Thursday, February 11, 2010

From today's Telegraph (U.K), comes a story that hits a little too close to home...

Fordlandia extract

Stifling heat, deadly snakes, staff riots...In an extract from his new book, Greg Grandin explains why Henry Ford's utopian vision of a Midwestern town in the depths of the Amazon was doomed from the start


January 9 1928: Henry Ford was in a spirited mood as he toured the Ford Industrial Exhibit with his son, Edsel, and his ageing friend Thomas Edison, feigning fright at the flash of news cameras as a circle of police officers held back admirers and reporters.

The event was held in New York, to showcase the new Model A. Amid all the excitement over the new car, most barely noted that the Ford Motor Company had recently acquired an enormous land concession in the Amazon. The property was to be used to grow rubber.

Latex was the one important natural resource that Ford didn't control, even though his New York exhibit included a model of a rubber plantation. Edsel announced in the official press release about the acquisition that work would begin immediately.

It would include building a town and launching a 'widespread sanitary campaign against the dangers of the jungle', he said. It was to be called 'Fordlandia'.

About 10 per cent of the world's five to 10 million species are found in the Amazon and there are, as one observer puts it, more 'species of lichens, liverworts, mosses and algae growing on the upper surface of a single leaf of an Amazonian palm than there are on the entire continent of Antarctica'.

The region is home to 2,500 kinds of fish, about an equal number of birds, 50,000 plants and an incalculable number of invertebrates.

And it is a temptress: its chroniclers cannot seem to resist invoking the jungle not as an ecological system but as a metaphysical testing ground, a place that seduces man to impose his will, only to expose that will as impotent. Nineteenth and early 20th-century explorers and missionaries often portrayed the jungle either as evil inherent or as revealing the evil that men carry inside.

But Henry Ford, along with the men and women he sent down to build his settlement, proved tone-deaf to this. He saw the jungle as a challenge, but it had less to do with dominating nature than it did with salvaging a vision of Americana that was slipping out of his grasp at home.

For Ford, now in his sixties, the Amazon offered a fresh start in a place he imagined to be uncorrupted by unions, politicians, Jews, lawyers, militarists and New York bankers.

Many people in Brazil believed that Ford's arrival meant the salvation of the Amazon. A Ford car was a cultural symbol the world over, weighted with meaning and familiar to even those who existed on the margins of survival, even if they lived in a place like the Tapajós River valley.

'Now I am finally going to learn how to drive,' was one rubber tapper's response to the news that Ford was starting a rubber plantation there.

Read the entire article here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

For AMSOL to be True to its Mission and its Students, Class Sizes Must Be Significantly Decreased

In the past few months, there have been numerous articles in legal circles that have warned about the crisis that is facing the legal market, namely far too many law school graduates and fewer and fewer legal jobs. A good summary of the issue was recently offered by the LA Times op-ed, "No More Room at the Bench". Here are excerpts that are of particular relevance to AMSOL:

Part of the problem can be traced to the American Bar Assn., which continues to allow unneeded new schools to open and refuses to properly regulate the schools, many of which release numbers that paint an overly rosy picture of employment prospects for their recent graduates. There is a finite number of jobs for lawyers, and this continual flood of graduates only suppresses wages. Because the ABA has repeatedly signaled its unwillingness to adapt to this changing reality, the federal government should consider taking steps to stop the rapid flow of attorneys into a marketplace that cannot sustain them.

Taking into account retirements, deaths and that the bureau's data is pre-recession, the number of new positions is likely to be fewer than 30,000 per year. That is far fewer than what's needed to accommodate the 45,000 juris doctors graduating from U.S. law schools each year.

So what does this mean for AMSOL?

AMSOL started out with a vision, stated publicly by both Tom Monaghan and Dean Dobranski, to be a top tier school (See here and here and here) that would max out around 450 students among its three classes. More specifically, a popular slogan of "160-160" (meaning 160 students with an average LSAT of 160) was thrown around in the early years.

These graphics from Fumare illustrate the decline from Top Tier to Bottom Tier status in just a few years.

