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Vermont Law School De-Tenures Faculty

After Vermont Law School stripped 14 professors of their tenure, the faculty are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That would be the shoe that kicks them to the curb. The law school is "restructuring," which is admin-speak for "cost-cutting."

Like many law schools, Vermont has struggled financially in recent years as student enrollments dropped off. For some, it was a matter of time before faculty had to go.

De-Tenured Professors

In 2013, the Vermont law school went through a series of layoffs and trimmed its operating budget. It wasn't enough, however, and the school started looking at faculty positions last year.

So far, the school's retention committee has de-tenured 14 professors. But Thomas McHenry, president of the school, said they may move some professors to emeritus status. Part-time or quarter-time assignments are also possibilities.

"We're looking at the whole range of options, both voluntary and not," he said.

Some faculty are not going quietly. Craig Pease -- one the de-tenured professors -- told the ABA Journal that the school did not justify its decision.

"Primary Responsibility"

The American Association of University Professors has stepped into the fray. In a letter to the retention committee, the association said faculty should have a "primary responsibility" in tenure decisions.

Law schools can terminate faculty for reasons other than cause, the ABA Journal reported, but the faculty, administration and board should determine together if "financial exigencies exist."

In the meantime, officials are looking for creative ways to keep the school in business. Last year, the law school borrowed $17 million from the Department of Agriculture to balance its budget.

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