’s enrollment will look like next year (just as its hard to predict enrollment at most other non T-10 law schools). Applications are probably down, but it seems possible that enrollment could remain stable given that the Dean for some crazy reason decided to not take a single student off the waitlist last year. If the Dean corrects her error and moves to the waitlist for the upcoming year (as every school does), 180-190 seems reasonable.

      In any event, the Board has not declared a financial exigency, and I seriously doubt they will (given the numbers, given the impact on reputation (campos) and enrollment). This leak was probably an un-artful attempt by the Board to force faculty to accept buyouts and elimination of benefits, travel funds, retirement, health care, etc…

      I have spoken to many Albany faculty, staff and alums that are very unhappy with what they see to be mismanagement of the school by the current administration. Apparently the Dean has run through two executive assistants in less than two years (they quit bc they were unable to work with her and couldn’t take the hostile work environment), and even the long-standing associate dean stepped down for similar reasons. I’m frankly surprised there hasn’t been a no-confidence vote re the dean yet (or perhaps there has, but its being kept silent?). Amongst the alums I know well, there is an urgent desire for the dean to step down soon. Whether that will happen, I have no idea.

  13. mch says:

    Do not trust Albany. Well, that’s a safe statement in any context. But now I’m speaking as a humanities onlooker to their cuts to foreign language faculty a few years back. Something continuously afoot here, it seems.

    You’d a thunk that the capitol of NY should have plenty of uses for lawyers, however depressed “the market.” Was gibt?

    • Jaundyced V. Jaundyced says:

      Different school. Foreign language cuts happened at SUNY Albany. Albany law is private, a lonely law school vaguely affiliated with Union U.

    • Barry says:

      “You’d a thunk that the capitol of NY should have plenty of uses for lawyers, however depressed “the market.” Was gibt?”

      Yes, but law schools have been putting out 2x the number needed for many years now.

  14. Jon says:

    I will go out on a limb and say, there’s no way the decline in apps has hit bottom. The word on the law school scam took so long to get out there, is still probably getting out there, and will take a long time to recede if there is ever justification for that. It’s sort of analogous to the housing market vis a vis the rest of the economy–a trailing indicator.

  15. Dormouse says:

    Nice how you got the story from Faculty Lounge but did not link or credit that post. By which of course I mean NOT nice.

    • Andrew says:

      That’s kind of a bizarre claim, considering he didn’t directly take anything from the Faculty Lounge post. His attention may have first been brought to the AUUP page by the faculty lounge post but there is no moral or ethical obligation to give credit for that. It would be kind of silly and clumsy to do so.

  16. BoredJD says:

    Albany would be a good experiment as a regional school, costing about $10,000-$12,000 per year, and with maybe 100 students per class. No frills, no aggrandizement, no USNWR. Many other law schools should be the same.

    We just don’t have law schools like that in the United States anymore. And I honestly think that the professors and deans would rather torpedo the institution than accept the kind of tuition levels it would take for the school to make sense for the needs of the students and the local bar.

    Of course I’m probably just trying to bring back Jim Crow.

  17. anon says:

    There is simply no fiscal exigency at Albany law school, based on their own public records and the conclusions of a financial expert- whose findings apparently mirror those made by faculty budget committee there. This seems to be a stunt by the Admin and Board to scare the faculty into either allowing themselves to get fired without a fight or to offer buyouts to senior faculty. If anythings (look at some of the comments on the other law school blogs) it looks like Albany Law is trying to artificially create a crisis inorder to fire faculty it dislikes or has contrary political opinions.

    The bigger problem seems to be the Dean and administration. Im a practicing attorney in Albany (though not an alum), and even I have heard a number of unfortunate stories about the Dean’s incompetence and mishandling of the school. I think the Dean forgot to take students off the waitlist last year by accident, costly the school millions! The common theme Ive heard is that the Dean has completely alienated the faculty, walks out on faculty meetings while they are ongoing, has already illegally fired one faculty member for personal animus, screams and berates staff and faculty, and has disrespected more than one donor (which is probably why the Dean hasnt herself brought in a single donor dollar yet!!). It seems like the school should rethink its management altogether, rather than taking drastic actions (which are likely contrary to NY employment law) at the cost of the educational program.

    • BoredJD says:

      Yes! Let’s absolutely not try to keep class sizes more in line with the job prospects in the Capital Region. Instead, we should flood the market with even more people making a $227,000 investment in our school so the faculty can keep their 200K salaries!

