South Royalton — Vermont Law School cut a dozen jobs earlier this week in a move telegraphed last year, when the school offered voluntary buyouts to staff members in light of declining admissions.
Of the 12 staff members that left, 10 accepted buyouts, VLS spokeswoman Carol Westberg said. The other two people were laid off. None of the affected workers were faculty members.
The next six months will be crucial.The buyouts, Westberg said, were originally offered to staff in November, with a deadline of Jan. 3 to accept or decline. While the 10 who took buyouts have worked out individualized plans for when they will depart, the same can’t be said for the two who were laid off.“They’ve already left,” Westberg said, adding that the 12 affected staff members were notified on Monday.Diane Hayes, the director of the school’s human resources department, said that of the the workers who were laid off, one position was cut from Buildings and Grounds and another was cut from the Office for Institutional Advancement.Both offices currently employ seven workers, Hayes said. The latter office currently has a job opening, but Hayes said the opening and the laid-off position are at different levels with different duties.According to President Marc Mihaly, those who took the buyout offers received severance packages based on the length of time they had worked at the school.For the two who were laid off, Mihaly said, “we’ve sort of sweetened the sweet a pot a little” regarding payouts.The downsizing comes as a result of fewer applications over the past three years, VLS officials said, a problem that exists for law schools nationwide as potential students, dissuaded by a lack of open law jobs, don’t bother to apply.Westberg said that about 200 students are set to graduate with juris doctor degrees this spring. She said the school is predicting between 150 and 170 students to enroll this coming fall.“Essentially, law schools across the country have to figure out how legal education is changing, and how to deal with fewer applicants,” Westberg said.Although the school’s faculty members haven’t been affected yet, Mihaly said that a similar buyout program is in the planning stages for professors.That plan would have professors retain their titles, but no longer be salaried, instead working on a part-time or class-to-class basis.“It’s really not a separation, as much as a change in status,” Mihaly said.Those offers will be sent to faculty members in early February, he said. He was unsure of the amount of full-time positions that would need to be excised, saying that depended on next year’s total enrollment.“We just don’t know where we’re at yet,” he said. “We’ll know more mid-year.”
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