This year's 1L class profile on the AMSOL website lists 209 enrolled students, but notably lists LSAT scores only for the "admitted" class, and not the enrolled class, whose scores are definitely lower. How do we know this? Because, despite requests from the Alumni Association for these figures, and Dean Milhizer's recent reference to them in his report at the annual alumni meeting, the school still refuses to release them. What we can assume is that this year's 1L class scores are no better than last years, which placed AMSOL at the very bottom of Tier 4 schools.

Obviously, 209 students is much greater than the original vision of 150-160. What is interesting is that if the school had grown their numbers naturally, and not inflated them to make a few extra bucks off of tuition, they would likely be near their original Top Tier numbers now. I'm not going to do the math, but if you take out the worst 50-60 students in this year's 1L class, you likely have at worst Tier II figures for median LSAT scores among the rest of the students.

The school has to get serious about this issue. Not only will bloated class sizes forever keep them in the 4th tier, but they will also violate the school's Catholic mission and its responsibility of justice and transparency. It will be hard enough in this job market for 150 students to find decent jobs after graduation each year. What are the real prospects of the lowest 50 or 60 students, graduating from a Tier 4 school with heavy debt? Very bleak indeed.

Sure, it will be painful for the school in the short term to forego additional tuition revenue, but it's the only ethical thing to do, and the thing that just might save the school in the long run and help restore it closer to its formerly prestigious state.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A closer examination of the "accusations" against Professor Safranek

Fumare has posted a complaint that appears to be the main accusation against Professor Stephen Safranek in the proceedings to terminate his employment as a tenured professor at AMSOL. Accompanying the complaint on Fumare is a letter from a fellow concerned faculty member to a member of the AMSOL Board of Governors that shows how Dean Dobranski used a rather tepid and ambiguous "complaint" by a female staff member and by purposeful implication, turned it into an allegation of improper "touching" and sexual harrassment.

I propose that while there are other lesser accusations made by Dean Dobranski against Safranek to try to terminate him, this complaint is what the Dean's whole case rests upon.
Why is this so?

Let's first look at the relevant provisions of the AMSOL faculty handbook. According to the handbook, tenured faculty can only be dismissed for cause. Among the factors listed for "Cause", only two appear to be likely candidates under which Dobranski is seeking termination:

* "Dishonesty, moral dilenquency, or moral turpitude"; AND/OR
* (the catch-all) "Actions otherwise inimical to the best interests of the Law School"

I would argue that the only colorably plausible claim the Dean could make (with real, legitimate evidence) against Safranek would be under the second (catch-all) factor. Under this reasoning, the Dean would claim that Safranek's public statements in the media that questioned the Florida move and the governance of the law school were "inimical to the best interests of the Law School". However, the Dean must have realized that this claim alone was in all likelihood a complete loser.
1) Because a majority of the faculty (11-3) voted no confidence in the Dean, and effectively, in the governance of the school and a majority of the faculty have been on record against the Florida venture (of course, many of these have since left or been fired by the Dean)
2) The alumni board voted no confidence in the Dean, and effectively, in the governance of the school
3) A great number of students and alumni have expressed no confidence in the Dean, the Florida move, and a large amount of faculty, staff, current students, and a majority of alumni have demanded the reinstatement of the three fired professors
4) The first feasibility study of the proposed Florida move strongly recommended against moving the school
5) An ABA investigation into the governance of AMSOL initiated by a formal complaint of AMSOL faculty has found merit in the complaint (and issues with governance of the school) as proven by the rare move to send an investigative team to the law school, and a formal request for more information after the investigative team already visted the school regarding the issue of faculty hiring and retention.
6) Charlie Rice, former founding BOG member, has issued a series of public letters that illustrate serious issues with the Florida move and the governance of the law school
7) The law school, under the Dean and the BOG, went from an objectively Tier 1 quality school to a Tier 4 school in less than 7 years
8) At least two AMSOL BOG members referred to AMSOL as a "failed experiment"
9) Over half of the AMSOL BOG members have left in the past year

What these points show is that, far from acting in a manner inimical to the best interests of the law school, Professor Safranek has joined the chorus of faculty, current students, alumni, former staff, and former board members in questioning the faulty governance of the law school and the serious issues raised with a move of the school to Tom Monaghan's Ave Maria Town.
Given this evidence, could the Dean really make a convincing case that Safranek has gone against the best interests of the law school? The answer is a resounding NO, and brings us to the path Dobranski has decided to take against Safranek (or otherwise known as the "moral turpitude" factor).

