Speed Link: University of Baltimore Ousts Dean Phillip Closius

[UPDATE: UB president Robert L. Bogomolny responds here, claiming that releasing Closius was long-coming. President Bogomolny disagreed with Closius's characterization of the transfers the law school made to the university. He justified the tuition increases so the law school could compete regionally (prestige) and offer more scholarships (more net revenue); neither persuades me as necessary.]

If Season 6 of The Wire could be about higher education’s failures, the University of Baltimore School of Law is perfectly situated.

Dean Phillip Closius sent an e-mail today reporting that the university’s president asked for his resignation on Thursday and it’s effective now. Why? Because Dean Closius told the ABA that the university was looting the law school, and the ABA requested an explanation. He writes:

For the most recent academic year (AY 10-11), our tuition increase generated $1,455,650 in additional revenue.  Of that amount, the School of Law budget increased by only $80,774 [!].  I do not know of any law school in the country receiving such a small percentage of its generated tuition revenue.  A recent article in The New York Times noted that a 25-30% revenue retention by a university was considered high by national standards.  As of academic year 2010-11, the University retained approximately 45% [!] of the revenue generated by law tuition, fees and state subsidy. Using any reasonable calculation of the direct and indirect University costs, the University was still diverting millions of dollars in law school revenue to non-law University functions

We were inspected this last academic year and the University and I received the final report of the ABA Accreditation Committee on July 27.  The report generally praised the condition of the law school but indicated a concern, among others, about the substantial amount of money the law school contributes to the University and the lack of a University explanation of a rationale by which the money retained by the University is determined.  The ABA Committee requested that the University President and Dean submit a report by March 12, 2012 which provides in part a rationale for the School of Law’s share of costs for non-law school activities and central administration services and information about any agreement between the Law School and the University regarding a fair process by which the Law School’s contribution to the University for direct and indirect costs will be determined.  The day after receipt of the ABA report, I was asked to resign.

Call in Lieutenant Daniels.

Speaking of tuition increases, the law school has become astonishingly more expensive than in the past. Here’s data from my law school tuition increases page’s source spreadsheet. Columns P through U are the increases over inflation, and Row 120 is in-state tuition while Row 121 is out-state tuition. Column H is shaded because the Official Guide recorded Baltimore’s tuition as half of what’s displayed, leading me to believe that it was reporting semester tuition, not annual.

As you can see, since fall 2004, in-state students have seen their tuition jump 52% over inflation. Who knew such a big chunk of it went to the university? What’s even more amusing is that U.S. News’ ludicrous metric, spending per student, rewards this kind of behavior.

“Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit!”

More importantly, this is a warning to law school deans: If you disclose “the tax” rate to the ABA, we will terminate you. The real question is whether come March 12, 2012, the ABA receives a report from UB’s president and law school dean providing a rationale, in part, as to why so much of the law school’s funding goes to non-law school programs.

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5 Responses

  1. Wow. Thanks for this great post, Matt. I am tweeting it, and I think I’m going to try and get in touch with Phil and ask him a few questions.

  2. God I miss The Wire. For all we know, Lt. Daniels might be a graduate of U. of B. Maybe he knows the former dean? Maybe the dean paid Clay Davis under the table for expedited building permits for the law school’s new $60 million library. Maybe the Baltimore Sun is asking questions about the law school scam amidst rounds of cut-backs. Maybe that kid that Bunny adopted is looking at U. of B. with an aim of going to law school. Maybe Maury Levy is adjunct faculty (Ethics? RICO Seminar? Race and the Law?). Maybe McNulty/Freeman are taking night classes through their convenient program for drunken adults.

    Enough of that. Seriously though, didn’t this guy basically get fired for having a conscience and doing his job? How do they expect to attract good “talent” with that as their stance?

  3. He lost his job because a Dean cannot take a budget, administrative, fight outside of his institution, particularly if it can jeopardize a School accreditation. He is part of the administration and should protect the institution, not damage it. It seems that he has not learned the lesson, because instead of keeping his dissatisfaction to be “resigned” inside of the institution he went again outside impacting negatively not only the President, who he seems to have picked a fight, but the overall institution that he seems not to care anymore.

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