Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Albany Law School Offers Buyouts to Eight Tenured Faculty

Albany logoFollowing up on my prior post, Tenured Faculty Layoffs Coming at Albany Law School?:  New York Law Journal, Albany Law Offers Buyouts to Offset Lower Enrollment:

Albany Law School and some of its professors are at odds over plans to reduce faculty size due to declining enrollment, giving rise to a broader question of whether the institution should lower its standards to save jobs.

The school on Monday offered buyouts to up to eight longer-tenured and higher-salaried professors. At the same time, the Board of Trustees, in a statement, and the law school's dean, in an interview, flatly rejected an idea, apparently promoted by some faculty, to lower admissions standards.

"A review of our declining bar passage statistics (we are now the second lowest law school in New York State for bar passage), combined with the extremely difficult employment market for our graduates, compels us to believe that we must focus on quality of applicants, not quantity," the board said in a memo Monday to faculty. "To admit students in order to increase revenues due to projected operating deficits would be both unethical and in violation of ABA standards."

Penelope Andrews, dean and president of Albany Law School, said in an interview that any discussion of lowering standards is off the table.

"We have a commitment to the people who come into the building to prepare them to practice law," Andrews said. "We have to ensure that they can succeed in our program and also pass the bar. We will not increase the number of people we admit just to fill our class. It is an ethical issue, and we will accept only students who can succeed in law school." ...

One Albany Law professor said a "small but vocal minority" of faculty want the school to lower its standards to boost its tuition revenues and lessen the chances of layoffs. "It is a very selfish, selfish endeavor," the professor said. "They are really trying to save their jobs, but they've ginned this up to make it look like we are denying academic rights."

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"What is unusual is that it was not done in this case."

It's certainly "unusual" to try and improve a 50.2% employment rate by bringing your class size more in line with your regional legal market. More law schools should try it sometime. I'm sure the professors will find Skadden Arps awaiting them with open arms.

Posted by: BoredJD | Feb 6, 2014 2:21:13 PM

Professor Young,

The law journal article says "Professor Donna Young, president of the Albany Law School chapter of the AAUP, declined comment." Yet, you write "It is unfortunate that only one professor, a vocal minority of one, was interviewed for this article." Is the law journal's statement false, or is the unfortunate circumstance of your own making?

Posted by: FactCheck | Feb 6, 2014 11:04:18 AM

No law school -- especially one ranked as low as Albany has been most recently -- should have to justify getting rid of a "professor" making $300,000 a year to teach seminar classes about slavery and the "greatest hits of constitutional law." Especially if that "professor" contributes nothing to the legal scholarship being published at the school that is paying him. Did I mention he does not have a law license in any state? Is Paul Finkleman the norm at Albany Law? No. He is not. But Albany Law needs to refocus on churning out good lawyers who can pass the NY bar exam, not theorists and scholars; and they most certainly do not have the resources for both, especially employing professors more preoccupied with scholarship than they are teaching bar-oriented practical classes.

I respect Donna Young immensely. She was a fantastic professor to have and an even better mentor to me. But I cannot agree with her about the outlook of Albany Law if it stays on its current course. It is time for change.

Posted by: Diane Whipple | Feb 6, 2014 10:26:56 AM


"Normal law school practice" has lead to a humongous glut of severely indebted, unemployable attorneys, and a drastic reduction in law school applicants. Perhaps the Albany administration is onto something by refusing to admit students who have no business entering the legal "profession."

Posted by: D++ | Feb 6, 2014 8:45:51 AM

It is normal law school practice everywhere to go to a waitlist. What is unusual is that it was not done in this case. I hope the Albany administration is not "ginning up" a financial crisis.

Posted by: beckett | Feb 6, 2014 7:12:19 AM

I oppose ginning.

Posted by: Jeff Harrison | Feb 5, 2014 5:31:52 PM

Hundreds of words and yet a complete failure to answer the very simple question raised by the article: did some faculty propose to take more students off the waitlist. These are students who would (1) likely pay close to $50,000 a year in tuition, (2) would contribute to what is currently a 50.2% employment score per LST. Despite all the great stuff you've said, Albany Law School costs to much and its market is utterly flooded with graduates.

Just tell the truth. Prospective applicants who get off the waitlist deserve to know whether they are being accepted just to keep your salaries and perks intact.

Posted by: BoredJD | Feb 5, 2014 11:26:13 AM


Your school may not face financial exigency this year or next year, but it will in the next 3-5 years. In 2012, your school graduated 233 students, and put only 13 in Biglaw/FedClerkship jobs. Those are the only jobs that can justify your outrageous total cost of attendance. So, I think you can expect that your enrollment numbers will continue to dwindle until they settle at about 50/year.

You dean is acting appropriately in preparing for the gathering storm. If anything, I doubt her measures go far enough.

Posted by: JM | Feb 5, 2014 11:01:39 AM

Below is a letter I sent in response to this very misleading NYLJ article.

Dear Mr. Caher and Ms Karas,

It is unfortunate that only one professor, a vocal minority of one, was interviewed for this article. Consequently, your article does not capture the nature of the disagreement between the administration and the majority of the faculty, who are represented by the AAUP. The disagreement centers on the administration's plans to dismiss faculty members without cause and without financial exigency, a plan that many of us believe would adversely affect the educational mission of the law school. I am unaware that any faculty member has ever argued that the law school should lower its admissions standards. The NYLJ article, unfortunately, focusses on something that has never seriously been argued or even discussed among the faculty.

The faculty has always been supportive of our admissions efforts and dedicated to helping attract a strong and talented group of students. With a modestly reduced class size for this last academic year, the median LSAT and undergraduate GPA of the 2013 entering class was HIGHER than Albany Law School's historic average. As the Chair of the Admissions Committee, I can assure your readers that this year, the law school is well under way to enroll another strong group of students.

As mentioned on the Albany Law AAUP website:

“The Albany Law AAUP chapter [maintains that the Law School ] is in good financial condition and is committed to continuing to provide the sound legal education that our students deserve. The faculty is actively engaged in developing curricular innovations, introducing bar passage initiatives, identifying learning competencies, structuring our extensive experiential opportunities, expanding student employment opportunities and leveraging our unique relationship with government as the only law school in the the capital of New York State.

Preliminary figures from the LSAC suggest that law school enrollment will drop across the country. Albany Law School is well positioned to address a potential decline without any adverse effect on the quality of the education we offer. Like other law schools, Albany Law School has adjusted its class size in response to fluctuations in applications. With recent reductions in enrollment has come a proportionate reduction in teaching staff. Although our Board of Trustees had planned for faculty layoffs, we are hopeful that given projected faculty attrition proportionate to potential reductions in enrollment, the Board will conclude as we have that the law school is moving in the right direction and that layoffs are unwarranted.

As faculty members, we have always focused on teaching and providing an intimate and nurturing educational environment. We take pride in our intensive and meaningful connection with students, graduates and colleagues. These characteristics place Albany in a good position to weather the storms facing all law schools. “
I refer your readers to the following:

Thank you,
Professor Donna Young

Posted by: D.Young | Feb 5, 2014 10:38:48 AM

"but they've ginned this up to make it look like we are denying academic rights." There might be an opening for Jay Carney's position soon, or even in the Holder Community services division of civil rights.

Posted by: moron | Feb 5, 2014 5:00:47 AM