Law School Cuts Tenure For 75% Of Tenured Faculty

Vermont Law School

Law School Cuts Tenure For 75% Of Tenured Faculty

Vermont Law School has decided to strip tenure from 75% of its tenured faculty.

VT Digger reports that the law school plans to revoke tenure due to an ongoing budget deficit of more than $1 million.

In June, the American Association of University Professors conceded that under “extraordinary circumstances because of financial exigencies” law schools can terminate faculty appointments for reasons other than adequate cause, according to a report by the ABA Journal.

Vermont Law’s Decision May Damage Its Reputation

A number of professors interviewed by VT Digger say they are concerned that the 75% cut in tenured faculty may damage the law school’s environmental law reputation as one of the top-ranked in the nation.

Under the decision, professors whose tenure is affected have three options, according to VT Digger: continue teaching another year under a new contract; opt for six-month contracts with varying teaching requirements and salaries; or simply leave.

Professor Peter Teachout, who has taught at Vermont Law for 40 years, is one of many faculty members who lost tenure. In an interview with VT Digger, Teachout says he plans to continue teaching with a “significant reduction in salary.”

“I think there’s a sense that the steps that were taken are lawless,” Teachout tells VT Digger.

Yet, Vermont Law officials say that maintaining its environmental program is a priority in budget considerations.

“As difficult as this process is, we feel confident in the end Vermont Law School will be a stronger, more vibrant institution that is sustainable in the long term and that continues to meet our mission of an exceptional legal education, producing leaders, and being a preeminent environmental law school,” Colleen Connor, VLS board of trustees chair, said in a statement.

Prior Financial Struggles

Vermont Law has had its fair share of financial struggles over the years.

The law school laid off staff in 2013 following a decline in enrollment. In 2014, the law school defaulted on a loan agreement with TD Bank, according to Valley News.

Just last year, the law school received a $17 million loan from the United States Department of Agriculture, which has been used to lower the interest rate on existing debt, according to VT Digger.

However, over the past three years, according to the Vermont Law dean Thomas McHenry, the law school has experience “double digit increases” in enrollment.

“Wherever you go through a restructuring process you want to make sure you preserve the absolute best and most important parts of the institution,” McHenry tells the ABA Journal. “I am very excited and my deans are very excited–we’re in much better financial position today than we were several months ago, and this gives us the flexibility to start planning going forward.”

Sources: VT Digger, ABA Journal, Valley News