Friday, July 27, 2007

Clearing Sinuses and Budget Crunches

Most law schools go through it from time to time – budget cuts, call backs, etc. The truly unfortunate part is that they are likely to hit untenured people hardest. As usual, the people least able to afford it pay the toll for the privileged professors they work along side.

There is an upside. If a faculty is bloated with special interest and boutique courses, a freeze can mean trimming some of the fat and requiring the privileged ones teach what they promised to teach, indeed what they craved to teach, when they were hired. You must recall all those interviews of people now jockeying for the smallest possible class and fewest students -- "I just realized one day that my first love is teaching," "Of course, I'd love to teach torts." These are the same people giving 100% multiple choice machine graded final exams.

And there are the "programs." We all know law school administrators do not like to say “no” to faculty regardless of how wacko the proposal. After all, faculty approval, not doing what is best for stakeholders, is a principal decanal focus for many administrators. Why cut a $50K program that serves nothing but faculty ends when a) faculty will whine and b) it's someone else's money you are spending.(Put up your hand if you took at least one summer vacation trip largely on the dime of your law school under the guise of a "program" or "conference." Whoa. Keep’m up -- it will take some time to count all those.) Funny how spending the money of others always leads to a skewed cost/benefit analysis.

Yes, a budget squeeze is just the ticket to test the pulse of an administration. Is it willing to require hiring committees to focus only on high need areas? Is it willing to tell faculty that they are needed to teach bread and butter courses. Is it willing to cut programs based on benefit to stakeholders or will the ones favored by members of the administration or its closest friend be the ones that go?


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7/28/2007 12:54 AM  

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