Let's first look at the timing of the complaint. This complaint is date Sept. 14, 2006. Why is that significant? Because Safranek first went public in the press with his concerns about the governance of the school and the problems with the move to Florida in August of 2006. Quotes from Safranek appeared in both the Wall Street Journal piece dated August 19, 2006, and in the American Lawyer article which came out in August 2006.
The relevant excerpt from the WSJ story:

The law school faculty, students and alumni disagree. Most of them are unhappy with the process by which the board has undertaken the decision, such as commissioning a second feasibility study when the first one suggested moving was a bad idea. But mostly the students, faculty and alums just don't want the school to go South. They like Ann Arbor, and being surrounded by people of all stripes. One professor, Stephen Safranek, echoed the sentiments of faculty members: "We have a very robust notion of Catholicism and we're out to show its value not only for Catholics, but society in general. Having the law school in Ann Arbor captures what we're all about."

The relevant excerpt from American Lawyer article:

By moving to Florida, the school would risk losing that accreditation, says Ave Maria law professor Stephen Safranek, a critic of the move, who contends that only a small minority of faculty members would be willing to relocate. (ABA accreditation is based in part on the strength of a law school's faculty.) Plus, the new campus will be much farther away from internship and externship opportunities and potential clerkships, say Safranek and other critics.

It is these two excerpts that drove Monaghan and Dobranski to seek to terminate the tenured Safranek. But when read in context there is really nothing extraordinary about them.

So one month after these public statements, the above-reference complaint was procured. As stated at the beginning of the post, referencing the faculty letter to the BOG member, there is not even anything the reeks of moral turpitude in the complaint. So Dobranski had to imply to the BOG that there was really improper "touching" and "sexual harrassment".
Nothing gets a Board's attention like moral turpitude or sexual harrassment (or has the potential to destroy a person's career as quickly as possible).

I know it has been difficult for many, on both sides of the AMSOL dispute, to publicly take a side in the Safranek affair, because no information on the allegations had been disseminated up to this point. But now that this is out, and placed in a proper context here, I call upon those to look at the complaint, the faculty letter, the faculty handbook, and the facts in this post and come to your own conclusion.
If that conclusion is to side against Dean Dobranski, I encourage you to join the fight and sign the petition.

Monday, December 04, 2006

**Naples News story confirms AMU "crisis"**

Confirming what was reported here first by Whose AMSOL? nearly a month ago, the Naples News reports today on the bleak state of affairs of AMU in Florida, with Provost Fr. Fessio admitting that a "crisis" is now facing the school.

Note also the high AMU attrition rate referred to near the end of the article.

Folks, students and faculty are running away from the AMU project.

This story must be relayed to all AMSOL Board members.

If any Board members, after performing his or her mandatory due diligence and becoming properly informed of the issues (including stories like this as well as the recent faculty resolution against moving to Florida) would be committing a grave breach of their fiduciary duties in voting to move to Florida now.

AMSOL Board members - you are on notice.

