TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Budget Cuts Hit UC-Berkeley After Scandal, Drop in Ranking; Law School Reduces Number Of Associate Deans From Seven To Three To Save $1.5 Million

UC Berkeley (2016)The Daily Californian, Budget Cuts Hit Berkeley Law After Scandal, Drop in Ranking:

Chancellor Carol Christ’s substantial budget cuts left few departments unscathed last week, and the UC Berkeley School of Law was no exception. The school will cut its number of associate deans from seven to three to increase its budget surplus by almost $1.5 million. According to a draft Boalt Law divisional budget dashboard, in addition to implementing $2 million in cuts, it will have to hit higher fundraising benchmarks and expand its professional and summer programs. ...

The changes come as the vaunted law school emerges from a year of scandal, after former dean Sujit Choudhry resigned amidst allegations of sexual harassment by his executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell. ... As the Choudhry story developed over the course of the year, the law school did its best to weather the headlines. Despite their best efforts, the scandal appeared to leave a mark on the school’s reputation — Berkeley Law dropped four spots in the closely-watched U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Law School” rankings.

A drop of four spots was a precipitous fall in a ranking where moving up a single place is cause for celebration. The school also dropped from the top ten for the first time since 2005. Berkeley Law spokesperson Michael Bazeley called the drop “an anomaly” driven by “a year of bad publicity.”

It appears the budget authors had little sympathy for this line of reasoning, as the USNWR ranking drop was the first item cited by the campus as an impetus for greater cuts. ...

But Berkeley Law’s never-ending year of bad headlines does appear to be ending. Dean Chemerinsky is lauded throughout the field of legal education — he was recently named the most influential person in legal education by the National Jurist — and Sorrell settled her lawsuit with the UC Regents for $1.7 million in March (although ex-dean Choudhry still remains on campus as a tenured professor). Yet the new cuts mean that a climb back up the rankings — a key tool for attracting students — will have to be done with a little bit less.

Legal Education | Permalink


But, if some of the deans are already tenured faculty, then UC is still paying their salaries even after they stop being deans?

Posted by: Andy Patterson | Aug 15, 2017 6:03:30 AM

Hi Paul,

I wanted to clarify the record publicly here about Berkeley’s financial situation. The Daily Cal story incorrectly implied that our recent elimination of four associate dean positions contributed significantly to a $1.5 million surplus at the school. That’s not accurate, and we’ve already asked for a correction from the paper. Unfortunately, the headline of your blog post compounded the error by saying that the school *saved* $1.5 million by eliminating those positions.

The facts and context are thus:

For the current fiscal year, the law school made a total of $2 million in cuts through a wide variety of actions, including delayed maintenance, eliminating some vacant positions, and trimming non-payroll expenses across multiple departments. Those cuts came at the request of central campus, which asked most UC Berkeley departments for help in closing a large campus deficit. One of the cuts we chose was to reduce the number of associate deans from seven to three—back down to a level where we existed for many years. That administrative streamlining resulted in *very modest* financial savings relative to our overall savings. Those associate deans remain employed at the law school and have returned to their teaching duties full-time. 

The Daily Cal article, and blog posts based on it, imply that the law school is reeling. Nothing could be further from the truth. Despite these non-student-facing cuts, our overall annual budget grew again slightly this year.

In fact, three wonderful faculty members are joining us this fall, and we already have a commitment from another new faculty member for next year

I appreciate you letting us set the record straight.


Michael Bazeley
Director of Communications
UC Berkeley School of Law

Posted by: Michael Bazeley | Aug 15, 2017 4:49:33 PM