Tuition Special: It Doesn’t Make Sense, Even if We Could Afford It

In the late 90s and early 2000s, the argument set out by former Dean Daniels to justify substantial salary increases for faculty was compelling at first glance. He argued that the U of T needed to pay our professors more to prevent them from leaving for more lucrative contracts offered by American law schools.

While it is impossible to determine whether faculty would have left had salaries not drastically increased, I believe the evidence casts suspicion on Daniels’ argument. Let’s start by looking at the professors who did leave.

Who Left and Where Did They Go

Over the last twenty years, twenty-two professors have left U of T. Of those twenty-two, eight went to other Canadian law schools, seven went to teach at American law schools, four went to the judiciary, two went to private practice, and one was elected to Parliament.

Of the eight professors who went to other Canadian law schools, two, David Duff and Darlene Johnston left for UBC in 2008. Another professor joined the University of Victoria in 2001. Lorne Sossin joined Osgoode in 2009 while two others joined Osgoode in 2001. Two French-Canadian professors, Frédéric Mégret and Jean-François Gaudreault-DesBiens left to join McGill and the Université de Montreal, respectively.

Of the seven professors who went to American law schools, three left to teach at NYU. Nehal Bhuta, an expert in International Human Rights, left to teach graduate-level international affairs in New York in 2009. George Triantis left in 1994 to the University of Virginia and now teaches at Stanford. Gillian Hadfield left in 2001 to teach at the University of Southern California.

Professors Leave for Many Reasons

Is it definitively clear from the above evidence that the professors left for financial reasons? I don’t think so.

First, the biggest categories of professors who left are those who went to other Canadian law schools. Our average professor salary is higher than any other Canadian law school and increases at a faster rate so any professor who leaves is likely to make less than they would have if they had stayed here. Moreover, the faculty explanation for their departure is always that those professors found a better fit at the other school or did it for family reasons.

Second, while money is an important factor in deciding where to work, it is not the only one. People have to consider the effect of a job change on their spouses, their kids, their standard of living, their proximity to family and friends, and so forth. There are a host of other things these professors could have considered: the realities of familial obligations, the distinction of being the Dean or Provost of a school, the prestige of teaching at Stanford or NYU, the weather in Southern California, the bright lights of New York City, the desire to practice in another field, the desire to live in Quebec or British Columbia, or any number of reasons. Just because professors have left does not necessarily mean that they left for the money or that it was even the biggest factor.

Professors Have Left Despite Salary Increases

Four of the seven professors who left for the US did so after U of T began increasing professors’ salaries to promote retention. If you exclude Dean Daniels (who seemed pretty intent on leaving anyway), that means we lost the same number of professors to American law schools both before and after we instituted a policy to stop professors from doing just that. Thus, it’s not entirely clear that increasing salaries has resulted in greater retention.

Of course, one could argue that absent the salary increases, many more of our professors would have left to work at American schools. However, the above evidence also addresses this concern. It is more likely that other factors like the ones discussed above played a significant role in their decision to stay here. Moreover, we lost more professors to Canadian schools that pay less money than we did to American schools who pay more money. Are we really to believe that our professors – who chose academia over the much more lucrative private practice – are more focused on their finances than at which school they want to work?

I don’t argue my position with absolute certainty but I do believe the above analysis casts a lot of suspicion on the administration’s position. The onus falls on the administration to justify the rapid and substantial increases in professors’ salaries – show us evidence that all our professors demand salaries equivalent to those of American law professors. The argument that professors may leave if they are not paid more, on the face of it, does not appear to be sufficiently supported by the facts. 

The Benefits of Working in Toronto and Being an Academic

Is it that hard to convince our professors to stay in Toronto?

Modesty dictates that we law students shouldn’t brag about our school ranking. Modesty also dictates – not to mention social pressure from our fellow Canadians – that we Torontonians shouldn’t brag about our great city. But when addressing the administration’s contention that professors will leave U of T to go to the US, we must consider the benefits of working and living in Toronto.

U of T is Canada’s leading law school. It perennially tops McLean’s rankings. It boasts excellent connections to Bay Street. We have Canada’s leading scholars in the areas of Torts, Contracts, Criminal Law, Business Law, Evidence Law, Law and Philosophy, Family Law, and Law and Economics. Without a doubt, we are an excellent law school.

Not only do we have a great school, it is located in the heart of one of Canada’s best cities. U of T’s location allows for professors to create ongoing dialogues with both the leading practitioners on Bay Street and also with other esteemed academics at Osgoode Hall. Not to mention the social benefits of living in a city with a vibrant culture and the added benefits of healthcare and safety that are absent from many American cities. Toronto is a great place to live and work.

The argument that our professors could leave to join private practice is not sound. As Professors Jim Phillips and Martha Shaffer pointed out in their 2002 article, professors “get the incalculable benefits of a life of teaching and research, a life without the demands of clients and the need to bill every 10 minutes of their time.” When professors deride the significant increase in remuneration they could have gotten in private practice, they ignore the tremendous benefits they receive from being a legal scholar.

Are Salary Increases Needed to Attract Professors?

In addition to retaining our faculty from joining American law schools, the administration has argued that increasing salary helps attract the best legal academics. The fact that Toronto is an excellent place to live and the lack of evidence put forward by the administration demonstrating that professors choose not to come here for financial reasons make this allegation not obvious on its face.

Are we really to believe that U of T is not able to attract great Canadian academics to join our faculty? Perhaps the better question is whether U of T Law is having a hard time attracting the best American legal academics. If it’s the latter, what opportunities for great Canadian scholarship are we missing, to the detriment of our own legal canon, by putting our focus so squarely on recruiting scholars from the United States? What definitive legal text on Canadian law could have been written? Put another way, under today’s funding scheme, would a young Stephen Waddams or a young Carol Rogerson find a job at U of T or Osgoode Hall?

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