Paul L. Caron

Monday, May 13, 2013

Tenured Brooklyn Law Prof Files ABA Complaint Against School

Brooklyn LogoOn the heels of the new standards adopted by Brooklyn Law School for the dismissal of faculty (here and here):  a tenured Brooklyn faculty member has filed an explosive 12-page ABA complaint against the law school:

The matters asserted in this complaint concern issues in the administration of the law school that the complainant believes threaten the ability of the institution to provide a sound program of legal education consistent with the ABA Standards.

The specific allegations pertain to a recent organizational change in the school creating a new office of president; withholding of material information concerning a dean candidate; the full-time employment outside the law school of the current dean; executive decisions of school policy made without faculty input; waste and mismanagement of school resources, including exorbitant administrative and faculty salaries; denial of academic freedom; and retaliatory action threatened for making a complaint to the ABA Accreditation Committee.

Among the serious allegations (citations omitted):

The salaries for executive positions have increased every year without any justification based on performance. Examples of self-dealing have involved appointment of Board members to the salaried teaching staff, free use of luxury apartments to Board members, the payment of exorbitant salaries to administrative officers and selected faculty, salary determinations based on friendship and loyalty rather than merit, and lack of transparency about financial matters of the law school and its faculty. ...

The supra competitive levels of executive compensation along with the salaries paid to the top five professors at the law school, as reported in recent IRS 990 filings, rival and exceed the compensation levels of tenured professors of law at Harvard or Yale. In times of acute crisis in legal education, compensation levels at Brooklyn Law School for a small handful of professors and administrators represent a level of mismanagement, waste, and self-dealing that violates Standards 201, 204, 206 and 404.

Discussion: The total value of the salary and benefits provided to the president of the law school—which include a tax-free furnished apartment complete with designer kitchen and skyline views of Manhattan, a car, and a driver—exceed a million dollars. This is the highest compensation paid to any law school dean or administrator in the United States. The salary and benefits lavished on the administrators of the law school impose a drain on the resources of the institution that detract from the educational mission of the law school, increase tuition costs of students, and add to the financial burden of law school graduates. The health and continued survival of the institution to which I have dedicated my career is threatened by waste, mismanagement and potential self-dealing creating serious violation of Standards 201, 204, 206 and 404.

It will be interesting to see how the Brooklyn Law School administration responds to these serious allegations and what action the ABA takes.

UpdateBrooklyn Law School Responds to Tenured Prof's ABA Complaint

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It's sad and embarrassing to say, but I'm not surprised. As for the comment above, asking about the 990s, some students went looking for them a while back, and my recollection was that those numbers sound right. I can't find the more recent ones (which is concerning, since they have to be available, as BLS is a non-profit) but here's 2010:

Go to page 35. She does have an apartment in a building, the construction of which she oversaw. I'd imagine its pretty posh. Her private car has been seen (kind of hilarious, since the apartment is two blocks away). I don't know what counts as non-taxable benefits, but the figure on the 990 seems low if those are included.

My best wishes to our anonymous prof who seems to want to shed some light on the problems at BLS in a way that might lead to a solution. There is a culture of frustration there. So I'm surprised this took so long. Unfortunately I am worried about the backlash for the prof and the faculty as a whole. Here's hoping things improve.

Posted by: Alum | May 17, 2013 8:28:13 PM

"I think it is telling that people are already attacking the motives or character of the complaining law professor, none of which matter as to whether the allegations are true or not."

Hey, these are profiteering law school personnel...what do expect? Truth? Honor?

Also, calling them "people" is probably an error as well.

Posted by: cas127 | May 16, 2013 5:21:24 PM

Thank you for posting this and protecting the identity (for as long as the person requests). I hope the complainant is a tax professor and knew how to read 990 Schedule J detail with accuracy before citing the data, but even so, BLS does not pay more than the Ivy institutions after you take deferred comp into account too. 990 presents one tax year's total compensation package, but not necessarily the promised future payments.

Posted by: Thank You | May 14, 2013 2:16:01 PM

The situation sounds truly troubling. Kudos to the professor who had the guts to speak up, and to you, Paul, for sharing the info.

Posted by: LL | May 14, 2013 9:47:28 AM

I think it is telling that people are already attacking the motives or character of the complaining law professor, none of which matter as to whether the allegations are true or not.

Posted by: Concerned | May 13, 2013 12:16:34 PM

It's fair to request anonymity. But it would be interesting to know if this is retaliation by a professor who was passed over for a chair or a summer stipend, or who is in danger of being de-tenured in a post-tenure review.

Posted by: Anon | May 13, 2013 9:47:02 AM

I am wondering about the complaint's comparisons to salaries at Harvard and Yale. Is this just throwaway rhetoric, or is there actually data in the complaint? While the salaries at Brooklyn are high, I doubt the top 5 at Brooklyn are higher than the top 5 at Harvard and Yale. I have not seen the salaries at those two institutions anywhere, and I am wondering if they are available? For the IRS filings for these institutions, the law prof salaries are not listed amongst the top 5 because they have others -- med school faculty, investment managers, general counsel -- making a whole lot more. For Brooklyn as a standalone, law profs of course are the highest.

Posted by: Query | May 13, 2013 9:40:38 AM

Oh, this made my day. Law schools, you reap what you have sown. [goes to make popcorn].

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | May 13, 2013 9:30:00 AM

Paul, it strikes me as problematic to post this without including the Professor's name and the complaint? Some members of a faculty are credible and some are less credible; some complaints will have details that can be evaluated and fact-checked and others will not. As a result, it's hard to assess the legitimacy of the complaint without knowing what it said and who filed it. You say in the comment above that the professor who filed the complaint "requested anonymity and asked that I not post the complaint." But these were only requests, and you had the choice to agree or disagree with them.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | May 13, 2013 8:49:16 AM

The Brooklyn professor requested anonymity and asked that I not post the complaint.

Posted by: Paul Caron | May 13, 2013 8:00:12 AM

Paul, you state:

"It will be interesting to see how the Brooklyn Law School administration responds to these serious allegations and what action the ABA takes."

I can tell you what will happen. This law professor will find out what it feels like to complain of someone else's deceptive behavior and gross excess and not be heard.

Posted by: JM | May 13, 2013 7:49:48 AM

Do you have a link to the complaint?

Posted by: Link? | May 13, 2013 7:02:15 AM

How about a link to the 12-page complaint?

Posted by: Robert Gould | May 13, 2013 7:01:49 AM

Do you have the complaint?

Posted by: Anon | May 13, 2013 6:39:09 AM