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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oregon Law Prof Objects to Shifting Funds for Faculty Raises to Public Interest Jobs for Students

UO Matters:  UO Law School Prof Angry About Plan to Use His Raise for Student Fellowships:

Oregon LogoSeveral members of the law school email lists (which included staff, secretaries etc.) have forwarded these two emails from professor Rob Illig (Law) about a plan apparently floated by Law Dean Michael Moffitt (paid $292,800 after a recent raise) to deal with the law school’s enrollment problems and US News ranking, which has fallen from #80 to #100 since Moffitt took over in 2011.

The plan? Cancel raises for the faculty, and use the money to increase student scholarships create a program to give non-profits money to hire law school graduates, boosting the employment numbers that go into the US News rank. ...

Prof. Illig's emails are reprinted below the fold, along with his follow up comments:

Email #1 by Prof Illig:

Michael,

To my shock and amazement, I just learned – three days after the faculty meeting – that someone (you? the faculty?) is trying to take away my one-in-a-decade chance at a raise WITHOUT MY KNOWLEDGE OR CONSENT.

Why did I not know that this was on the agenda for the faculty meeting? Was the lack of notice intentional? (And was there a quorum?)

Why did no one announce the result? Certainly, someone changing my salary without my knowledge seems like something I would like to hear about. Was someone hoping I and the others who were unable to attend simply wouldn’t notice until it was too late?

Note that I was unable to attend only because the regularly scheduled faculty meeting was recently re-scheduled to conflict with the Oregon Law Review’s long-planned academic symposium at which I was presenting.

(And, by the way, the complete absence of the deans and faculty at that symposium was noticeable and embarrassing. A number of the very students we are trying to support asked why their other law review advisors, their deans, and their friends on the faculty failed to show up to support them. I was, in truth, ashamed and had no good explanation – and many of the students were clearly angry and disillusioned. Expect another class to graduate with ill feelings toward us. And throwing a few scholarships their way won’t make up for our failure to be there when they need us.)

But back to the point – voting on this important a decision without notice and without serious consideration was a gross breach not only of procedure but of TRUST.

What did the agenda say? “Discussion of Graduate Fellowships.” Pardon my French, but this is absolute bullshit. Colleagues do not ambush one another like this.

How can I trust the administration or any of my faculty colleagues? No wonder we’ve become a third-tier law school. Who’s going to want to come here to study or teach in this kind of poisonous atmosphere?

As soon as money got tight, we seem to have turned on one another as if this was a zero-sum game. Well, it isn’t. And enough is enough.

I’ve watched as our culture has eroded now for almost three years. Everyone is in everyone else’s business, instead of their own. Everyone is worried about what everyone else is getting, not what they can personally contribute. If some professor or professors want to donate their raise to the students – or to some other worthy charity – that’s their business. (Personally, i give to Food for Lane Country, Planned Parenthood, and the United Way. I feel that having given up the chance at a seven-figure annual income is charity enough for the students, and I am particularly saddened by hungry children. Maybe I should move that the recipients of summer stipends donate those funds to the poor and needy?)

We need a strategy. We need teamwork. We need an Oregon culture where everyone can trust one another. Please, please, can we go back to the Oregon I love?

Email #2 by Prof Illig:

Folks,

I’m sorry, but I just can’t stop thinking about what I’ve just heard. I am truly in shock. Who is paying attention at this law school to our culture?

No wonder the students and faculty are disillusioned and our ranking is plummeting.

As I learn more of the details of Friday’s proposal, I am even more perplexed by its logic and frightened by its poison.

Is this some kind of faculty version of white-man’s guilt? We see students without jobs and think that if we throw them a few of our dollars we can go back to our scholarship and not worry about whether they are getting real careers and real training? We can study the 17th Century and believe we are preparing them for the 21st?

Is this some kind of faculty version of white-man’s guilt? We see students without jobs and think that if we throw them a few of our dollars we can go back to our scholarship and not worry about whether they are getting real careers and real training? We can study the 17th Century and believe we are preparing them for the 21st?

What we owe them is our time and effort and skill, not our paltry raises (which, by the way, don’t even cover the increase in the cost of living).

And why stop at our raises? Why didn’t the proposal include the summer stipends that a shrinking minority of the faculty received? Why not donate those to the students as well?

