Showing posts with label LGBTQ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label LGBTQ. Show all posts

Monday, July 24, 2017

Association of American Law Schools joins California in Boycotting Texas: Silly Prigs

The Association of American Law Schools recently announced that it is boycotting Texas and moving its 2018 conference on clinical legal education from Austin to Chicago. Why? The AALS is displeased with a couple of statutes passed recently by the Texas Legislature.

I have a few comments to make about the AALS's fatuous tantrum against Texas.  First, AALS's action is a gratuitous insult to a state with a long history of progressive government and tolerance. As I said in an earlier blog, Texas is the nation's second largest economy; and its population is booming because the state offers jobs, relatively inexpensive housing, and decent public schools. It has one of the finest state universities in the United States, and it is sheltering literally millions of immigrants from all over the world.

It was Texas, after all, that accepted a quarter of a million refugees from South Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005.  Houston alone absorbed 150,000 Katrina victims; and the city did it with a smile and a howdy.

Illinois, on the other hand, where the AALS is moving its clinical legal education conference, is  a basket case.According to the Chicago Tribune, Illinois has lost more population than any other state for the last three years in a row.

Illinois' financial affairs are in shambles; its property taxes are outrageously high, and the state has billions of dollars in pension obligations that it will never repay. In short, Illinois is looking  less and less like a state and more and more like a banana republic. 

And Chicago, where the AALS's 2018 CLE conference will take place, is one of the most dangerous cities in America--more than 2,000 shooting victims this year and almost 400 murders! And the year's still young.

Second, the AALS has joined a pernicious trend that the state of California has made fashionable. California now bans state-funded travel to eight American states--including Texas. Where will this end? Is America going to collapse into a loose affiliation of warring political entities like the Italian city states of medieval Europe?

Finally, AALS's condescending attitude toward Texas seems singularly inappropriate in light of the shameful way American law schools have behaved over the last 20 years. Year after year, the law schools have brazenly raised their tuition rates even while the market for new lawyers has collapsed.  The law schools have drastically lowered admissions criteria in order to keep their enrollments up, and some law schools have standards so  low that half their students are in danger of failing the state bar exam.

American law school graduates now hit the job market with an average debt load of $140,000; and a significant percentage of the ones who graduate from bottom-tier law schools fail the bar.

In fact, Southern Illinois University's law school, in the state where the AALS will squat for its 2018 legal education conference, is near the bottom of the barrel.  According to Law School Transparency, LSAT scores for SIU's 2014 cohort are so low that 25 percent of the graduates from that cohort are at EXTREME RISK of failing the bar.  Cost to attend SIU Law School: $145,000.  USI's 2015 bar pass rate: about 70 percent.

Do you think the AALS nabobs will be talking about their own moral crisis at their conference in Chicago? Not bloody likely. 

So here's some friendly advice to all you self-righteous prigs who enjoy thumbing your noses at the Lone Star State. Be nice to the Texans, because when the national economy collapses--and it will collapse--it will be Texas that rises most quickly from the rubble; and you might be looking for a job in the state you now despise.

And after we sack Pisa let's boycott Texas.


Elyssa Cherney and Elvia Malagon. Nearing 400, homicides in Chicago continue to outpace last yearChicago Tribune, July 24, 2017.

 Marwa Eltagouri. Illinois loses more residents in 2016 than any other state. Chicago Tribune, December 21, 2016.

Richard Fossey. California bans state-funded travel to Texas: Frankly, my dear, Texans don't give a damn. Condemned to Debt, June 27, 2017.

Nick Roli. Law School Group Ditches Texas Conference. Inside Higher Ed, July 24, 2017.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Mills College struggles to survive: When is it time to say "Do Not Resuscitate"?

Mills College is one of several dozen private liberal arts colleges that are struggling to survive. Rick Seltzer's excellent story on Mills, which appeared yesterday in Inside Higher Ed, reported that the college faced a $9 million budget gap in 2016 but was able to reduce the deficit to $4.3 million by making stringent cuts.

Mills once filled a niche as an elite West Coast women's college, but apparently that identity isn't working anymore. Mills has less than 1,000 undergraduates and about 400 graduate students. It is struggling to find the revenue to fund a $57 million budget.

So what's the solution? Mills' new president, Elizabeth Hillman, announced that Mills' top recruitment priority will be LGBTQ students--students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.

But how will a LGBTQ focus work at a women's college? Will it accept only bisexual women or can male bisexuals apply?  In the Q for questioning category, will it accept biological males who are considering a female identity or just biological females who are pondering a male identity?

Sounds complicated and confusing. Actually, it sounds desperate.

And there's more. Mills' financial stabilization plan calls for a tuition reset. Currently, tuition is pegged at about $45,000 a year, but the college's discount rate is 57 percent. Clearly that pricing structure is not sustainable.

 Mills has a financial stabilization plan, but the details are hazy. "Whether it is a lower price or a more direct and straightforward price, we anticipate that we will also market the new curriculum and a tuition reset together much more heavily than in the past," the college says opaquely.

 What does Mills mean when it says it is considering "a more direct and straightforward price"?  Is that an admission that its current pricing structure is dishonest?

The college also hopes to enroll more women who are focused on science, technology. engineering, and mathematics (STEM). But the college's STEM focus will be hard to sustain when the college is cutting faculty positions and slashing employment benefits. Seltzer's article reports that Mills cut retirement contributions from 9 percent of a faculty member's salary to 6 percent and plans to reduce it further to 2 percent.  Not a great benefits package. So how will Mills attract and retain the professors it needs to sharpen its focus on STEM?

Finally, Mills plans to roll out a "signature experience" for undergraduates "in  an attempt to stand out and attract students." What will that look like? It's not clear, and Seltzer's article asks a pertinent question: "[I]f many colleges have signature experiences, can any of them truly stand out?"

I wish Mills College well, but the hodgepodge of strategies President Hillman sketched out does not impress me. More LGBTQ students, more STEM students, more straightforward pricing, a signature experience, slashing employment benefits---in my mind it all adds up to "quiet desperation" (Thoreau's phrase).

At some point, liberal arts college leaders need to face facts: dozens  of small colleges will close within the next ten years. They are the organizational equivalent of a terminally ill hospital patient.

And when college trustees and administrators know that their institution is on life support, are they acting ethically when they continue to enroll new students? After all, there is a distinct possibility that the LGBTQ freshman (or freshperson) who enrolls at Mills in the fall of 2017 will be an alumna of a college that no longer exists in 2027.

And is it ethical for college deans to hire junior faculty members who will start their careers at an institution that may not be around when they retire?

All across the United States, private liberal arts colleges are on the ropes. Many are grasping for revenue-generating strategies like a dying person searching for a miracle drug. But there comes a time--and that time is fast approaching for many small liberal arts colleges--when a college should simply close.


Scott Jaschik. 'Financial Emergency' at Mills. Inside Higher Ed, May 17, 2017.

Rick Seltzer. Mills tries to balance cuts and efforts to grow revenue as it seeks to dig out from financial hole. Inside Higher Ed, May 31, 2017.

Kellie Woodhouse. Trying to Survive. Inside Higher Ed, May 12, 2015.