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Editorial Advisory Board: Good for UB, good for UB Law

If you were anywhere near the University of Baltimore School of Law last week, you probably heard a great sigh of relief from administrators, faculty, staff and students alike. The seemingly endless war between the law school and the university over funding finally came to an end with an unprecedented negotiated settlement. The settlement, approved by University President Robert L. Bogomolny and Law School Interim Dean F. Michael Higginbotham, was overwhelmingly ratified by the law school faculty and heartily endorsed by the Student Bar Association.

We want to add our congratulations to UB for the substance of the settlement and the process through which it was reached. If ever there was an example of good lawyers, acting in good faith, achieving a good outcome, this was it. With a brand new building ready for occupancy in early 2013, the search for a new dean getting underway, and a mutual understanding on funding with the university administration, prospects for the law school have never been better. And expectations have never been higher.

As reported in The Daily Record, the settlement promises to increase the law school’s base budget by $5 million over the next five years. The increase will come from a combination of university funds, increased contributions, law school tuition, and nominal enrollment increases. The settlement contains a built-in disincentive against tuition and enrollment increases that do not benefit our students by assigning to the law school 90 percent of any increased revenues from those sources. Additionally, tuition will not be increased to help pay for the first year’s increase.

Under normal budgeting practices, maintenance for the new building will be funded by the state; under the settlement, any deficiency in state maintenance funds will come from the university, not the law school budget. And, perhaps most importantly, the law school and the university have agreed on a formula for determining an appropriate goal for allocating revenues generated by the law school to core expenses incurred by the law school.

This formula, now called the University Support Ratio, was created by the law school negotiating committee based on a review of data provided several comparable law schools. The formula includes only hard, countable “core expenses” — salaries, scholarships, etc. — and only hard, countable revenues — tuition, fees, donations, etc. Subjective numbers, like the allocation of state subsidies on the revenue side and allocation of overhead and indirect costs on the expense side, are excluded. The formula is thus deliberately imprecise, but establishes, for the first time, a mathematical approach for future discussions.

Based on that formula, the settlement establishes a USR of 1.1 as an aspirational goal. Going forward, that would mean $10 of law school revenues, that is, tuition and fees, would be allocated to every $11 of law school core expenses. Currently, the law school negotiating committee estimates the USR is approximately 0.9, meaning $1 of every $10 in law school revenues does not go to law school core expenses.

The disagreement over how much of the law school-generated revenues were being used for non-law school purposes has plagued relations between the UB law school and the university for years. The recent brouhaha surrounding the resignation of former Dean Phillip Closius was only the latest skirmish, although easily the most public. Whatever one’s position on Dean Closius — and this board is on record fully supporting him — there is no doubt that his bringing this issue to the attention of the ABA and making it public precipitated these negotiations. We hope Professor Closius will remain a valued member of the UB faculty and Baltimore legal community.

To President Bogomolny, Interim Dean Higginbotham, and UB Professor Michael Meyerson and his negotiating team, we extend our congratulations for their creativity, dedication, and professionalism in finding a solution to this long-simmering problem. We recognize that the agreement is not legally binding, but we have every reason to believe it will be honored. Once negotiations were concluded, details of the agreement were made very public, very quickly. Relevant provisions will be sent to the ABA in connection with the law school’s reaccreditation process. And the agreement itself calls on future presidents and deans to abide by its terms.

We are confident that this agreement is the best that could have been reached, not only for the law school, but for the entire university. We especially applaud President Bogomolny’s pledge that the law school’s agreement will not adversely impact the budgets of the other UB colleges and schools. Having assumed the responsibility to educate freshmen and sophomores, they will need all the resources they can get.

Editorial Advisory Board
James B. Astrachan, Chair
Laurel Albin
John Bainbridge
Neil Duke
Eric Easton
Arthur F. Fergenson
Elizabeth Kameen
M. Natalie McSherry
C. William Michaels
William Reynolds
Frederic Smalkin
Norman Smith
Donna Hill Staton
H. Mark Stichel
Christopher West