March 19, 2012
I write to address in greater detail concerns about the recent layoffs raised by some students.
Most importantly, I’d like to start by expressing our regret and sympathies. Layoffs are not easy, no matter how they are carried out. We are losing members of our community who are talented, hard working, and very much valued.
I'd like to take a moment to thank my colleagues for the difficult responsibilities they have accepted, and then carried out, in the many months that preceded the staff reorganization. Although the decisions that had to be made were mine alone, I could not have proceeded without a team that was both highly talented and most sensitive. These layoffs were the most difficult experience of our careers, and I want to acknowledge those who have had to participate in decisions that are not popular. With that, I will turn to the background for the actions that had to be carried out.
We considered all the possibilities. After we determined the total amount of salary savings that had to be achieved, I divided that amount among divisions. The heads of divisions, such as Academic Dean Shauna Marshall and CFO David Seward, then worked with the managers of departments to make recommendations to me.
We followed the good advice offered by many observers and avoided a higher level of layoffs through a generous voluntary separation incentive program, by reducing the time basis of many employees, and by relying on management of vacant positions to the maximum extent. We had been able to avoid layoffs, furloughs, or pay cuts until now. Everywhere in this economy, from state agencies to private law firms, the past few years have seen measures similar to those we have been compelled to take.
Thus we have been doing our best to prepare everyone for this eventuality, and to time the layoffs in what we felt was the most appropriate manner for all parties. I’ve been discussing the necessity of layoffs since my arrival here more than a year and a half ago. We provided information about the layoffs at Town Halls, including a staff Town Hall that was dedicated to the subject, and the spring student Town Hall. We discussed the rationale for the layoff and the process that would be followed. We listened to concerns about the layoff. We did everything except provide the specific list of individuals who would be affected, which was tentative until after the voluntary separation incentive program was completed and which would not be appropriate to release publicly in advance. We proceeded during Spring Break to respect the privacy of those laid off and to minimize disruption to ongoing operations.
Not only did we follow all of our legal obligations in this layoff process, we sought expert advice and studied and took into account the best practices of peer institutions. We are offering due process hearings and placement services. We will meet and confer with our unions as to the impacts of the layoffs on remaining personnel. We are revising our practices in all divisions to make the best use of available personnel.
There has been a particularly strong reaction to the decision made to lay off one specific individual whose work in the Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) has meant a great deal to many students and alumni. I am aware that there is a bit of lobbying underway to restore that position. I cannot, and I will not, engage in discussions about personnel decisions. That would not be appropriate, and I can only put my faith in the understanding of those trained in the law, that they recognize it is not proper to discuss the circumstances of any employee in a public context.
LEOP has been a model since it was started two generations ago. Our most distinguished graduates include people who matriculated through LEOP. I have personally worked with LEOP and programs similar to it, and we have a commitment to continue enrolling twenty percent of our incoming class through it. We restored the LEOP Fellow position two years ago, and we will continue to fund it.
Observers have also raised important concerns about various initiatives that are underway. I will not shy away from what I should say. We are not only laying off staff, but also redirecting our limited resources. Pedagogical innovations including distance education, private philanthropic support, and strengthening of academic programs are more of a priority than they have ever been in our history.
We have hired faculty to begin next year and we have hired others too. We have made the decision that we must improve our student-faculty ratio. We have a chance to become a leader in the use of technology to deliver legal training.
Students have a right to know about budgetary decision-making and compensation specifically. Our faculty compensation is set at levels that allow us to recruit and retain the best scholars and teachers. Our executive compensation is set with reference to comparable jobs at peer institutions. Our staff compensation also was the subject of an extensive, independent study, on the basis of which we increased salaries – in some cases, by almost 33% – to bring everyone up to market rates.
As an example of the changes we have made, during fiscal year 2010-11, on the recommendation of managers and prior to collective bargaining, we made changes to the status and compensation of a total of 20 employees. We converted the status of six individuals from temporary to permanent. Another 14 individuals received a reclassification of their jobs, an equity adjustment, or a modest bonus. Half of these people belonged to the bargaining unit. Of the remaining group, four were non-management and three were management. Salary adjustments for non-management employees, both in and out of the bargaining unit, ranged from 10% to 25%. (One bargaining unit employee received a reclassification and an equity adjustment.)
I look forward to discussing these matters further with every stakeholder as we turn to the future that we share at this great law school.
-Frank H. Wu, Chancellor and Dean