I've been in touch with some of my former colleagues about recent events, and hope to have more soon. I am hoping that the worst reports--about self-serving vendettas, a revolt by non-performers, and other petty ugliness--will turn out to be baseless. There are clearly some reasonable objections to the Deanship just ended (lodged by former colleagues for whom I have the highest regard), but an awful lot of the turmoil does seem to be a case of some very bad behavior by some faculty whom no peer or better school would hire--the "slave revolt" in academic values, as it were (to bowlderize a line of Nietzsche's). As one of my Chicago colleagues who read Larry Sager's resignation letter remarked to me: "Sager tried to improve the faculty, and they ran him out of town on a rail." Although I think it's a bit more complex than that, this is certainly how it is going to look to much of the legal academic world. Interim Dean Lindquist, a distinguished scholar of judicial politics, has her work cut out for her, and I wish her luck! I hope my former colleagues will help, not hinder, her.
DEC. 13 UPDATE: One of my esteemed former colleagues writes:
I think you went overboard about the revolt of the underperformers. Many of the lateral offers and salaries are justified (albeit one is so absurdly high that you have to wonder what was going on). But the side deals to insiders are something else. None of those had outside offers and none were likely to get one at a comparable school. That is where at least my wonderment is. Retention bonuses for those who would be retained anyway are simply a way of rewarding friends.
As I noted originally, some of the salaries and forgivable loans do seem to me inexplicable, and perhaps my Texas colleague is correct. On the other hand, at least some of those leading the charge at Texas are under-performers, and some of them, bizarrely enough, are also paid extravagantly.
CORRECTION: It's actually false that "none" of the insiders "had outside offers and none were likely to get one at a comparable school." I expect this was just e-mail hyperbole on the part of my former colleague, whose worry is that this was true about some of the insiders.