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Tensions Increase at Albany Law School as Rumors of Layoffs Swirl

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Last week, Albany Law School announced that it is working towards shrinking its faculty by offering buyouts to eight of its 45 full-time professors, according to The Wall Street Journal.

With this news, tensions have increased between the administration of the school and the faculty.

The dean of the school and its board of trustees said that there are few options left since the school has been suffering from decreasing finances. The school is private and is suffering from declining student enrollment and applications, which has hurt the school’s cash flow.

“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,” the dean of the school, Penelope Andrews, said last week in an interview with the New York Law Journal.

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Professors at the school claim that the administration and the dean are exaggerating the financial problems, which are causing issues with tenure.

The American Association of University Professors has come to the defense of the faculty at the school.

The AAUP wrote a letter to the dean of the school in December about the issues. The letter said that unless the school had a “bona fide financial exigency,” then layoffs of tenured professors would violate a breach of freedom.

“Indeed, its proposal, if effected, would eviscerate tenure at the Albany Law School and, with it, the protections for academic freedom,” the letter said.

Andrews was quoted in an article by the Albany Times-Union on Tuesday saying, “It is not accurate to say we want to eviscerate tenure. We want to cut our expenses and strengthen our institution.”

Howard J. Bunsis, an accounting professor from Eastern Michigan University, was asked by the AAUP to conduct an analysis of the finances at the law school. Bunsis issued a report that said, “empirical evidence does not support the idea that financial pressures are forcing the administration to cut faculty.”

The report from Bunsis noted that over the past five years, the assets of the law school increased and the liabilities decreased. Bunsis calculated that in 2011, 35.5 percent of the total expenses for the law school were spent on instructional faculty and benefits. Bunsis described this amount as surprisingly low.

Data from the law school’s website says that the number of applicants to the school dropped by 45 percent from 2011 to 2013. The class that began their legal academic career at the school in the fall is 25 percent smaller than the class that began two years ago. During that period, total student enrollment dropped from 687 to 591.

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