Bruce Rogow (Melanie Bell)
After 40 years as a law professor at Nova Southeastern University, Bruce Rogow—who has taught at the school since it first opened—delivered his final lecture last week.
Rogow is one of dozens of tenured law professors to be offered buyouts by the school; Nova is also offering “voluntary separation packages” to professors at its Fischler School of Education and its Huizenga Business School.
The buyouts are an effort by the Davie-based school to save money; bring new, younger faculty into the mix; and, in the case of the law school, respond to a changing marketplace that has seen enrollment drop nationally. It is the first time Nova has offered buyouts to its faculty, said Robert Pietrykowski, vice president of human resources at Nova.
“It is not a stated objective or underlying objective to dilute the tenure track,” Pietrykowski said. “We are trying to reposition each of the schools to meet the challenges and opportunities of what’s a constantly evolving, higher education marketplace.”
Nova’s NSU Shepard Broad Law Center is not the only law school to offer buyouts to professors. Several law schools around the country, including Albany Law School, Vermont Law School and University at Buffalo Law School, have offered faculty members buyouts to shore up finances as enrollment continues to drop.
At Nova, letters were sent to all 60 full-time law professors in March notifying them of the buyouts. To become eligible, professors must achieve a “point” rating of 60, which combines age and years of service. For example, Rogow is 74 and has taught at Nova for 40 years, so his score is 114.
The faculty has until May 25 to decide whether to take the buyouts, which have been capped at 20 percent of the faculty, according to Bob Jarvis, another longtime law professor.
Nova’s law faculty is delighted with the plan, Rogow and Jarvis said, particularly because it includes three years of health insurance.
“It’s a very fair offer,” Rogow said. “I accepted right away. This frees up the opportunity to hire new, fresh faculty. In the long run, it’s very good for me because I have something else that fills up my time, which is the practice of law. Teaching was just for the pleasure.”
Rogow, who served as acting dean of the law school in 1984, still may teach a class or two from time to time, but his career as a tenured law professor is over, he said. A prominent appellate lawyer, he plans to continue working full-time at his Fort Lauderdale-based solo practice.
Among the thousands of students to whom he taught civil procedure, criminal law, appellate practice and constitutional law over the years are Judge Melanie May of the Fourth District Court of Appeal, Broward Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch and Doug McIntosh, president of Fort Lauderdale-based McIntosh Sawran & Cartaya.
Jarvis, who is 54 and has taught at Nova Law for 27 years, is eligible for the buyout but not volunteering.
“I’m too young for that,” he said. “I’m not close enough to Medicare.”
Still, Jarvis thinks the buyout plan makes good sense. In 2000, he chaired an ad hoc retirement committee at Nova tasked with trying to figure out the best way for professors to seek retirement. No action was taken on the committee’s report.
“You can’t just have people go in and negotiate,” Jarvis said. “The deans didn’t know what to do.”
He added, “Every law school is trying to get right-sized. For the longest time, the number of people applying to law schools kept increasing, and as your student body increased, you had to ramp up your faculty size. Now on a dime, the number of people going to law school has plummeted, so you have to bring down the faculty size. One way to do that is to offer buyouts to senior faculty. It’s also a good way to bring new blood into the university.”
Gail Richmond, who has been teaching at Nova law school for 35 years, is another professor who is considering a buyout.
“I might be taking it,” she said. “I’m certainly interested in it.”
Because the number of professors eligible is capped at 20 percent, Richmond said she doesn’t feel the program will weed out all the experienced, senior faculty.
“Given that it’s optional, it’s hard to think of it negatively,” she added.