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UT Law Interim Dean Prioritizes Salary Equity

Nearly a week after faculty unrest led to the sudden ousting of Dean Larry Sager from the University of Texas School of Law, his interim replacement told the Tribune one of her top priorities will be a review of faculty compensation.

Stefanie Lindquist, Interim Dean of the University of Texas School of Law with William Powers, President of The University of Texas at Austin - Dec. 14, 2011

Nearly a week after faculty unrest led to the sudden ousting of Dean Larry Sager from the University of Texas School of Law, his interim replacement told The Texas Tribune one of her top priorities will be a review of faculty compensation.

“I certainly hope I can turn it around,” said Stefanie Lindquist, previously an associate dean. “That’s my job. That’s the reason I was selected to do this job.”

Lindquist assumed the role after UT President Bill Powers asked Sager, who had been dean since 2006, to resign. Powers said the change was necessary because division among the law school's faculty had grown untenable.

Tension spiked in the wake of an open records request filed by three faculty members who intended to highlight, among other things, gender equity and questions about the management of private funds from the UT Law School Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money to support the law school.

Lindquist said that both the law school and the university as a whole have been sensitive to gender and racial equity for years. Earlier this year, while Sager was at the helm, a subcommittee was formed within the law school’s budget committee specifically to review salary distribution.

In a recent letter to his colleagues, Sager wrote that he will do “everything possible” to see that the subcommittee’s recommendations are given high priority. But he acknowledged that his successor would determine the way forward. “It is my hope that she or he too will take the Task Force’s recommendations to heart,” Sager wrote.

Lindquist said the review would be conducted “hand in hand” with the offices of the president and provost. “We’ll see what we find,” she said. “We’ve just begun that analysis.”

In 2008, a campus-wide task force on gender equity issued a report highlighting some gender gaps in faculty compensation and promotion and making recommendations for improvement. Powers applauded the task force’s work at the time. He told the Tribune on Wednesday that he welcomes the additional law school review.

“If it happens that, over a period of time, men were hired when resources were available and women were hired when resources weren’t available, and it’s ended up having some differences that we don’t think are right in the salary structure, we and the law school will address that," Powers said.

As for the school’s relationship with the Law School Foundation, Lindquist said it might be tweaked. “It may have to change to the extent that we appreciate what’s gone on in the past and that we want to make sure we have open channels of communication and that we avoid any similar obstacles and problems in the future,” she said.

University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has called for a review of the relationship between the law school and the foundation.

In a statement, Jon Newton, the president of the Law School Foundation, noted that the precedent for such support dates back six decades. “As former dean Page Keeton observed a half century ago, financial support is required in order for the Law School to remain competitive and among the top tier law schools in the nation,” Newton said. “We believe that should be a common goal of the Foundation, the Law School, The University of Texas at Austin, and The University of Texas System."

Powers said he expects the review will be “a very cooperative process.” And he made clear that the relationship will continue.

“The Law School Foundation has been critical and will continue to be critical in being able, frankly, to compete with private and public law schools that are very well-funded and put together very substantial support for faculty and students,” Powers said.

Powers said his hope for the law school faculty would be that they proceed with a “sense of a common enterprise.” 

Lindquist said that in order for that to happen, the key will be “to enhance the internal processes of the law school to ensure strong faculty governance and greater transparency within the law school.”

“I think that will go a long way toward building consensus with the faculty,” she said.

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