In response to declining enrollment, Albany Law School and its professors are disagreeing about the plans to reduce the size of the faculty, according to the New York Law Journal.
As many as eight longer-tenured and higher-salaried professors were offered buyouts by the school on Monday.
“A review of our declining bar passage statistics (we are now the second lowest law school in New York State for bar passage), combined with the extremely difficult employment market for our graduates, compels us to believe that we must focus on quality of applicants, not quantity,” the board of trustees said in a memo sent to faculty on Monday. “To admit students in order to increase revenues due to projected operating deficits would be both unethical and in violation of ABA standards.”
The dean and president of Albany Law School, Penelope Andrews, said that lowering standards to increase enrollment is not an option.
“We have a commitment to the people who come into the building to prepare them to practice law,” Andrews said. “We have to ensure that they can succeed in our program and also pass the bar. We will not increase the number of people we admit just to fill our class. It is an ethical issue, and we will accept only students who can succeed in law school.”
The law school graduates from Albany Law School who took the bar exam in July passed at an 80 percent rate. This is the second lowest passage rate among all of the law schools in the state.
One of the professors at the school said that there is a “small but vocal minority” of faculty at the school who want standards lowered in an effort to increase enrollment. This would then prevent layoffs.
“It is a very selfish, selfish endeavor,” the professor said. “They are really trying to save their jobs, but they’ve ginned this up to make it look like we are denying academic rights.”
Data from the American Bar Association shows that the class of first-year students enrolled at Albany Law School dropped by 7 percent from the previous year. It is down by 29 percent from the fall of 2008. The applicant pool for this year’s class dropped by 23 percent.
Across the state of New York, the first-year enrollment numbers for this year’s class dropped by 9 percent at the 15 schools. It has dropped 19 percent since 2008, according to data from the ABA.
Daniel Nolan, the chair of the board of trustees, distributed the memo to faculty. It said that “the voluntary buy-out program announced today is but one step in a comprehensive strategy designed to bring operating costs in line with anticipated revenues.”