George Fletcher is a famous — or “famous” — professor of criminal law at Columbia. He’s been on the Columbia faculty for 34 years. He started teaching at UCLA in 1969. Fletcher is 78 years old. 12 years ago, he entered into an arrangement with the CLS administration whereby he would teach his full required course load (nine or ten credits, i.e., three classes) in the fall semester, thus allowing him to retain his full-time appointment while only spending four months per calendar year in Morningside Heights and environs. (Apparently he spends each spring now at various academic institutions in Israel).
This sounds like a pretty sweet deal, especially since Fletcher is probably getting paid something like $400,000+ per year. CLS salaries aren’t public, but UC-Berkeley’s — a comparable law school — are. The available data are two years out of date now so you can probably slap 5% to 10% on these numbers: The average salary for tenure-track law faculty at the school in 2015 was $317K. Eight senior professors were making more than $400K, topping out at $472K. (For any law professors who may be reading this, it may help your eyebrows descend slightly to learn that this salary number includes all direct compensation, including summer research grants. For any non-law professors who may be reading this, law professors get paid extra money to spend their summers, at least in theory, doing research and writing. I kid you not).
Anyhow, Fletcher is suing CLS for age discrimination. The complaint is here. What has upset Fletcher is that his new boss —
the first woman to be dean of that august institution (edit: Gillian Lester is the second woman to be CLS’s dean, thanks to an anonymous commenter for the correction) — has told him that that administration wants him to stop teaching a required three-week introductory course for foreign students, for which he gets two teaching credits, and to replace it with an elective upper level course. Fletcher doesn’t want to do this because in recent years some of his elective courses have had to be cancelled because of insufficient enrollment, and, when this this has happened, the school has let him make up the lost teaching credits by advising individual students during formal office hours. The new dean isn’t willing to promise that she’ll continue this policy. From Fletcher’s complaint:
34. Columbia declined that proposal, stating that Fletcher would have to substitute IAL [the three-week intro course for foreign LLM students] with an upper year elective which, again, would place him at risk of having his course under-enrolled and ultimately cancelled. Lester also wrote to Fletcher that if that “option is not acceptable to you, we will have to revisit the arrangement whereby you load all of your teaching into one semester, or we will need to discuss moving to a fractional appointment.”