Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Due to dropping enrollment, buyout program planned for professors at Vermont Law School

We reported back in November that Vermont Law School was planning to make buyout offers to staff members in response to falling enrollment at the school which is part of a larger, national trend.  Those buyouts have come to fruition according to a report in the Valley News.  Ten staff members took the deal while two did not and have since been laid off.  A spokesman for Vermont Law School said there is a similar buyout plan in the works for professors which will be sent out next month.  The plan calls for those who are targeted to lose their salaries and instead either teach part-time or on a piecemeal, class-by-class basis.  Those affected will be able to retain the title "professor" - a nice gesture under the circumstances though it will fill neither their wallets nor their gullets.  Query whether the administration will target professors who are near retirement age and hence the most "expensive" members of the faculty or will it instead choose simply to not renew contract faculty and thus avoid the presumed hassle of declaring an economic exigency in order to lay off tenured faculty members. 

Here are the details from the Valley News:

Vermont Law School Gives Buyouts To 10 Workers

According to President Marc Mihaly, those [staff members] who took the buyout offers received severance packages based on the length of time they had worked at the school.

For the two who were laid off, Mihaly said, “we’ve sort of sweetened the sweet a pot a little” regarding payouts.

The downsizing comes as a result of fewer applications over the past three years, VLS officials said, a problem that exists for law schools nationwide as potential students, dissuaded by a lack of open law jobs, don’t bother to apply.

Westberg said that about 200 students are set to graduate with juris doctor degrees this spring. She said the school is predicting between 150 and 170 students to enroll this coming fall.

“Essentially, law schools across the country have to figure out how legal education is changing, and how to deal with fewer applicants,” Westberg said.

Although the school’s faculty members haven’t been affected yet, Mihaly said that a similar buyout program is in the planning stages for professors.

That plan would have professors retain their titles, but no longer be salaried, instead working on a part-time or class-to-class basis.

“It’s really not a separation, as much as a change in status,” Mihaly said.

Those offers will be sent to faculty members in early February, he said. He was unsure of the amount of full-time positions that would need to be excised, saying that depended on next year’s total enrollment.

“We just don’t know where we’re at yet,” he said. “We’ll know more mid-year.”

Hat tip to ATL.



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