Albany Profs Deny Faculty Suggested Cutting Standards

, New York Law Journal

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Albany Law School
Albany Law School

"At a time when we've been told for a year that there is a fiscal crisis because of enrollment, it doesn't make sense to leave great candidates on a wait list," said one faculty member in an interview. "It is not that they are the rejects. People on the wait list often have stellar credentials."

Andrews, president and dean of Albany Law School, said in an emailed response to questions from the Law Journal that the institution is committed to raising, not lowering, the bar.

"Smaller enrollments are a key component of our strategic shift," Andrews said. "We are competing for a smaller pool of qualified applicants, and we are realistic about what that means. We will not compromise our standards simply to enroll more students."

The hostility between at least one segment of the faculty and the administration is rooted in the fact that Albany, like most law schools, is weathering a period of declining enrollment and struggling to figure out how to retool for what could be a permanent downturn in applications and admissions.

Buyouts Offered

Some faculty and the administration have been at odds for months over the future of the 163-year-old school, how it will adapt to the changing paradigm of legal education and how the institution will "right size." The prospect of faculty layoffs has been, and apparently remains, on the table.

On Monday, the school offered a buy out to up to eight tenured and long-term contractual professors, offering them two years of pay in a lump sum.

Professors say that if eight take the buyout and three staff members follow through with planned retirements, the faculty for the next academic year will be down roughly 50 percent from what it was four years earlier. Since 2010, the student body has decreased 22 percent. There are currently 45 full-time and 41 part-time members of the faculty and 591 students, according to the school.

"The Board of Trustees and I have determined that we need to decrease costs," Andrews said in her email. "Unfortunately, we have not been able to achieve a cost-savings solution absent fewer personnel. We have offered generous buyouts—generous by anyone's standards—and we are now waiting for volunteers."

In its memo to the faculty, the Board of Trustees said it is working on a plan "to deal with sizeable projected operating deficits," resulting from a "shrinking applicant pool, fewer employment opportunities for our graduates and increasing pressure" to provide tuition discounts.

"We continue to be concerned, based on overwhelming evidence, that these trends will be long lasting," according to the memo circulated by board chairman Daniel Nolan. "The challenges are serious and the Board believes that in the exercise of prudent financial responsibility, changes must be made."

Andrews, in her email, noted that in December, Standard & Poor's issued a report on the credit worthiness of the five independent law schools it rates, including Albany. "Four of them have negative ratings," Andrews said. "Only Albany Law School is rated as stable. We are taking proactive steps to avoid falling into the debt-ridden trap that has caught most other law schools."

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