Valpo Law announces faculty buyouts, smaller future classes

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Valparaiso University School of Law announced Friday afternoon it will offer buyouts to tenured faculty and faculty members with multi-year contracts. The school said the decisions reflected a post-recession era in which law schools “are facing a sharp decline in student applications and enrollment.” The northwest Indiana school also indicated it expects fewer future students.

Dean Andrea Lyon said there are 21 tenured faculty members and six with multi-year contracts who would be eligible to request buyouts. She said she could not share details of the buyout terms.

Lyon said the school didn’t have a number of faculty reductions expected, but it did have a budget target that she was not at liberty to share. “We have to get smaller, like most law schools,” she said, acknowledging fewer jobs and law school applicants. “We have to right-size the faculty to respond to that.”

The law school made the announcement in a statement issued by Ogilvy Public Relations of Chicago.

According to Valpo Law’s website, the school has 36 full-time faculty members including Lyon, who assumed leadership of the law school in July 2014.

Valpo Law said in the statement the purpose of offering the buyouts “is to align the size of the faculty with the expected future law school enrollment,” though it offered no indication in the statement of what that will be. “Valparaiso University and its board are fully committed to the future of the law school and are taking this step to ensure its future success,” the statement said.

“To put the law school and our students in the best position to succeed, we are taking steps to meet the challenges facing legal education. Based on thorough due diligence, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to allow tenured faculty members and faculty members with multi-year contracts to request a buyout of their contracts based on certain terms and conditions.”  

Valpo Law will retain its focus on diversity regarding race, age and other factors, and offering opportunities based on a holistic approach of evaluating students accepted that looks at factors beyond LSAT scores. “That’s not going to change,” Lyon said, “but we also have to recognize the market is what it is.

“We really respect and honor the faculty that has been here,” she said. “It’s not an easy thing to do.”

According to Valparaiso’s Standard 509 Information Report submitted to the American Bar Association, there were 472 total students enrolled in 2015, compared with 516 students enrolled in 2014 and 508 in 2013. Full-time tuition was $40,372 for the 2014-2015 academic year.

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