School's slow growth prompts funding plea
By Jennifer Brannock
Monday, December 4, 2006
Costly tuition prices, lofty academic and maturity requirements and an inching accreditation process could stall the growth of Collier County's most ambitious project.
In a recent letter to Ave Maria University supporters, Provost Joseph Fessio wrote that enrollment and retention numbers at the stringent, private Catholic college are low.
The problems are contributing to "a probable added deficit," which he referred to as a "crisis."
"It isn't that we did not plan for it," Fessio wrote in a letter, dated Oct. 18. "But as a situation unfolds, the problem (or sometimes even a crisis) becomes crystal clear."
AMU needs more students. The ideal growth of the school and 5,000-acre town, to be located between Immokalee and Naples in eastern Collier County, depends on it.
After disclosing a laundry list of problems the school has with recruitment and retention, Fessio made a serious plea to potential donors to fund merit and need-based scholarships so more students could have the opportunity to attend.
"To that end, I'm starting a task force of Regents to raise money precisely for scholarships that will help us increase our enrollment and retention," Fessio wrote.
"Without such a scholarship fund, we are going to incur deficits over the next few years which will be unsustainable."
Despite the ominous statement, Fessio insisted the school and town are far from doomed.
"It's not false," Fessio said of the written statement Wednesday. "Nothing will happen" if AMU doesn't admit more students.
"But we'll be smaller than we should be."
Slow growth at Ave Maria isn't an issue for Collier County planners or developers.
Representatives at Pulte Homes, who have three housing complexes planned for Ave Maria, said they have loads of interested people who say they want to live in the primarily Catholic community. The growth of the school will not be a factor, representatives said.
Because Ave Maria will be responsible for its own water, sewers and roads, the pace of the town's growth won't affect other county projects, said Joe Schmitt, the county's Community Development and Environmental Services Administrator.
"That is a self-contained, self-sufficient entity," he said. "We still expect 500,000 to 600,000 people living in eastern Collier County at build-out, so I don't think they'll have any problems."
AMU has enrolled about 600 students since 2003 at its temporary campus, in The Vineyards in North Naples. Of those, more than 100, about 17 percent, have left the school prior to graduation, Fessio said.
According to statistics compiled by the College Board, about 49.5 percent of freshmen at four-year private universities do not graduate from the institution they started at.
The reasons for leaving AMU, or for not coming at all, are plentiful, Fessio said.
"The number of academically qualified students mature enough in their faith to respond to what we have to offer here is relatively small," Fessio wrote. "When you add this to the fact that we are presently still a rather small and unaccredited institution a long way from most population centers in the U.S., with a limited number of majors, it's clear to me that our growth will necessarily be slow over the next few years."
Fessio said the top reasons for the departure of students are academic and disciplinary dismissal.
The average SAT scores for incoming freshman are between 1200 and 1218, Fessio said. Students must also maintain a 2.0 grade point average or higher to stay in school.
AMU has strict behavioral policies to which some students fresh out of their childhood homes have difficulty complying. Some more troublesome rules include boundaries on male/female interaction and the requirement that students must live on-campus throughout their college years.
But don't expect those rules to change, Fessio said.
"We have pretty high expectations of students when it comes to behavior with relationships, drinking and so on," he said. "We've experienced that some students come here, and it's not as lively as they had hoped, and they leave.
"It takes maturity, and we're not going to diminish our standards for decency and character."
Though the school has received pre-accreditation, they are still 3-4 years away from receiving national accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Fessio said.
The school offers only 12 undergraduate majors, which has prompted many students to leave the school and finish elsewhere, Fessio said. The school cannot offer any new majors until they receive their SACS accreditation.
"We haven't had any difficulty getting students work after graduation," Fessio said. "Nevertheless, it is a deterrent for students coming here."
The main factor Fessio is working on is the bottom line. Fessio said many Catholic families are large, with several children to support, and cannot afford to spend the $22,575 per year AMU charges for room, board and tuition.
Fessio hopes his Regents task force will form by the end of the year, and will be successful in raising money for prospective students.
"The fact is, if we're going to help the students who need the most help to come here...we have to support them in some way," Fessio said. "I believe if I can communicate to our friends in this area what our students are like, how terrific they are and what we need to get them here, people are generous and will respond."
AMU students like Maria Victoria Puerto Hernandez of Honduras and Andrea Rodriguez of Immokalee have already reaped the benefits of full merit and need-based scholarships.
"I wanted to come here when I saw what Ave Maria offered," said Rodriguez, 20. "I couldn't have come without the scholarship."
"I needed to know how to approach the teachings of the church, and I knew Ave Maria was teaching the truth," added Puerto Hernandez, 19, who wants to work as a missionary. "Coming here gave me the opportunity to be more exposed in terms of culture."
Fast or slow, Fessio said he is confident the university will achieve their build-out goal of teaching 6,000 mature, academically excellent students one day.
"There are students like this all around the country," he said. "It just takes time for them to get to know us, and for us to know them, because we're still new here."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Safranek response to Dean Dobranski

Subject: RE: Response to Nov 30 E-mail Memo
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2006 22:50:53 -0500
From: "Safranek, Stephen"
To: "Dobranski, Bernard" , "All Law System Distribution" , "All Alumni"

I write in response to Dean Dobranski's memorandum distributed just hours ago when most of us had gone home for the night. This, like the "Feasibility Study", was released after regular business hours before the long Thanksgiving Break.

