Consider the last few weeks at the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Dean Jennifer Bard.
On March 19, Cincinnati Business Courier ran this item:
A group of faculty at the University of Cincinnati College of Law is calling for the ouster of its new dean less than halfway into her five-year contract due to an apparent conflict of priorities.Upon reading, one has to wonder what, exactly, Bard did to earn a vote of no confidence. Thoughts of Larry Mitchell, Sujit Choudhry, and to some extent Lawrence Sager emerge.
[A] group of at least nine law professors discussed holding a vote of no confidence in Bard as early as Nov. 22, 2016. UC's College of Law has 36 faculty members and seven professors and deans emeriti.
Three days later, the Business Courier had a response from Dean Bard herself:
The University of Cincinnati's College of Law dean said calls for her ouster from a "small but vocal cabal" of faculty result from steps she has taken to tackle the college's deficit.Emphasis added. The New York Times write-up also identifies increased teaching loads and trimming supplemental salaries to those with endowed chairs.
One suggestion was to integrate the UC law library into the existing university library system.
Bard said an audit of the law school identified a need for written pre-travel approval and the submission of travel receipts, which has caused discomfort for faculty.
These ideas aren't radical cost-cutting measures. For over a decade the rest of the legal profession - if not the white collar world in general - has been tightening the reins on travel abuses. That a public law school would require pre-approval and receipts for reimbursement should be the long-held, no-duh expectation and not a controversial suggestion from a radical dean.
Almost immediately, she was placed on administrative leave by an interim provost.
As with any workplace soap opera, there's likely additional facts to which the public is not privy, but consider the optics on this:
- Cincinnati brings in a female law dean to fix the budget in an era of deficits and reduced revenue
- Law dean proposes what appear to be entirely reasonable cost-cutting solutions
- At least a quarter of the faculty revolts within two years of a five year deal and they unceremoniously put her on leave mid-semester
Many law schools still operate in a 2005 mentality that the applicants will come, tenure is sacred, academic conferences in Waikiki must be attended, etc. You can't simply inflate revenue the way tuition is inflated. Dean Bard isn't the first hatchet-wielder and she sure as heck will not be the last in this particular industry.
Seeing a provost dump the law dean at Cincinnati for proposing such measures, what law faculty would stay silent in the face of auditing and radical proposals? Does this not encourage a stronghold defense of such sacred perks?
Ultimately, law deans can only be as good - and can conversely be as evil - as the people who support them permit. Here, we have a law dean who from public appearances, made an effort to curb costs at a mid-range public law school. As a thank you, she has apparently been shown the door and will likely be replaced by an executive will be more deferential to the crucial needs of tenured faculty.