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September 15, 2012


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SLU Law prof

One point of clarification: the SLU Law faculty have been quite aware of the problem for no less than seven years, and have opted not to challenge the administration for fear of backlash from the university president and because the president listens to no one, regardless of the merit of the underlying argument. Dean Clark's decision to resign, and her method of doing so, should have motivated the tenured law faculty into action, but unfortunately only furthered a sense of fear and reluctance to speak. I, for one, believe that a meaningful response from the faculty will never come. This is quite unfortunate, particularly because of the strong junior faculty members that we have, and now are in jeopardy of losing. Those of us who argued for a public and unified response were far outnumbered.

David J. Garrow

The 'bottom line' of Phil Pucillo's post is indeed quite commendable, but some of his ancillary comments, I'm afraid, could not be more wrong-headed, most significantly his assertion that Annette Clark
"will remain a highly controversial figure in American legal education for some time. Accordingly, she will lose out on opportunities that would otherwise have been available to her."
"Highly controversial"? How about "widely known for her courage and integrity"? And, "she will lose out on opportunities"? Only from institutions or organizations that want only passive and silent 'sheep' among their senior academics, and not individuals of demonstrated honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, "SLU Law Prof"'s comment just above here underscores how SLU is a university in the former category, and that should signficanly influence how others in the profession view SLU senior faculty who choose to remain there, and remain silent, rather than relocate or speak out publicly as Dean Clark did.

Phil Pucillo

Thanks so much for your comment, David. It seems to me that you and I are on the same page concerning Annette Clark's character and how her actions ought to be perceived. I fail to see how I am being "wrong-headed" in acknowledging the unfortunate fact that she has become controversial and will lose out on opportunities as a consequence. Indeed, it is precisely because of that consequence that her decision to go public (as opposed to going quietly) is all the more commendable. She had nothing to gain professionally from it, but quite a lot to lose.

For the time being, at least, Clark will likely be seen by many universities as too hot to handle. But we can hope that, for her sake and for the sake of legal education, she will be approached to serve as a law dean or in some other position of leadership because of her proven honesty and integrity.

Orin Kerr

Like David Garrow, I'm not so sure I understand the case that Clark is now "highly controversial." I have seen a lot of commentary on the SLU situation. As far as I can remember, though, I haven't heard anyone criticize Clark for her conduct (at least other than SLU's President).

As for Clark being seen as "too hot to handle," I assume that means for other Deanships -- the thought being, I guess, that Clark must want to go on some kind of tour of law school deanships, and that this step interrupts the tour. I guess I'd need to know more about Clark's ambitions to know whether that is true -- as well as how Clark is perceived at other law schools, which I don't know.

Phil Pucillo

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Orin. As for Annette Clark's career ambitions, she mentioned in her resignation announcement to the SLU Law faculty and staff that she intended to pursue a deanship at another school (I've pasted the link to that letter below).

Like you, I haven't seen any criticism of Clark beyond that of Fr. Biondi, and I imagine that she would be viewed quite favorably by most law professors. But isn't that beside the point? Even if a particular law faculty gives Clark its highest recommendation, the decanal appointment rests ultimately with the university administration. If the usual process plays out, and Clark is one of several candidates whom the law faculty submits for approval, my guess is that most presidents and provosts will prefer the candidate(s) with no prior record of calling out an administration. To the extent that Clark has done that, she is controversial.

Recent SLU Law Grad

I am a recent SLU Law graduate and I am embarrassed to have attended SLU and greatly regret my decision to spend three years of my life and hand over $100,000 of government loan money to an institution which viewed its law students as little more than cash registers. I wish I had not invested so much at an institution that wasn't fully committed to using those tuition dollars to provide the best legal education possible. SLU Law often "didn't have available resources" for student development opportunities, such money for travel to student competitions or conferences where students could network with employer. Now we know why. I truly wish I had attended a more stable and supportive a law school and a University that was concerned about the fact that 40% of their graduates are unable to find legal positions after graduating.

Next year, if SLU Law is able to find a qualified dean who is actually foolish enough to take the position, SLU Law will have its fifth dean in five years. Five years. Five deans. I fear we will be unable to find a qualified dean who is truly interested and capable of rebuilding a once-proud institution.

Like SLU Law prof, I too wish our tenured faculty demonstrated more leadership about the school's administration and spoke out in more support for Dean Clark, and addressed the issues that she has raised. I can't imagine why any junior faculty would want to stay if they could find employment at a more stable and supportive university, and I fear the law school's reputation and rankings (and marketability for graduates) will continue to suffer.

I believe that the only way SLU LAW will improve with the current University Administration (and tenured law school faculty) is for the ABA to get more involved, if it hasn't started to do so privately already. The ABA needs to take their Standards seriously. The ABA needs to re-investigate and audit SLU LAW to ensure compliance with the ABA Standards for accreditation, and to fine the school or threaten to revoke its accreditation for non-compliance. The school already appears to be in violation of the ABA Standards regarding how the position of the dean. Furthermore, Dean Clark's resignation raises questions about whether the law school's finances are also in compliance with the ABA Standards.

SLU Law prof

Recent SLU Law Grad: I'm sorry to hear of your experience, and encourage you to contact former faculty, alumni relations, the University President, and the current Dean of the law school. Your voice matters and is integral to developing a vibrant, caring, and engaged law school community that can help current students and alums.

Recent SLU Law Grad

SLU Law prof: I hope you didn't take my comments too personally. My sense of outrage at the school is primarily directed at the University itself, it's leadership and administration, and not the law school faculty. While I do wish the faculty was more vocal in its support for Dean Clark, and about the issues that she raised, my overall personal experience with SLU Law faculty was highly positive. I think the faculty is one of the best things about SLU Law, and part of why I'm so upset about this situation is the negative impact on the faculty.

I am extremely disturbed by Fr. Biondi's actions and his complaints about SLU Law's enrollment decline, as it shows tremendous callous to the obligations of a law school to the legal profession. The decline in enrollment is not unique to SLU, as many prospective students are recognizing that law school is not necessarily a good investment. SLU, like many other law schools, needs to reduce its enrollment in response to its many graduates who are unable to find work that justifies the education and expense. The employment market presently is not strong enough to provide legal employment for over 300 SLU Law graduates each year, and the law school needs to adjust enrollment for this reality for both moral and practical reasons.

I believe Dean Clark recognized this problem, and that she had the courage to do something about it. She talked about the need to reduce class sizes and to have a law school that could accommodate flexible class sizes based on the market conditions for new graduates. I suspect this probably upset Fr. Biondi, and suspect is a significant reason for her departure.

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