From a quick and dirty review of available materials (available in more complete form from the blogs above), it appears that the law school has been battling the university over how much law tuition money will remain with the law school. This is pretty classic stuff: the university is aggressively seeking to cover its overhead costs, while the law school tries to maintain quality by retaining its tuition dollars. I suspect that this story is re-run across a significant number of campuses. There is a widespread canard that law schools "make money". It's true that they can be revenue positive for a university, but at a cost. Any school seeking to retain strong students and faculty - and protect its reputation locally and nationally - needs serious money for financial aid and salaries. And then there are other costs to draining the law school till. How can a school maintain an attractive student - faculty ratio and an appealing physical plant? Money! These are all crucial for a law school operating in a competitive law school market like Chicago.
I suspect that the dean had been fighting these battles for a while. When Weissenberger felt that the university was not delivering on its promises, with respect to tuition sharing, he launched the equivalent of an atom bomb: he notified the ABA of possible misrepresentations during accreditation. Things moved quickly after that. The Dean's letter was dated June 16. He was fired June 18. Here is some of the incediary language from the Dean's letter to the ABA:
I write to apprise the Accreditation Committee that it currently has information about the law school’s Retention Margin that is inaccurate. This matter has been central to the law school’s accreditation since the 2001 inspection. [Several paragraphs] regarding “Finances” of the July 22, 2008 Decision of the Accreditation Committee are no longer accurate. Consistent with our exchange of e-mails, I believe I have an obligation to promptly advise the Accreditation Committee of any statements in its June 22, 2008 Report that are not accurate. Also, our May 1, 2009 submission to the Committee did not address the pertinent issues, and as such, it communicates the erroneous proposition that the University administration and the College of Law have reached an agreement on the matter of the “Margin Agreement.” In fact, we have not. Again, I believe I have a duty to correct this misinformation as soon as it is recognized.
The inaccuracy of the previously submitted material came to light during the law school’s recent effort to understand the Provost’s statements concerning the Margin Agreement. At that time it became apparent that the Provost was not accurately describing the Margin Agreement that has been in place since the last ABA inspection... The absence of a clearly defined process surrounding the distribution of the margin funds, and the uncertainty of receiving these funds, seriously impair the law school’s ability to further its mission and maintain the quality of its program.
I'm betting that DePaul did not fully appreciate that this issue would surface so publicly and I suspect that Dean Weissenberger will gain growing support among both students and alumni of the law school. It would seem that he is fighting the university on their behalf. Still, times are tough and DePaul may not be willing - or able - to back down on the issue. And then there is that wild card, the ABA.
I include other relevant material after the jump...
The provost's letter announcing the decision stated, in part:
I can assure you that this decision, which is being made in the best interests of our students and the College of Law, was made only after long and careful thought and consideration. I respect all you have accomplished under Glen's leadership. However, the working relationship between the dean and the administration had deteriorated to the point where it had become difficult to accomplish the college's work, hence my recommendation to the president for this action.
I want to assure you that I was not terminated for any wrong doing of any kind. My termination was based specifically on a letter I sent to the ABA supplementing information which the ABA already received. I was told by the ABA that I had a duty to submit this information immediately because the Accreditation Committee is meeting next week. I gave notice to the University that I would be filing the separate letter. I am attaching a copy of the letter, because it is part of the record in our ABA accreditation process.
Image: DePaul provost, Helmut Epp.