      Face it. The faculty are the Republican Party. No solutions, no vision, just “we’ve got ours, the rest of you can sort out the mess.”

    • williamockham says:

      Being 3,000 miles away I have no idea whether Albany’s proposed faculty contraction is “contrary to NY employment law.” But to the degree it is, it locks the law school into a death spiral. Perhaps not a good idea.

    • anon says:

      Your “inside” info is totally wrong. BTW, you are really OK with taking 40 more students whose job prospects with diminished credentials are not good?

  18. Happy Alum says:

    I’ve been following what’s been happening at the law school since the Dean took over. I am an alum and I truly loved my experience at the law school. I would recommend it to anyone. My professors were great and supported me through some difficult times. No one talks about the staff, but I have to say they were professional and helpful too. The Administration was fine, though not particularly receptive to student concerns while I was there. But I happen to know (because I’ve always been interested in these things) that the faculty makes no where near 200K on average (The Society of American law Teachers collects annual salary averages for law schools). Although there is no financial exigency, my understanding is that the faculty recognizes that enrollments will be reduced and has offered the following: salary cuts, elimination of research/travel stipends; reduction in health and retirement benefits and hiring freezes. There are also impending retirements and buyouts. But it appears that none of the faculty’s suggestions have been seriously considered by the Board and Dean. Instead, faculty and staff reductions are the ONLY thing that has been promised. Now consider this, after the Dean announced in the “Business Review” that the faculty would be reduced (without telling the faculty first, I believe), she hired two of her friends to teach as full visiting professors! In other words, if the law school was in such a dire economic situation, then perhaps it should consider one of the most obvious first steps- instituting a hiring freeze. I think Albany Law School is a fine institution. It is the faculty, the curriculum, the location, the clinic, the internship opportunities, the alums, the wonderful staff and great students who make it great. There will be another Dean and new leadership at the Board (the sooner the better), so I have hope for the institution. Under different leadership, I’m sure the law school will rise to meet the challenges it faces (challenges that other law schools are going through too, but that are not resorting to breaching contracts to fire faculty members). Employment law DOES frown upon breaches of employment contracts. For educational institutions, financial exigency is a reason for firing and so is “cause.” If the law school is relying on poor finances to justify firings, then it should be ashamed of itself for not coming up with better solutions. Other schools are in far worse financial condition and are not threatening to fire faculty members.

    • RecentGrad says:

      This post reeks of current, self-centered faculty member.

      And enlighten me – what internship opportunities do you speak of? The ones in state government that don’t lead to full-time, paid employment?

  19. ChrisI says:

    Amusing to read some of the comments at the Faculty Lounge. Why is the Dean talking about talking about semi-drastic action when everything is basically sound? She’s stressing the faculty, poor dears. Why doesn’t she just call some meetings and form some committees and let everyone slowly come to some agreement?

    What about the fact they are a second-rate college charging over $40k per year to churn out students into the most dismal legal market probably ever?

  20. Danny says:

    given the train wreck that is already occurring, i can see why Campos said he didn’t want to deal with the shit that would occur had he chosen to accept an offer to be Dean at some random LS.

  21. williamockham says:

    According to the Matt Leichter entry 4-13-2013 in The Law School Tuition Bubble,in 2010 Albany all but ceased to make full tuition scholarships. This must decimate the enrollment of the students that used to make up the top of the Albany Law class.

  22. BoredJD says:

    One problem I see with these faculty-dean spats (SLU Law is one good example) is that the faculty never actually puts forward a new vision for the school. What is the faculty doing, prospectively, to deal with the fact that Albany just doesn’t make any sense in its current form? How would they structure the law school going forward? The fact that they don’t do this makes me think (maybe wrongly) that they have failed to recognize there is even a problem with the cost of the education and the poor job prospects for students.

    Perhaps the alums posting ITT can give us more information on whether the faculty have held Town Halls, meetings with students or recent alumni, or have developed their own plan for what a much reduced school would look like. Otherwise it just looks like two groups of power players scrabbling over the who gets the last piece of pie.

    • ChrisI says:

      My point exactly. Just read some of the comments at Faculty Lounge, e.g. “Willy Wonka”. It seems the faculty and their supporters are isolated from reality. The reality is they are saddling their graduates with debt completely out of proportion to their employment prospects. As someone suggested above, they should probably be charging $10k p/a. Not $40K+.

