Albany Profs Deny Faculty Suggested Cutting Standards

, New York Law Journal

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Albany Law School
Albany Law School

ALBANY - Several angry Albany Law School professors deny the faculty ever suggested the school should lower standards to boost enrollment and avert layoffs and accuse the administration of misrepresenting their position.

Outrage erupted this week in the wake of a New York Law Journal article on Tuesday in which a member of the faculty and the dean said there were discussions of relaxing admission standards, and the Board of Trustees issued a memorandum strongly rejecting the notion of lowering standards (NYLJ, Feb. 4). The memo noted that the school's bar passage rate is second lowest in the state and said admitting students "to increase revenues … would be both unethical and in violation of [American Bar Association] standards."

But numerous faculty members, in a flurry of emails and telephone calls, said they were stunned by the memo and insist there never a proposal that Albany Law School admit under-qualified or marginal applicants as a means of increasing tuition revenue and avoiding staff cutbacks. That assertion directly contradicts one of their colleagues and the school's dean, Penelope Andrews, and belies the memorandum the Board of Trustees distributed on Monday.

"To say that the issue is decreasing standards is an out-and-out lie," one long-tenured faculty member said in an interview. "If these discussions occurred outside of formal meetings, I wouldn't know. But I do know that at the formal meetings I have been at we have not been talking about lowering standards. We have been talking about doing a better of job of figuring out our niche, our brand, in the new world."

Professor Donna Young, president of the newly formed local chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), said that even with a 7 percent drop in enrollment for the last academic year, the caliber of the students is high.

According to statistics posted by the Law School Admissions Council, Albany Law School and the ABA, the median grade point average of the entering class has inched up steadily over the past five years, from 3.30 for the class that began in 2009 to 3.37 for the group that started last fall. However, the median LSAT score has declined from 155 for the class that entered in 2009 to 152 last year.

Young said she is "unaware that any faculty member has ever argued that the law school should lower its admissions standards."

Those comments mirrored observations of numerous other professors who refused to speak on the record. Several professors said they are unwilling to comment publicly because they fear they will be targeted for a layoff.

"Given the arbitrary management that has occurred over the past year and a half, I am afraid to go on the record because of retaliation and possible firing," one professor said, echoing several others.

Faculty members say the closest any of them came to discussing decreased standards was a suggestion that the school look to its wait list to fill open seats, something they said is routine at other institutions when seats become available. But the faculty members deny suggesting that the school lower its standards to admit students who, in more prosperous times, would have been rejected.

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