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January 31, 2014


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The financial data looks good:
Didn't this blog report that Albany was in sound financial shape quite recently?


Yup, right here Dan Filler reported that Albany was stable:


Contradictory data here:
"Albany is stable."



I wonder if Albany Law will pass some of their fired law prof savings onto their students and shave a couple bucks off their $43,248/year tuition.

A tuition cut may help their dwindling enrollment numbers:

2010: 236
2011: 235
2012: 196
2013: 187

Academic Freedom

There is no financial exigency at Albany Law School. According to analyses done by the law school’s own faculty budget committee and an examination of public records by an independent expert, Dr. Howard Bunsis (C.P.A., J.D., M.B.A., Ph.D), the law school is in very strong financial condition. In fact, Dr. Bunsis found that the law school’s primary reserve ratio (the most important piece of data describing the financial health of an institution), is “off the charts high and healthy.” The law school has significant strategic reserves, low debt, and several years of profit. In addition, Standard & Poor’s credit agency rated the Law School as having a “stable” financial outlook due to its "still-strong financial resources" and "positive operating surpluses" (see Standard and Poor’s Dec. 5, 2013 Credit Analysis of Independent Law Schools).


Are there a bunch of folks on the Albany faculty that are deemed "expendable"?


As Paul Campos cogently suggested, "financial exigency" may be the AAUP's standard for firing of tenured faculty, but it is not necessarily Albany Law's. "Financial difficulties" might just mean they are losing money, and they suspect they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, so want to get ahead of that problem now, particularly since it is likely it will accelerate. Does anyone actually know what the actual contracts or university policies say regarding faculty firings?

Academic Freedom

According to the independent expert, only a third of total expenses are spent on instructional faculty. So why is the faculty being targeted for layoffs anyway? Even though the administrative budget looks rather bloated, the law school is still doing very well financially.


Also, apparently Albany's class size has effectively been halved in the past four years. Logically, you will need a lot fewer professors to teach a smaller class; I hope nobody here is suggesting that the position of law professor should become a sinecure?


Academic Freedom, the "independent expert" who prepared the report is the Chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Conference. Doesn't mean he's wrong but it sure means he's not independent.

Academic Freedom

There are far less draconian ways of addressing reductions in applications than firing faculty. Normal attrition works well. Buyouts might help. Implementing a hiring freeze is a common response. Getting rid of unnecessary administrative positions is an idea. Having deans and associate deans teach classes (if they don't already) might be of assistance. Robust and effective fund-raising efforts might bring some relief. Temporarily tapping into over-sized reserves should be considered - after all, a fluctuation in enrollment is one reason law schools have unrestricted reserves in the first place. Also, in order to make an informed assessment of appropriate faculty size, one would have to know something about how many professors have left/retired since enrollment figures have decreased. It would be a sign of incredible administrative ineptitude were the law school to be left with too few faculty members to provide the kind of education to which its students are entitled. And importantly, without a bona fide faculty exigency, firing faculty members whether tenured or not would no doubt require a law school to breach contractual promises. Clearly a law school should not run afoul of the very laws that it teaches students to respect and uphold.

Cent Rieker

Could this be a harbinger of tensions between law professors and administrators? Maybe it's already (been) occurring, but kept confidential up to this point.


Hey Academic Freedom, you know what else could be done besides firing faculty? Cutting the outrageous faculty salaries. The admin could cut faculty salaries in half and not one professor would leave.


Academic Freedom fails to acknowledge that the so-called independent financial expert is a hired gun for the AAUP who is trotted out with the same responses when schools are threatening to cut faculty.


Academic Freedom:

I don't think you understand the situation; the law school is intentionally shrinking its classes, which is frankly a prudent move that more schools should carry out. It is neither rational nor ethical to keep professors on the payroll who are not actually needed to teach, if you do not plan on raising class sizes anytime in the foreseeable future.

It would be misusing tenure to protect those redundant faculty. Tenure was created to protect teachers from job loss due to school politics, or because they expressed unpopular views. All tenure mandates is that a professor cannot be fired without cause and due process. If the school is becoming one that does not need as many professors as it employs, it is entitled to fire some as long as those firing decisions are carried out through a transparent, defensible process.

It is especially egregious to keep underworked faculty on simply because they think they are entitled to indefinite employment, when students are paying enormous tuition to attend.


Apparently the number of faculty members has shrunk by more than 20% over the past two years and several more are now on phased retirement. If faculty salaries and benefits account for only a third of the budget anyway, it is unclear why Albany Law School would resort to such extreme measures, apparently including threatening to fire tenured faculty without cause or financial exigency. In anticipation of lower enrollment, a hiring freeze, attrition and buyouts of senior faculty would seem to be the more prudent approach and would not result in nasty litigation.


Again, perplexed, I just don't think letting go of unneeded faculty is "extreme." It's what happens in every other enterprise, both for-profit and non-profit. Tenure is not some mystical higher power, it's just a way to offer a certain minimum protection but universities are not required to keep people on the payroll just because they are financially able to.


Perplexed - Why buy-out senior faculty who are productive and not the deadwood?


It is extreme in any context to threaten to break contracts and fire faculty without cause or financial exigency. Period. As for buyouts, no one is obliged to take one, and they could be offered to anyone. And who says the faculty to be fired are unneeded or deadwood? If the law school can't demonstrate either cause or financial exigency but won't wait for normal attrition (already well underway) then this would appear to be about something else.

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