Law Professors, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Women's Issues

Professor Sues Law School Over Pay Inequality, But In Fairness Her Dean Is Notoriously Bad At Math

So yesterday, I argued that professors should be paid less, and today it’s going to look like I’m arguing that professors should be paid more, and that’s going to strike some of you as hypocritical. But mainly, the people who think that are going to be knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who don’t like reading, women, and especially women who read. So I’m going to press on.

We’ve got an interesting EEOC lawsuit today filed by a female professor against her law school. She’s the lowest paid full-time professor on her faculty, and claims that the mean salary for full-time female professors is $15,859 a year less than for male professors. And she says that when she brought this matter to the attention of the dean and asked him what he was was going to do about it, he said “nothing.”

But it just so happens that this dean has a history of ignoring math, and pretending that statistics mean whatever he wants them to mean…

The law school being sued is the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. The suit is brought by Lucy Marsh, a law professor there who happens to be the lowest paid member of the Sturm faculty. From the Denver Post:

“What I hope comes out of this is not just fair compensation to professor Marsh and to fix the system, but hopefully there will be lessons learned that other universities, law schools and employers can look at and say, ‘This is something that we can look at, to make sure the women are not paid less for equal work,’ ” said Jennifer Reisch, one of Marsh’s lawyers and legal director of Equal Rights Advocates, a national civil rights organization.

According to the Tuesday filing, the charge of discrimination arises from the “stark inequality between the salaries of male and female full professors” at Sturm College of Law. According to the filing, Marsh is the lowest paid professor, earning $109,000 per year, compared with the median full-professor salary of $149,000.

“Professor Marsh believes that she and other female professors at the law school were discriminated against with respect to compensation because of their gender and were paid less than men performing substantially equal work under similar conditions in the same establishment,” the filing says.

I’d like to think the usual sexist arguments made against women receiving equal pay won’t really apply in the law school context. The “but they have babies!” crap isn’t a real impediment in a world where people regularly take sabbaticals for all sorts of reasons. It should go without saying that having a penis doesn’t make you a better lecturer or teacher or academic. And even if we assume a disproportionate share of domestic activity is shouldered by female professors over their male counterparts, I don’t think anybody can make a credible argument that this alone justifies such a large pay discrepancy when the professional performance we’re talking about is teaching a few credit hours, a few months a year, and writing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the people who never see sexism anywhere will manage to not see it here too. Blinders are worn for a reason. I’m just saying that as sexism in pay goes, it doesn’t really get more textbook than this.

All of which was apparently lost on Sturm Law Dean Martin Katz. Katz, who is actually an employment lawyer, doesn’t see anything wrong with his school’s approach to faculty pay:

Although Marsh had detailed her concerns and asked for specific data on faculty salaries in an e-mail to Katz before that meeting, documents filed with the EEOC say Katz “was unwilling to give Prof. Marsh much of the information she requested, did not know her starting salary or her DU target salary, and presented incorrect information regarding (her) start date and publications.”

He did, however, tell her that she was the lowest paid professor on the faculty.

Marsh’s current salary is $109,000. Katz said her competitive target salary is $181,000.

“I was very, very surprised,” Marsh said. “At the end of the meeting, I asked what he was going to do about it, and he said, ‘nothing.’ “

Unfortunately, we’ve had to deal with Katz’s breezy relationship with numbers and reality before. Earlier this year, he authored one of the single worst “defenses” of going to law school I’ve ever heard, wherein he argued that somehow working for 40 years to double one’s investment in law school was a good rate of return.

Clearly, Katz isn’t a guy who makes decisions because “it’s the right thing to do.” He is happy to sell prospective students a load of malarkey; I don’t see why female professors would expect any better.

Which brings us to the tricky problem of what the solution to Marsh’s problems should be. Can you just imagine the horrifying email from Katz should Marsh prevail?

“Due to the Court’s decision forcing us to treat vaginal Americans as equals, I’m sorry to announce that tuition is going up by 1,400% for the coming academic year. Also, the following ten men and one lady-person are no longer mere ‘law professors’ but are now ‘Special Awesome Thought Captains’ and their salaries have been adjusted accordingly.”

While female faculty at Sturm are suffering a textbook injustice, so too are the students who are already paying $49,912 in tuition, fees, and living expenses to go to the law school. Correcting an imbalance in women’s compensation by further price gouging students hardly seems like the fair way forward.

And yet, something tells me that the male full-time professors aren’t going to take a pay cut in order to bring their salaries more in line with their female colleagues.

My solution, of course, would be to fire as many professors as possible, make those that remain teach more classes, and redistribute the salaries of the fallen to those suffering unequal treatment. I’d bring freaking Donner party values back to the Rockies, and save the women and children first.

But that’s just a quick and temporary fix. I think what’s more obvious is that the whole system needs to be reformed.

DU professor files gender-based wage-bias case against law school [Denver Post]

Earlier: Really Weak Arguments For Going To Law School: The Small Law School Edition

(hidden for your protection)

comments sponsored by

Show all comments