Law Professors, Law School Deans, Law Schools, Layoffs

Administration And Professors Sling Mud As School Sheds Tenured Faculty

Nothing brings out the knives more than losing jobs, and as a law school looks to send tenured faculty packing, the knives have come out in force.

A trustee defending the dean ripped the faculty using words like “smear campaign” and “mudslinging.” A professor countered saying the dean’s “leadership style is creating fear, a hostile work environment.” Well, looks like these kids are getting along swimmingly. This is what we have to look forward to all over the country as the law school bubble bursts and topples law schools all over.

In the meantime, let’s enjoy the public backbiting of Bravo’s new series, The Real Law Professors of…

Albany Law.[1] We first got wind of laying off tenured professors back in February. Even then, the two sides were clashing, with the administration blaming the move on financial difficulties. The faculty, having that pesky inquisitive spirit that academics often sport, decided to dig into Albany Law’s public financial statements to challenge that claim. The independent accountant they brought in reviewed the documents and found the school in “very strong financial condition.” At this point, the professors started chirping up that the financial emergency was a pretext devised to allow the Board of Trustees and Dean Penelope Andrews to dismantle the system of tenure.

But the administration — who recognized that a downgrade by S&P wasn’t exactly happy financial news — didn’t want to gamble with its financial future. Actually, I guess they did literally want to gamble with their financial future by creating a horse racing and gambling law program. But they didn’t want to gamble on the school staying in strong financial condition as law school applications nosedived around the country and went forward with its effort to axe teachers. A report in the Albany Times-Union suggests the school has made some progress:

An undisclosed number of professors at Albany Law School are willing to leave in exchange for buyouts as school leaders deal with an increasingly restive faculty that may soon be facing possible pay cuts or unpaid leave.

The school targeted eight teaching positions for buyouts earlier this year to cut expenses, but on Monday a school spokesman was unable to say how many professors had sought the voluntary offer, how many had accepted it or any other details surrounding it.

No word yet on Professor Hitler’s status.

However, the voluntary buyouts haven’t relieved the acrimony:

In a confidential April 15 memo to the faculty, [Board of Trustees Chair Daniel P.] Nolan rebuked them for waging a “smear campaign” against Dean Penelope Andrews as part of “mudslinging” and “vitriolic attacks” that were bringing “dishonor” to the law school.

He wrote that the faculty messages delivered to trustees by the Faculty Long-Range Planning Committee were “filled with many statements that are inaccurate or unfairly taken out of context” and “filled with distortions and untruths by anonymous posters. It contains personal attacks and questions the good faith of many actors.”

Nolan said the trustees would no longer consider anonymous emails from individuals passed through the faculty committee as official communications from the faculty. All future emails from faculty would have to go directly to himself, wrote Nolan, or the “appropriate committee chair on behalf of the board.”

Anonymous tipping is appreciated by ATL, but maybe not by the Board of Trustees. Still, Nolan’s memo reeks of a guy who just doesn’t want his inbox flooded with allegations he intends to ignore anyway. The Times-Union acquired some of the anonymous emails that Nolan described:

In one, the unnamed author wrote that “faculty morale is at an all-time low … Our primary concern is that shared governance (whereby the faculty must have substantial, meaningful engagement and decision-making concerning law school governance), a requirement of American Bar Association accreditation, has not been observed or respected here over the past 18 months. The recent buyout offers, although certainly more welcome than the board’s planned involuntary ‘head count reductions,’ have done very little to address these deep concerns.”

Another memo stated that Andrews’ “leadership style is creating fear, a hostile work environment … morale has become so low with both the faculty and the staff that no one wants to come to a place that we all used to look forward to in the morning.”

So the saga continues. Assuming the school failed to reach deals with its target of eight professors, will the school go ahead with a forced reduction regardless of tenure? If it does, maybe we can get Elie to pull an Andy Cohen and interview the jobless profs in a Real Law Professors Reunion Show.

Law school chief chides faculty; buyouts reached [Times-Union]
Tensions Rise at Albany Law School Amidst Faculty Buyouts [TaxProf Blog]

Earlier: Tenured Faculty Cuts Are Coming To A New York Law School — But Which One? And When?
Even Professor Hitler Is Feeling The Pinch Of Law School Cutbacks
Law School Adds Horse Racing Concentration — Pay Off Those Loans By Figuring Out The Ponies!

[1] Just one of many legally themed reality shows that could be great. Also a take on Basketball Wives that follows the hoity toitiest of the spouses of out-of-work partners from failed firms coping with the end of the largesse. Call it: Dewey Know Where The Money Went?

(hidden for your protection)

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