Erwin Chemerinski, yes, that Erwin Chemerinski, who I will henceforth refer to affectionately as "Chem," is the Dean of one of the most recently established law schools: the University of Irvine, California, School of Law. Professor Tamanaha has criticized Chem for chasing prestige and gaming the USN rankings in lieu of trying to shake up the status quo of legal education. Chem hit back at Professor Tamanaha in a green-blooded fashion, explaining why UCI law was so expensive (apologies to Mr. Spock):
I wouldn’t have come at half the price. No one is going to take a 50 percent pay cut, no matter how beautiful Orange County is, and no matter how wonderful it is to be part of a new school.He added that:
If we had followed Tamanaha’s advice, we would not have faculty remotely of this quality and then never could have attracted students of this caliber. We surely would have been a fourth-tier law school.
UCI law's website proudly proclaims that its faculty are "recruited from prestigious schools" and are "ranked seventh in the country in scholarly impact in a recent study." Chem said that he didn't see how a law school could have been created with the tuition that Professor Tamanaha had in mind ($20,000), but apparently he forgets that just a couple decades ago, law school tuition at many schools was in that range, even in 2014 dollars after accounting for inflation.
Chem gently scolds Professor Tamanaha, who apparently "look[s] at the value of a law degree in too much of [a] monetary concern."
Wait, what did Chem say?
I wouldn’t have come at half the price. No one is going to take a 50 percent pay cut.Chem, do you honestly think that you couldn't fill up a law school with new faculty at 25% of the price? But then again, those lawyers would probably have too much practical experience. After all, how would a faculty full of lawyers who perform actual work for clients or agencies rank seventh in the country in scholarly impact?
Seriously, this story writes itself, but it is far from over.
Chem wrote an op-ed in response to the Task Force's recommendations, published by the National Law Journal. The NLJ only lets you view five articles for free a month, so if you have already read your fill for the month of February, head on over to TaxProf blog for an excerpt
At first glance, it seems that Chem has evolved his position on tuition, like the President "evolved" his position on gay marriage.
Chem apparently agrees with the ABA that more needs to be done to address financial-based aid, and he is very generous in noting that the ABA correctly reported that the tuition of law schools has increased dramatically.
However, Chem disagrees with the task force's contention that the ABA's regulations are contributing to the high cost of law school. In support of this preposterous position, he points to a Government Accountability Office report and his own experience as a law school dean:
I cannot identify any areas where the ABA standards cause us to spend more money.Well, that settles it! While I admit that I haven't read the 2009 GAO report yet, I most certainly will and see whether I agree with Chem's interpretation of their report, but Chem's absolute certainty that the ABA standards have caused him to spend more money make me slightly wary. Unemployed Northeastern, who you probably recognize from his numerous postings over the years at various legal ed-related blogs and publications, was more wary than I:
Library? Tenure? C'mon, Chemerinksy - we know you are proud of UC Erwin, I mean UC Irvine, and its free COA, I mean $250,000 COA, but perhaps it is time to give up the ghost on such ridiculous assertions.
Chem is on stronger ground when he identifies the primary cost-drivers of law schools: salaries and benefits. As a dean of a law school he obviously has access to all the facts and figures relating to the cash flow of UCI law school. According to Chem, 3/4 of the budget is spent on faculty and staff benefits, and half of that budget is spent on the faculty.
However, only a few sentences prior, Chem had this to say:
The only way to significantly decrease the cost of legal education would be for law schools to dramatically reduce their full-time faculty and rely largely on adjuncts to teach students.Now, forgive me. I am not a law school dean. In fact, I am a third year law student with a generic "Business Management" degree, and I attend an unranked law school, which says something of my judgement. I also don't have access to the cash flow for UCI law school.
But even I can identify a fatal flaw with his reasoning: if 3/4 of the budget is spent on faculty and staff, and half of that budget is spent on the faculty, you don't need to "dramatically reduce full-time faculty and rely on adjuncts" and not have a faculty ranked seventh in the country for scholarly impact in order to significantly decrease the cost of legal education. You don't even need to fire anyone!
All you have to do is reduce the compensation of the faculty and staff.
Wait, what was that?
I wouldn’t have come at half the price. No one is going to take a 50 percent pay cut.
Now, hold on a second folks. Ok, I lied. Hold on for a lot longer than a second, because this segue is going to take a while. So grab some popcorn, your poison of choice, and return to your web-browsing device.
Thanks to the internet and public schools having to be transparent about certain information, we can get a pretty idea of what "half the price" means to Chem. I didn't have much luck with UIC's IRS 990 forms at Guidestar, but a certain PDF from a certain "Committee on Compensation" from a certain school in December of 2007 gives us an idea of how much Chem, Public Servant, Esq., is paid. Keep in mind that everything in the document was "Effective June 1, 2008, pending approval by The Regents," so we can't know for sure how much of the Committee's recommendations came through.
According to the Committee on Compensation, Chem was originally slotted to receive $1 million in maximum eligibility for participation in a "Mortgage Orientation Program." However:
After working with Chem on his relocation to a new residence near the Irvine campus, the campus has determined there is an immediate need to increase the MOP loan maximum to the policy maximum of $1,330,000.Also, according to the Committee on Compensation, or as Nando would put it: the CommiTTTTee on Compen$aTTTTion, Chem was slotted to be in "Grade 110," with a salary of a minimum of $233,220, a midpoint of $298,800, and a maximum of $364,300. In the spreadsheet, it was indicated that Chem would receive a $350,000 annual base salary. Not bad, Chem, not bad. Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre thank you for helping validate their little study.
