Summary: Western Michigan University Cooley Law School will lay off more than half of its faculty and staff due to decreased enrollment.
Faculty and staff at Western Michigan University Thomas W. Cooley Law School have been hit with devastating news reported by the Lansing City Press: more than 50 percent of these employees will be laid off. One faculty member stated that he could not disclose details about his severance package due to non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses, but that he is (obviously) “really, really pissed.” The faculty member, who wished to remain anonymous, stated that he was notified just last week that his final day would be August 31.
The law school has been faced with declining enrollment, more than a 40 percent drop over the past few years. Tuition, however, has been raised 9 percent. Last month, the school announced its Ann Arbor campus would not be accepting entering freshmen. Layoffs for faculty and staff were imminent, it warned.
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James Robb, the associate dean of external affairs and senior counsel of the school, stated that the cuts were due to the decreased enrollment that law schools around the country have suffered. He commented that on July 1, employees and the public were informed that a financial management plan had been instituted, which called for faculty and staff reduction. He denied that the cuts were in excess of 50 percent.
One law professor (who spoke on condition of anonymity) stated that reductions at each of the Michigan campuses had occurred. The law school has sites at Lansing, Ann Arbor, Auburn Hills, Grand Rapids, and Tampa Bay, Florida.
The layoffs are set to be complete by the end of August, Robb stated. There’s consideration of closing the Ann Arbor campus indefinitely, he added. He noted that there was no discussion of closing Lansing at this time.
Another major financial complication for the school occurred when Wells Fargo increased the interest on a line of credit, which made it unaffordable. The source revealing this information stated Cooley would issue bonds in September through PNC, and that to make the bonds more attractive, Cooley needed to cut costs—hence the layoffs.
Robb stated it was a “painful but necessary” process to make the institution financially attractive to investors. He confirmed the school was working on the “renewal of bond issue.” Ultimately, he declared the goal is “to continue to provide outstanding education to our students.”
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