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December 31, 2014


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confused by your post

Executing a tenured faculty buy out well is tricky for educational institutions. Deciding on the appropriate "carrot" and "stick" to optimize outcomes involves careful analysis of institutional goals, finances, stakeholder motivations, faculty relations and many other factors. I don't envy those involved in the process.

Too sweet a buy out package wastes the scarce financial resources of the institution, may lower moral of the remaining faculty and creates expectations regarding future buy outs. Too small a buy out package won't be effective to reduce headcount and the institution would probably have been better off not having offered it in the first place given the other negatives that go along with the buy out process. Many buy out packages have artificially quick acceptance deadlines, are open only to the first x number of faculty to accept or are contingent on acceptance by a minimum number of faculty. These are all pressure tactics used to by the institutions.

At the same time, the more real or credible the "stick" component involved in the buy out is perceived to be the more effective the program will be. The institution's leverage is to create a threat of some sort the targeted faculty. Sometimes this takes the form of vague statements from the institution and nothing more. Slightly more aggressive will be general references to the need to downsize, increase teaching load. Moving further along the spectrum would be repeated and more specific references regarding headcount reduction and upping teaching loads. Going further, some institutions state publicly if x number of faculty do not accept buy outs, then it "will have to" involuntarily do it purposefully without getting into specifics on the involuntary part. When an institution goes this route it generally means things are getting pretty serious financially for the institution and the faculty. Continuing down the "stick" spectrum, institutions will gear up any required procedure, if there is one, which allows them to unilaterally cut tenured faculty with minimal or no exit compensation. This is when you hear words like "financial exigency" start to get thrown around. At that point, things are bad all around.

Communicating the "stick" to the faculty has to be given some careful thought. Private one on one conversations, group conversations, e-mails, formal letters, memos, press releases, and public statements all have their pros and cons.

One serious downside to the institutions conducting the buy outs is bad publicity. The quieter the institution is able to keep the buy outs the better they are for the institution. Those accepting buy outs undoubtedly sign confidentiality agreements to help prevent publicity. An institution's buy outs or buy out fights making it onto law blogs or worse, newspapers or news sites, are bad news. In the short term, such publicity can damage the institution's reputation, donations and ability to attract students.

We don't have much info on LSU's buy out program and the background relating to it. Seems like a typical situation for a state school that is not in real crisis. Moderate enrollment drop plus decrease in net tuition received due to the need to increase scholarship $ to attract students. Based upon the little info that's out there I'd take a wild guess that the powers that be at LSU have identified a buy out as being desirable but not crucial to the law school. We've seen no public statements about the "stick" part of the program. It may be that LSU has decided the "stick" will be limited to vague statements about future downsizing, etc. This may be the most appropriate course of action given the situation.


Law schools still strategizing about how to hide information from their students and other interested parties.

It seems from the quite well informed comment above, that the legal academy still believes it is better to obfuscate and perhaps even intentionally mislead than to come clean, admit the problematic issues, and put their conduct in the context of an overall reform effort.

These efforts might be applauded by all but those bought out but for the unbelievable mindset in legal academia that the pretense that all is well must be maintained at all costs.

How sad that such otherwise intelligent persons act so callously and stubbornly to cling to their delusions of grandeur. Must be time to rethink the "intelligent" part.

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