If the school's faculty are being asked to throw anything into the pot the administration is doing a good job of not revealing this, as Frank Wu, the school's chancellor and dean -- Hastings is a free-standing state law school which is not part of either the UC system or a larger university -- mentioned nothing of the kind in his letters to the Hastings community. Indeed per these communications it appears the faculty got a 5% raise in over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year. (It says something about the social structure of legal academia that if Hastings had laid off a single tenure-track faculty member this would have been the talk of legal academia, but the school can eliminate 20 staff positions and hardly a word about this can be found on the internet.)
From an outside perspective, an unsympathetic observer might conclude that Hastings' current situation can serve as an exemplar of the kind of rampant financial irresponsibility that we've seen all over American legal academia in recent
In 2004-2005 Hastings charged a resident tuition rate of $20,900. This coming fall, it will charge California residents $46,500 for the privilege of attending. This is an 83.5% increase in real inflation-adjusted dollars.
As of three years ago Hastings was getting a quarter of its $40 million annual operating budget from the state of California. At that time Gov. Schwarzenegger attempted to eliminate the subsidy almost entirely but was rebuffed by the legislature, which kept the subsidy intact. (A mordantly charming detail: $155,000 of the school's annual operating expense was coming from California lottery proceeds). In short a heavily subsidized school has nearly doubled its price of admission but still finds itself having to make major budget cuts.
Now what could explain this situation? Well for one thing between 2007-08 and 2009-10 Hastings decided it would be a fine time to hire nine new tenured or tenure-track faculty members, in the middle of period in which the school was in the process of nearly doubling its tuition in real terms, while the status of its state funding was in increasing question. (I should emphasize I don't mean to pick on Hastings here -- this kind of behavior is SOP at many law schools).
Meanwhile as all this was going on the employment prospects for the school's graduates were in the process of collapsing: nine months after graduation 44.4% of the 2010 class had no long-term employment of any kind, legal or non-legal, which was one of the very worst performances of any ABA-accredited law school in this category.
Obviously under these conditions cutting the size of the JD portion of the student body by 20% is both warranted and something of an act of desperation. We will be seeing similar things and worse at many other law schools soon, although we can expect that various central administrators will be less inclined than Hastings' own administration to allow the pain to fall exclusively on law school staffs rather than faculties.
A final note: How utterly absurd and irresponsible was it for the state of California to approve the opening of a new law school at UC-Irvine in 2009? I'm not going to bother to look it up but I can guess this boondoggle was approved on the basis of some nonsense about rigorously combining theory and practice in a new model for 21st century legal education while maintaining "accessibility" to legal education for the people of California, who were previously making do with about 41 law schools (In three years the school's tuition has gone from free for its first class to $44K for residents and $54K for non-residents).
Anyway, what's going on at Hastings is merely a preview of coming attractions all across the nation. As Bette Davis once remarked, fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy night.