We each face different financial pressures. And we each make all sorts of charitable and other contributions, in both money and kind. Should we put them all on the table? Do I get to keep more of my raise because last year I gave more to the United Way than any other dean or faculty member, even though I am by no means the highest paid? or because I gave up the most salary when I joined the academy? or because my wife is chair of the city’s budget committee and personally pushed through a multi-million dollar bond measure to rebuild a number of 4J’s aging schools?

And what about faculty with no children or elderly parents to care for? Should they give more? Or faculty who purchased their houses when prices were low instead of high? i have only one daughter whose college I must pay for, but [names deleted] have more. Should I be asked to donate more to the student fellowships since my expenses will presumably be lower? What if my daughter does to a lower priced state school instead of a private college? Should that make a difference?

And am I to blame for the bad economy? Are my efforts so lacking as to make the difference between students with jobs and without? Is my teaching and mentoring so deficient as to merit what is essentially a pay cut, given that Johnson Hall has already approved the monies?

These are questions we just shouldn’t be asking. That’s why faculty don’t set each other’s salaries. It is nothing but poison to start digging into what is fair in terms of needs.

We are the most underpaid unit on campus, according to Johnson Hall figures. Is it possible that our third-tier status is actually related to the fact that our incomes are falling as compared to the cost of living? as compared to our competitors? Is it possible that when you pay more you get more?

And what are the sponsors of the proposal doing to raise law school income? My Summer Sports Institute – which the faculty voted wasn’t a priority – is already projected to bring profit into the law school, not to mention a reputational boost. I’ve got faculty from top 50 schools, plus students from places like Michigan and McGill. Our reputation has spread as far as South Africa and Turkey, with interested students there trying to raise the funds to come to Eugene. The students are also close to 50% minorities. And, again, it’s going to be profitable in its very first year.

Telling me (or anyone else in this law school, whether they are faculty or staff) that I (or they) don’t deserve a raise approved by Johnson Hall is simply insulting. And going down that path starts to put us in the place of K-12 educators, where well-meaning teachers would like to do more but aren’t being rewarded to do more. It puts the teachers against the students. And without an occasional raise, where do you think I’m going to be incentivized to put my efforts?

The culprit here isn’t us. So let’s stop turning our anger and our efforts on each other.

If you want to lead, lead my example, not by fiat. And certainly not by ambush.

We had a once-great culture that I was proud to join. But it isn’t standing up to the test of the economic uncertainty. We need to work together and be proud of one another’s many varied achievements. And we need to help the students with our real, individual efforts, not with symbolic gestures that undercut our trust in one another.

This is not the Oregon I knew.

Comment #1 by Prof. Illig:

No, Justin, it’s quite the opposite. The UO and its students are lucky to have me and all the other wonderful university faculty and staff who have sacrificed to be here. It’s time somebody said out loud what a great contribution every faculty and staff member is making to this community And all of us would be making more money at any of our competitor universities.

We know jobs for graduates are scarce, but scaring us away won’t make more jobs appear. And believe me, we’re working hard to help the students. That’s our job.

In my former life, I was an M&A lawyer at a large New York law firm, where I was all but certain to be earning more that $1 million annually. No one can tell me I’m not on the students’ side.

My students are my life. I sacrifice for them every day. Today, I spent the morning trying to get one of them a summer job at Nike. I do the same every day.

But ask yourself how many of those UO graduates would have jobs if I and the other dedicated faculty and staff at this university left.

Comment #2 by Prof. Illig:

As a business law professor, I couldn’t agree with you more about the inequities of compensation in America. Too many in this world are paid far too much, and too many far too little.

But as for the immediate issue, the correct comparator is our competitor schools, not other departments within the UO. If we want to recruit talented legal minds, we need to compete with salaries paid by law firms. And that doesn’t mean we need to be at parity with law firms (again, I would have been earning in excess of $1 million annually). But it does mean that we need to be cognizant of the realities of the market, however much we believe it to be inequitable. We simply cannot run an AAU-level university without understanding the varying opportunity costs of our many fine professors.

So while I respect that many CAS faculty might envy my salary, I envy the salaries of CEOs, many of whom only attended graduate school for only 2 years. And don’t forget the doctors – they went to school for 4 years, not the 6-8 that you put in.

