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UT Law Dean Asked to Resign over ‘Divided Atmosphere’ Caused by Faculty Largesse

Posted Dec 9, 2011 12:01 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The dean at the University of Texas law school has moved up his planned resignation at the request of the school’s president.

Law dean Lawrence Sager acknowledges he was asked to resign, and he’s complying immediately, report Texas Lawyer, the Austin American-Statesman and the Texas Tribune.

UT president William Powers Jr. says he asked for the resignation because of “a divided atmosphere among the faculty,” Texas Lawyer says. The problem, according to the Texas Tribune, is “bubbling discontent among professors over the law school’s faculty compensation practices.”

The divide was caused when the law school used funds from the UT Law School Foundation to reward some faculty members with forgivable loans, salary supplements, mortgage assistance and other support, according to the American-Statesman and the Texas Tribune. Among the payments was a forgivable $500,000 loan to Sager.

Sager tells the American-Statesman that his 2009 loan was approved by the foundation’s board after its president offered the money. "I did not make a demand on the foundation," he said. Powers told the newspaper that "there's absolutely no allegation by anyone of misappropriation of funds or anything of that sort.”

Sager told the Texas Tribune that he had to offer generous benefits to attract academic talent from other law schools. In a letter to faculty, he said he had raised much of the foundation money used to recruit and retain faculty.

The resignation comes after three UT law professors made an open records request for financial information. The records show several sex discrimination complaints by women and a possible “gender pay gap,” the Texas Tribune says.

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