Brian Tamanaha for Dean

November 16th, 2010

Brian Tamanah has a fantastic piece on Balkinzation, where he posts his proposed “Dean’s Vision” speech, and discusses how he would save a law school against the inevitable collapse of the higher education bubble. Read the entire thing, but here is the gist:

If I am given the privilege to be your dean, I assure you that our law school has a bright future ahead. But the path to that future will not be an easy one.

In the past decade, dean candidates typically have promised to build a law school by increasing the size and quality of the faculty, which would lead to more scholarship, and by increasing the credentials of the incoming students.Candidates have promised to raise more money from alumni, who would give generously to enhance the prestige of their alma mater; candidates have acknowledged that tuition increases, keeping pace with competitor institutions, would be necessary to fund this ascent to excellence.

My pitch to you is different. I promise to hold down the size of the faculty while maintaining, and perhaps improving, student credentials. I will hold the line on tuition increases. My pitch to the alumni will be that, with their help and with the help of the faculty, we can solidify our position, while other law schools, those that continue to follow the old model, find themselves squeezed in a vise of their own making.

Tamanah proposes freezing any raises for professors, increasing teaching load, especially for those who are not producing enough scholarship, cutting administrative staff, and lowering dean pay. Any savings would be put towards scholarships for students to increase class profile.

However, the last two paragraphs of the speech are most telling, and reveal why none of these reforms will ever occur:

I suffer no illusion that you will embrace my plan. The prospects of limited or zero raises and of perhaps teaching an additional course are not pleasant to contemplate. If I were in your position I would move on to the next dean candidate with alacrity and relief. I too want generous raises. I too want to teach no more than three courses a year and have lots of time to write.

I thank you for your time, and leave you with these closing observations.Average annual tuition at private law schools is poised to blow through $40,000 on its way to $50,000. Average indebtedness of law graduates will soon top $100,000. The financial burden of attending law school keeps going up as lawyer pay and employment opportunities stagnate. If you think things can continue along this path, then you have nothing to worry about.