Two weeks ago, Florida Coastal School of Law issued a press release:
Florida Coastal School of Law has laid off about a dozen employees.
The job cuts are across the board in the support staff services areas for the law school on Jacksonville’s Southside off Baymeadows Road, said Brooks Terry, communication director for the school. He said Tuesday that most of the job cuts are reflective of a drop in enrollment for fall classes at the small campus, which has about 1,300 students.
He said he didn’t have specific numbers.
In addition to staff cuts, Terry said there is some natural attrition of a limited number of faculty members voluntarily leaving who will not be replaced. But he stressed no faculty members were laid off in the process.
Shortly afterwards I got a phone call from FCSL faculty member, who told me that he/she had just been fired. When a Wall Street Journal reporter called me a few days later to discuss law school faculty layoffs, I suggested the reporter contact Florida Coastal. The school’s administration told the reporter there had been no involuntary attrition of faculty, and FCSL wasn’t mentioned in the WSJ story earlier this week on shrinking law school faculties.
After I talked to the WSJ, I got the following message from another FCSL professor:
It’s a complete sham what’s happening. They’ve gotten rid of 20% of the faculty by putting a gun to their head, including seven of the original faculty members of the school. [FCSL was founded in 1996]. They’ve gotten rid of anybody with institutional knowledge. 14 faculty members were let go last week with less than a week’s notice. They’ve also gotten rid of the younger faculty members who dared to speak out and questioned some of the school’s practices. There’s been no natural attrition, except perhaps in one or two cases.
I’ve tried to get the school’s president and a couple of its faculty members to respond to these assertions, without success. (The faculty page on the school’s web site does not indicate that a bunch of people have been fired, as the roster is with one exception identical to what it was two months ago. This is not terribly meaningful, however, as the page currently includes two people who have told me directly they are no longer on the faculty — one who says he/she was fired two weeks ago, and another who says he/she left voluntarily at the end of June).
Florida Coastal is a for-profit school (six of the ABA’s 202 accredited law schools are for-profit), and enrollment has been plunging. First year enrollment declined from a staggering 808 in 2010 to 570 last fall. In addition no less than 114 of the school’s 671 2011 1Ls transferred to other law schools last summer, while 84 others flunked out. (I suspect that the good folks at Sterling Partners, which owns FCSL, view academic attrition as similar to kicking willing buyers off a car lot. See the press release below for evidence that someone is trying to put a stop to such an obviously counterproductive business strategy).
This morning the school issued a press release, announcing that it was accepting applications from people who just got their June LSAT score for next month’s entering class, and publicizing the school’s new “Assured Outcomes Partnership.”
Students who follow the program, but are academically dismissed after their first year will receive a $10,000 tuition refund from the school. Likewise, Assured Outcomes students who do not pass the bar exam the first time, despite adhering to the terms, will receive a living stipend while preparing for the next exam administration and supplemental bar exam preparation materials at no cost. After a second unsuccessful bar exam attempt, eligible students will receive $10,000 from the school.
Perhaps the ABA will look into the question of whether the school is lying to the media in order to keep its incoming class from being limited to people who are expecting deposits into their bank accounts from the widows of Nigerian generals.
Update: I just received this in the form of an email (it’s also posted as a comment):
Professor Campos, my name is Chidi Ogene and I am the Dean of Florida Coastal School of Law. I am surprised to read that you contacted members of the administration, both because I did not receive any email from you and also because I was the person to speak with the Wall Street Journal reporter. You accused us of “lying to the media,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Some of our faculty members have indicated their interest in resigning, retiring or continuing in a different role with the school. However, because of the confidential nature of our discussions, we are not able to discuss this in any more detail or otherwise respond to rumors. If any of our students have questions regarding this matter, I strongly encourage them to contact the administration directly.
We understand the lurid fascination with the existential crisis law schools supposedly are experiencing. Your disappointment that our school is not, despite your best efforts, included on a law school “death watch” is palpable. But it is not our job to indulge your morbid concern with us. We’d much rather focus on our continued successes in practical, experiential education, such as our moot court victories and our innovative curriculum redesign. That is the real story of our school, and we are both proud of our legacy and excited about our future. Finally, as a proud Nigerian-American, I take great exception to the last line of your post. One would hope that, as a trained lawyer, you would be loath to traffic in broad caricatures and stereotypes.
First, Interim Dean Ogene ought to insist that his school’s web site be updated to reflect his ascension (?) last month from his position as General Counsel of Infilaw (the company owned by Sterling Partners that also owns Phoenix and Charlotte, two other for-profit law schools). I contacted the president of the school and two other senior administrators. I would of course have contacted him if I had been aware of his existence.
As for the dean’s specific complaints, I leave it to readers to decide for themselves whether it seems at all plausible that “some” (how many? — my guess is 20%) of the school’s faculty have developed a sudden spontaneous interest in resigning, retiring, or otherwise altering their relationship with the school in a way that will prove less burdensome to what to all indications appears to be a severely strained budget.
I would like to apologize to 419 scammers for associating them with Infilaw, however.
(Any current or former FCSL employee who would like to contact me can do so at email@example.com. All communications will be treated in strict confidence).