Home / General / How I Won My Lawsuit Against the University of Colorado — Part III

How I Won My Lawsuit Against the University of Colorado — Part III

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This is Part III of a three-part post.  Parts I and II are here and here.

NO MORE MR. NICE GUY

This edifying little tale is too long already, but I can’t end it without noting the single most important cause of this whole conflict –  a factor even more critical to it than Pierre Schlag’s personal pettiness and Lolita Buckner Inniss’s flagrant incompetence.

Whatever roles ethnic and gender discrimination played in this lawsuit, something else certainly played a key part: The fact that, for more than a decade now, I’ve been a severe critic of the financial structure of legal education in this country, and — purely internally until this lawsuit – the finances of my own law school in particular.

The biggest single reason Schlag, Inniss, and a bunch of other people on my own and other law school faculties hate me is that I’ve pointed out what an ethically and economically indefensible mess law school financing has become at so many American universities.

The University of Colorado is Exhibit A in this matter, although up until this lawsuit I had been polite enough to avoid emphasizing that in public. 

CU Law School’s budget is the fiscal equivalent of a flaming dumpster, that illustrates everything that’s wrong with the absurd idea that the other departments at research universities should subsidize their law schools’ reckless spending habits.  Recently Erik wrote about the claim that every school or department within a research university should be required to cover its own operating expenses, without cross-subsidization from other schools and departments.  As he noted, that’s a terrible idea, because some departments that a research university absolutely needs to have in order to provide their students with a comprehensive liberal arts education can’t be reasonably expected to pay all of their own bills. 

But if one accepts this, something else follows: Other departments do have to pay their own bills, while also collectively generating enough of an operating surplus to cover the operating deficits in those schools and departments that can’t reasonably be expected to cover their own costs.

Now an idea that makes no sense for all sorts of reasons is that a university’s law school should be among those appropriately subsidized departments.  Yet at the University of Colorado, the fiscal reality is that the History department, and the English department, and the Political Science department, and the Psychology department, and the Sociology department, etc. – in sum, all the departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, which generates massive operating surpluses, despite being home to all those “useless” [sic] liberal arts majors – are currently paying for, per the university’s own calculations, more than half of the law school’s operating expenses!

This extraordinary situation is a product of, primarily, two factors:

  • In a vain — in both senses of the word — attempt to protect its precious US News ranking (the law school’s current ranking is the lowest it has ever been in the 30 years that those rankings have existed) the law school has drastically cut effective tuition over the past dozen years, with the result that, in real dollars, tuition revenue fell from $21.7 million in 2011-12 to $11.07 million in 2023-24: a decline of almost 50%.
  • Meanwhile, the size of the full-time law school faculty has exploded, growing from 46 20 years ago to a projected total of 70 this coming fall.  (The student body has increased in size by about 10% over this time).

I know lawyers are famously bad at math, but if tuition revenue falls by 50%, while the size of the law school’s biggest operating cost grows by 50%, that leads by some process not yet fully understood by Science to a situation in which more than 50% of the school’s operating revenues have to come from somewhere else, specifically from our central administration sugar daddy, which must extract all that additional revenue from the long-suffering College of Arts and Sciences.

Speaking of which, I’ve learned from working on a university-wide committee that plenty of departments in the College haven’t been allowed by the central administration to make a new tenure track faculty member in years.  One particularly profitable department has gone five years without a new tenure track hire, and has been told that they should plan to make exactly one new hire between now and 2028.  Meanwhile, the law school has made thirteen new tenure track hires over the past eighteen months (The law school is home to 1.4% of the campus’s students).

Lawyers are famously good at coming up with shall we say creative arguments, but all my creativity does not begin to allow me to come up with some plausible rationale for any of this.

Indeed, at this point in my career, my fondest professional hope – aside from a desire to see the current attempted fascist takeover of the American university fail – is that whoever succeeds the outgoing Chancellor and Provost at CU Boulder will hire someone as the next dean of the law school who will be brought in to clean up this thoroughly disgraceful mess (I can think of one particularly well-qualified candidate for the job, though modesty forbids me from naming him).

And that, for now, is all I have to say about that.

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