In addition, Chem would be getting the "Standard Benefits Package," including Health, UCRP (whatever the hell that is), Vision, Dental, etc. (you know your benefits package is good when it ends with an "etc."). Furthermore, Chem would be getting a one-time payment of $87,500 as a "relocation allowance." Note that some of the benefits that Chem would be receiving, such as sabbatical/administrative leave, movement of household goods - 100% of covered expenses, and life insurance are not quantified monetarily.
It seems clear that Chem, Public Servant, Esq., is doing quite well for himself. But among all those dollar bills is even more gravy, Chem can claim martyrdom and victimhood!
"Inconceivable," you may say.
I didn't previously know this, but Chem was hired by UIC as the law dean for something called the Donald Bren School of Law, unhired, and then re-hired! Much of the drama was due to an op-ed that he wrote, criticizing ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' proposal to fast-track death penalty cases. Even if he hadn't been re-hired, we at least would have had "a lesson in academic freedom" from Chem himself!
All of the Mean Girls drama and poorly written snark aside, it gives us the crucial context in that the "Committee on Compensation" was recommending salary and benefits numbers when they were trying to patch things up with Chem. After such a valuable lesson in academic freedom, it was time for an equally valuable paycheck to be cut.
Thus we come full-circle to this portion of the story: Chem wouldn't have come for $175,000. I know its been a while, but remember:
I wouldn’t have come at half the price. No one is going to take a 50 percent pay cut.This is coming from a man who the ultimate liberal bastion, the New York Times, calls a "prominent liberal public intellectual . . . [who] has written scores of opinion articles taking liberal positions."
Which brings me to my next point about Chem.
Where does a public law school get its funding from? Three main sources: tax subsidies, fundraising, and, wait for it, subsidies from the federal government through its student loan system. Chem knows this very well, and in 2010 he took to the Los Angeles Times, another great liberal bastion, imploring the state to invest more in higher education.
Without more tax subsidies, Chem wrote, professional schools, such as UCI law school, would have to charge tuition and fees similar to those of private law schools. For UCI law school, this meant that 2013 resident tuition would be set at $43,280, non-discounted tuition would be $53,125, and indirect expenses would be $24,004. One of the solutions that the lawmakers proposed was to put faculty and executive salaries on the chopping block. Chem lambasted those lawmakers:
But this is no answer. If the University of California is going to retain and attract high-level faculty, it must pay the same as comparable schools across the country.
As Chem was negotiating salaries with law professors from elite law schools, UCI law had to match their existing salaries in order to get them to move. And Chem couldn't resist adding that:
As much as I love living in Southern California, I could not have afforded to leave Duke University if it meant taking a substantial pay cut.While a wide-eyed, left-wing 0L would have assumed that a great Public Liberal Intellectual who was running a law school in the great liberal state of California would find ways to minimize the cost of higher education so that less-affluent people, of which California has many, would be able to attend the Donald Bren School of Law, would approach the topic from a neutral perspective and let facts and good policy guide him to the answer, I, a skeptical 3L, who suspected the truth, now know beyond a reasonable doubt that for the Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, just like the fellow 1%'ers that he and the New York Times editorial board bash, everything comes back to his big paycheck, and the paycheck of fellow liberal law professors.
Remember when Chem said this?
The only way to significantly decrease the cost of legal education would be for law schools to dramatically reduce their full-time faculty and rely largely on adjuncts to teach students.He said that because he cannot possibly imagine lowering compensation. For him, a salary of $175,000 would not have been enough to be the Dean of UCI law school. How mind-numbingly out-of-touch!
With faculty and staff salaries taking up 3/4 of the budget of UCI law school, the astoundingly high tuition could be lowered significantly without making one job cut or hiring one new adjunct. All that would be needed would be for the left-wing, Democrat-voting, 1% criticizing law professors to be paid $150,000 instead of $300,000, and maybe teach another class or two a semester instead of writing non-peer reviewed articles that three people read.
If Chem wasn't so interested in maximizing salary, benefits, and "MOP"s, he would be able to see that the following would create a good law school at a very low cost:
-Having tenure-track faculty which are paid $75-80,000 instead of $150,000 or even $300,000. The savings would be astronomical.
-Having these law professors teach as many classes as were taught be law professors thirty years ago so less tenure-track faculty would be needed, further increasing savings.
-By increasing the amount of practitioner adjuncts, further savings could be had while providing more practical and hands on experience, with the added benefit of increasing students' professional network by having them interact on a daily basis with respected members of the local legal community.
-By having tenure-track faculty take on more administrative tasks, the bloated balloon that is the law school administration would be popped.
-By having a stripped down law library, less money would be needed on redundant law books that few read and savings could be had by reducing the staff needed to run the library.
-By reducing the amount of money a parent university can skim off the law school, even further tuition savings could had.
-By refusing to engage in reverse-robin-hooding for the scholarship game, real tuition for all students would be even lower.
With all of the above implemented, a law school could then let the market for their graduates dictate class-size, rather than the salary and benefits of faculty and staff. A law school that Nando previously criticized as a "toilet" law school due to high debt levels and low job placement could have very good outcomes for, say, a graduating class of 100 who borrow an average of $50,000.
But Chem, Public Servant, Esq., Public Liberal Intellectual, and RPPoFAL, believes that there would be very few law schools interested in going that route. He certainly didn't go that route. After all, the faculty that he recruited ranked seventh in the country in scholarly impact!
Chem is now in a very interesting position. His name and brand are very well-known; practically every law student reads a Con Law book or supplement by him. And I have to admit, the supplement was quite good, with that and an outline or two I didn't even need to read the casebook.
But Chem is also now Exhibit A for out-of-touch deans and law professors, with their bloated salaries, egos, and hypocritical liberalism.
Congratulations, Chem. In trying to create a new Stanford in California, you have also created the ultimate caricature in the legal academy, and have given cover for those at less-prestigious schools to avoid the cost-cutting for a handful of more years.