August 3, 2011
Chapter Three in the Continuing Baltimore Law Saga: "Junking the Stats" in Public "Cockfight" between UB President and Fired UB Law Dean
In yesterday's ATL post about the University of Baltimore's ouster of UB Law Dean Closius, Elis Mystal comments that "these kinds of 'juking the stats' discussions are usually handled behind closed doors, but now we all get to see it." (Emphasis added.) He is referring to UB President Bogomolny open letter to the UB community and the media that disputed ousted UB Law Dean Closius's claims in his farewell statement which was also pick up by the media, including a follow-up interview with fired UB Law Dean Closius published in the a WSJ Law Blog post.
UB's president questions Dean Closius’s law school tuition give-back figures. Mystal writes "Oh, the University still takes money from the law school. A lot of it. President Bogomolny just claims that the University retains less than Closius says it does." He adds:
Apparently, Closius wasn’t exactly surprised by this line of argument from the university. The outgoing dean responded by disputing the president’s numbers. Above the Law has obtained the email he sent to the UB faculty.
Mystal also observes:
The cockfight between the president and the dean over the specific figures isn’t really that interesting. Bogomolny’s letter notably fails to address the two main points from Closius’s initial letter: (a) law school tuition is high and on the rise, despite the faltering legal economy, and (b) one of the reasons the tuition is too damn high is because the university is taking a lot of money from the law school and using it for other purposes.
For the text of ousted law dean Closius's email response to the UB adminstration's claims, see ATL's post, University of Baltimore Tries To Keep The Devil Way Down In The Hole.
UB CYA PR Spin and Creditable Sources. In Is Baltimore Law School a Cash Cow? University President Disputes Ousted Dean’s Figures (August 2, 2011 ABAJ post), Debra Cassens Weiss reports that
Although the university retained 42 percent of law school revenue, it spent much of the money on the law school’s operating costs, such as human resources, technology, heat, light and security, Bogomolny said. “In fact, in 2010,” he wrote, “the university retained 13.7 percent of law revenue centrally, after allocating costs related to the law school's regular operation."
If the ABAJ wants to do more than just quote statements for the ABAJ's intended audience, UB is a state university subject to open records act disclosures. Considering the always convenient implementation of cost-plus charges from a university administration to any particular university unit, such as a law school, who do you think is a more creditable source? The ABAJ article also reports
The Baltimore Sun contacted Closius for his comments. He said he disagreed with Bogomolny's interpretation of the financial numbers, "and I'm pretty sure I'm right."
Time for an ABA Accredition Standard that Quantifies Internal Revenue Sharing? Don't know how much more chronicling there will be in this UB saga but I serious doubt the ABA will add anything more that its already issued "no comment" statement.
I'm also beginning to wonder if the ABA has the guts to "interfere" in institutional revenue sharing "deals" in a comprehensive way for the legal academy cartel by specifying a bright-line quantiative standard which requires how much money on a percentage basis must be retain by law schools for internal mission funding purposes in the context of law school accreditation. Remember that in 2009, ousted DePaul's Dean Weissenberger was fired because of a letter he was obliged to send to the Consultant on Legal Education for the American Bar Association. It disclose that certain information about tuition revenue sharing given to the ABA Accreditation Committee was no longer accurate. Such one-off "agreements" are just not working. DePaul Law remains an accredited law school. Details at Honesty Not the Best Policy at DePaul: Law Dean Fired for Disclosing Required Information to ABA Accreditation Committee; Associate Dean Resigns in Protest.
It's Not That Radical a Notion. The ABA already specifies a required student-faculty ratio (read that's an expense item which tends to push higher tuition costs to fund faculty salaries onto students now). It is also the most important and easiest factor to manipulate since increased faculty and their salaries can be dumped into increased tuition expenses paid by law students. Being substantially below that the ABA required ratio is both used by the legal academy to market law schools and, must more importantly, to enhance the prospects for a higher US News Law School Rankings because the most statistically significant US News metric is student per-capita spend.
Right now, the best and easiest way to increase student per-capita spend is for any given law school is to reduce the ABA required ratio by half or more. The current Holy Grail is to have a student-faculty ratio that is less than half what the ABA requires. But the legal academy knows this is a progessive metric that requires a increasely lower the ratio to keep up with the competition. Should this trend continue at its current pace, in a couple of decades the ratio could be 1:1. OK, that's an absurdly worst case sscenario but do a little timeline student-faculty ratio empirical research. If 9:1 is the current Holy Grail competive standard for increasing a law school ranking, how long will it take to get to reduce the ratio to an absurdly low metric? See, for example, Will the Student-to-Faculty Ratio in Law Schools Be 7.6:1 in 2038?
So let's Imagine another ranking metic that might enhance law school rankings based on law school retained revenues higher than an prosposed quantitive ABA standard. Of course, I doubt the ABA would specify in quantitive terms what the retained revenues be used for. It could just escalate the well-established trend for lowering the student-faculty ratio to play the US News law school rankings game.
The UB Law Chronicles. In addition to this post and links cited, see the following LLB posts and links cited therein for publicly available statements:
- August 1, 2011: Univ. of Baltimore Law School Dean Told to Take a Hike by University Administration
- August 2, 2011: The Saga of Fired Baltimore Law Dean Continues: U of Baltimore Responds Publicly to Dean Phil Closius