But my larger point is – why attack me and my salary? I’m not the problem. The problem is the paltry sums the state allocates to public education. The problem is the way we allocate money in our society.

You shouldn’t be angry that I earn so much. You should be angry that you don’t earn more. Instead of trying to bring me down, let’s all work together to try and bring everyone up. We’re actually in the same boat, whether you realize it or not.

My plea is for Oregonians everywhere to please quit fighting with one another and instead turn our eyes toward the real culprits.

This world and this university are only zero-sum games if we let them be.

Comment #3 by Prof. Illig:

The UO School of Law is ranked 53rd among our peers at other law schools. They do not have a problem with our publication record, which I believe you understate through vague generalizations.

We are ranked 100 overall in the latest US News for one simple reason – we don’t charge high tuition.

US News equates a high tuition with high quality because it assumes that we are charging what the market will bear. Thus, according to their logic, if we are cheap, it must be because we cannot recruit students at a higher price point.

But we are not seeking to charge what the market will bear. We believe we have an obligation to our students – the ones who aren’t getting jobs in this economy – to try and keep their debt loads as low as possible. We are therefore dedicated to a low tuition model.

If we were to raise tuition at the law school by about $12,000, and then give all the money back to the students in the form of a mail-in rebate, we would immediately move into the top 50 law schools.

And whatever else you may have to criticize about the structure of the legal academy, fairly or not, I didn’t create it and my salary should not be based on what prior generations of legal professors decided was appropriate. I can work for change, but in the meantime there is no reason to penalize me for not yet achieving it.

Again, if the UO wants excellence – if we truly value being a member of the AAU – we need to quit griping about one another and start rewarding excellence.

Everybody please just stop confusing who the bad guys are!

Update: Stephen Bainbridge (UCLA), Memo to Law Faculty, Say it With Roses, Say It With Mink, but ....

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/04/oregon-law-prof-objects.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

Glorious! Thank your for sticking your neck out to republish this.

Posted by: JM | Apr 15, 2014 12:39:43 PM

There are a number of valid points mixed in here.

Posted by: HTA | Apr 15, 2014 1:11:51 PM

I have sympathy for the procedural concerns raised by Prof. Illig. Loyola-LA has a faculty rule that requires the text of any motion and any supporting documentation to be circulated at least one week in advance of the faculty meeting at which it is to be considered. This precludes most such unpleasant surprises. It also ensures that the faculty will have read the supporting documentation and thereby (sometimes) results in shorter faculty meetings.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Apr 15, 2014 2:05:21 PM

1. Law professors shouldn't complain about financial rewards forsaken on the road not taken. The risks and rewards of both roads were apparent when the professor made the choice. It's easy to overlook the burdens of big firm law practice that one accepts in exchange for high salaries. This includes career risk, long hours, high pressure, monotonous work, high cost of living. Having a "paltry raise" channeled to student support doesn't change the fundamental equation. 2. Law professors who teach at low tuition, state-sponsored law schools should be grateful for not having to worry about the debt burden on students who do not have the prospect of such promising careers ahead which includes, well, many of them.

Posted by: JDM | Apr 16, 2014 6:32:30 AM

"...where I was all but certain to be earning more that $1 million annually. No one can tell me I’m not on the students’ side."

Did anyone force the professor to change jobs? If not, then he made a choice. Live with it.

Aren't the taxpayers paying his salary?

Posted by: JWWJ | Apr 16, 2014 12:42:48 PM

My favorite part of the rant is how he make salient points and then diminishes them with interjections of his own personal achievement/sacrifice. The salary portion was the best one of all. You would think a lawyer would know a great point stands on its own, adding self-aggrandizement is superfluous at best.

Posted by: Daniel W. | Apr 17, 2014 6:18:50 AM

He left his firm in his seventh year. My guess is that he was not good enough for partner. No shame in that, many are not, but I doubt any sane person would leave a firm immediately before getting a 100-300% raise as most associate do when they make partner. So don't claim that you could have made 7 figures when you were probably shown the door. Even if you were not shown the door, and even if you had a chance at making partner, which I doubt, you take the massive professor paycut for the lifestyle.

Posted by: JP | Apr 17, 2014 6:44:53 AM