      Unfortunately though the dean’s motives are extremely suspect.

    • facts please says:

      The faculty has been doing all that, trying to plan positively for the new environment DESPITE the relentless negative pressures from the Board and Dean. The faculty does not pretend that legal education can be business as usual. But nor do they believe that reckless, unnecessary downsizing is an end unto itself and a panacea for all that ails legal education. And downsizing by normal attrition has already occurred–20% fewer faculty now than just two years ago, and more departures to come. Breaking contracts, firing tenured faculty, and trashing academic freedom (along with the law school’s reputation) are just not warranted.

    • RecentGrad says:

      With very few exceptions, the faculty has shown zero interest in holding town hall meetings, meetings with students or other alumni.

  23. kindasorta says:

    I apparently can’t get my comments to show up at TFL. Must have pissed on Dan Filler’s shoes one time too many.

    One of the commenters on the thread had this to say:

    “That said, I have heard from a reliable source at Albany that Dean Andrews arbitrarily decided –without faculty knowledge- to not take a single student off the waitlist last year- despite the fact that taking 40 or so additional students from the waitlist would not have changed their median LSAT or uGPA numbers! Apparently the Dean is attempting to artificially shrink the size of the law school by any means necessary. Dean Andrews even stated in a Business Review article last year that the incoming class would only have 130 students (even though they actually fielded a strong class of 187 without taking anyone off the waitlist last year).”

    To this commenter, admitting “40 or so” additional students could not have been bad because it would not have affected their U.S. News ranking, and in fact, the dean was wrong not to have consulted the faculty before leaving these perfectly serviceable federal student loan conduits capable prospective 1Ls on the waitlist. Since Albany Law fell from #112 in 2011 to #132 in 2012 as U.S. News began numbering the third tier, I’m not sure how true this is, but I’ll give the commenter the benefit of the doubt.

    Even if this commenter is right about U.S. News, the problem is that there are more relevant sources of information on which prospective students are basing their decisions, like Law School Transparency. Only 130 of 236 Albany Law graduates in 2011 were known to have found full-time/bar-required work; 38 were unemployed. Only 55 of the 130 reported a salary, with the 25th percentile at $47,000 and the 75th at $71,000; the total cost of attendance is estimated at $225,000. If I were dean of Albany Law, I’d be much more concerned with my unemployment numbers in three years than my academic ranking at U.S. News, because (a) my school is already considered an also-ran by U.S. News and (b) my employment numbers are going to receive much more scrutiny from prospective students anyway. Why would I take a chance on making my employed-at-9-months and salary numbers look even worse because I took on an entering class with no chance of matching previous years’ employment outcomes?

  24. Happy Alum says:

    I think a lot of the anger directed at law schools is warranted. But I think Albany Law is a bit different. It’s a small regional school with a pretty small faculty and comparatively lower faculty salaries. The Dean sets the tuition in consultation with the Board of Trustees. I don’t think the faculty has anything to do with it. And I know that some professors at Albany Law have been asking for tuition reductions for years.

    As I understand it, the Dean has prevented the faculty from doing exactly the types of things that it should be doing – i.e. the Dean came up with her own ad hoc parallel committee that took away the ability of the faculty to contribute to the law school’s strategic plan. The stuff in Willy Wonka’s post corresponds to what I’ve been hearing from some other alums and practicing attorneys in Albany.

  25. AlbanyLawyer says:

    I wonder if the new Dean who seems to be disliked by the majority of the faculty is looking to get rid of a few dissenters so that the rest of them are afraid to question her….

    • Wut says:

      Oh, look, another butt-hurt faculty member.

      Clearly the faculty members are in the right here, with suggestions like lower admissions standards (?), correct?

      • Nathanael says:

        Looks like the faculty are correct. Apparently you trust administrators blindly? Administrators who *hire their friends as visiting professors* while claiming that they have to fire tenured faculty?

        • Correlation? says:

          You know, I heard the rumor about the new dean at ALS hiring her friends as visiting professors too, but I can’t see any evidence from the website that it actually happened. Can you provide a source for that allegation?

  26. [...] ranking leads to a “vicious circle” that, if left unattended, can result what some fear to be a “death spiral.”  Buying better students is one attempt to move from a vicious circle to a virtuous [...]

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