Letter to the Editor

Bad mathematics

A proposal to slash the size of the George Washington University Law School by one quarter has been shelved after it was discovered that the committee which proposed the shrinkage underestimated the resulting revenue loss by some $5 million. It also underestimated by 50 percent the number of faculty positions the resulting decline in tuition money would cause.

The 18 faculty positions which would be cut under the proposal also would mean that the major benefits claimed by proposal supporters – small class size and a better faculty-to-student ratio – also would not be achieved.

But a $5 million, 50 percent mathematical mistake is no surprise for our law school. Just a few years ago, it proposed a plan to mathematically adjust student grades in order to assure an overall “B” average. That plan also had to be shelved when it was discovered that it was mathematically impossible for the new system to assure a “B” average, no matter how it was implemented.

The Miami School of Law in Florida also is planning to downsize, but it has recognized that “downsizing will cost the University of Miami millions of dollars in tuition revenue.”

To make up that shortfall, “the (Miami) faculty has even voted to place a cap on their salaries for the next three years and dramatically reduce the amount of summer research grants, summer teaching salaries and travel allowances they receive to help offset the lost tuition dollars.”

At GW, no one has offered to cap or bar his own benefits, and it is unlikely that anyone would. Moreover, the proposal also ignores what has been called “Tidal Wave II,” the estimated deluge of more than 500,000 students – the sons and daughters of baby boomers – who will begin knocking on college doors during the next decade.

Downsizing law schools just before a deluge of students already in the educational pipeline comes knocking is like switching from a van to a Honda Civic when your wife it diagnosed as being pregnant with sextuplets.

-John F. Banzhaf IIIGW law professor

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