Friday, February 26, 2010

The former University of Maryland law dean's current troubles

I've been following the stories about Karen Rothenberg's current troubles over some payments made to her while she was Maryland's dean, and two particularly good posts are here and here.  I don't know Karen that well, but I certainly saw her in action, and I found her to be extremely energetic and committed behavior. 

Were the payments authorized?  I'll bet that they were.  Were they vetted thoroughly beforehand?  Who knows?  Should academics get those big salaries?  Maybe not, but as the Feminist Law Professors post points out, Karen probably found herself in the crosshairs of all of those folks who are angry at Wall Street bonuses as well.

All I know is that being in the public eye is sometimes really, really miserable, and that Karen has my sympathy right now.


Eric said...

I have the advantage of not knowing the dean personally or even of having heard of her. It's important to keep in mind that useful Calvinist idea that we don't really know each others' hearts, and the nicest-seeming colleague might well be a child molester or a thief and we'd never know till the cops showed up.

Nancy Rapoport said...

True, Eric, or that person who looks truly venal might not be venal at all.

Jennifer said...

I still don't understand how it is Dean Rothenberg who has done something wrong. She didn't give herself a raise. It looks to me like what really happened is that after doubling her school's endowment and moving it up substantially in the rankings her boss induced her to stay off the job market by increasing her salary in a way that he may well have known was beyond his authority.
Recent news reports suggest that the President of the University did a terrible job of record keeping and obviously the way he provided these funds has caused nothing but trouble for the university, the law school and the dean.
As I posted in Faculty Lounge, I can understand why law students in general would hear something like this and get upset--although not University of Maryland students since Dean Rothenberg has significantly increased the value of their degrees. Times are very hard and students graduating from private schools are finding themselves buried in debt with little prospect of finding a job that will come close to paying it back.
There are two issues here--and it is the assumption that the Dean did something wrong by cashing her own paycheck that troubles me. I don't see the Audit report as questioning whether or not she deserved the pay she got, just whether the president had the authority to give it to her.
I'm sure all of us feel we are paid less than we deserve, but that doesn't mean that someone who is paid top dollar for what her boss felt was a job well done has done anything wrong. Someone has to be the highest paid dean in legal academe and although I doubt it was her, so what if it was?