The Dean's attached e-mail states that "the memorandum is misleading in that it suggests that it was passed by 'the Faculty of Ave Maria School of Law.'" Of course, what the Dean is saying is that it DOES NOT say that it was "passed by the 'Faculty of Ave Maria School of Law." It does not say so. Nowhere is that phrase found in the memorandum. If it were there, the Dean would quote it. He does not because he cannot. The Dean does not note how the memorandum "suggests" such. He merely posits it, i.e. we misled either intentionally or not. The Dean further states that the resolution "implies" "that it was a formally passed resolution of the faculty collectively." It nowhere says it - the Dean does not state how it "implies" such either. He merely posits this implication.

The resolution was signed by eleven faculty. That is a majority of the faculty.

The Dean states that there are 21 faculty. That is true in some fashion, indeed in some fashion one could claim that there are over 30 "faculty" at AMSOL. The Dean includes in the number 21 at least the following: a faculty member who has never attended a single faculty meeting and who does not reside within 300 miles of this school; and a faculty member on leave who lives over 150 miles away and obviously does not attend faculty meetings.

Therefore, eleven faculty signed the resolution. No more than eight faculty who are here at the school working regularly did not sign. The lack of those other signatures does not mean those faculty do not agree with the resolution, it just means they did not sign it.

The Dean states that "It is regrettable that students have again been drawn into a debate among faculty members, especially as final exams approach." I do not know what "debate" he is talking about. If the Dean is talking about a debate on the feasibility study, it is incomprehensible that such a debate was not certain to occur upon the release of the feasibility study.

It is regrettable that the Dean, who had complete control over when to release the feasibility study, chose to do so after 5:00 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving just before the last two weeks of classes. It is regrettable that the Dean then created a comment period for students running in the last two weeks of classes, i.e. right before exams. It is regrettable that the Dean felt it necessary to send out his e-mail to correct what he calls "misleading statements".

Of course, any statement could mislead anyone. The statement upon which the Dean chose to comment was issued by Professors Myers, Falvey, Murphy and me in light of the feasibility study which is ripe with misleading statements.

I wish to point out to you one aspect of the "study" that I think characterizes it and is reflective of so much more.

In the preparation of the feasibility study, Deans Read and White promised that all comments would remain confidential. The Dean reiterated this promise to faculty at a faculty meeting. Thus, if you look through the entire study, not a single faculty member, student, or alumni name appears - except mine. Deans Read and White did not say that written statements would not remain remain confidential (all the alumni and other written comments are scrubbed of names). Deans Read and White ensured that my name and my comment alone is placed as a special tab in the study with my name on it.

Deans Read and White explain that they did so because I did not ask them that my comments remain confidential. Of course I did not ask because they had promised that all comments would remain confidential.

It is clear that Deans Read and White knew, or should have known they were breaking that confidence, because they place the specific "explanation" in their study - I did not ask that my comments remain confidential. Of course, neither Dean White or Read called me to ask me whether or not I wanted my name on my statement. They never e-mailed me to ask me. Instead, they thought up their "explanation" and presented my comments to the Board. The Dean then authorized the release of the study to all of you and to the internet world even though he had promised confidentiality to the faculty.

I stand by what I said in my statement. If I had known that it was to be shared with the world, I would have written even more - or maybe I would have written what I did more eloquently. The release of my statement by the Deans was meant to expose me to all of you and beyond when it was released to the internet world. Of course that release did much more.

It showed that they broke their promise. That should tell you as much as you need to know about who is misleading whom.

Letter from Dean Dobranski in response to Faculty resolution

Dean Dobranski wrote this in response to the faculty email and resolution concerning the newest Florida feasibility study.

Whose Amsol will respond in the next few days to the Dean's email.

Dear Ave Maria School of Law Community,

I write in response to the November 30 e-mail memorandum signed by Professors Myers, Safranek, Falvey and Murphy regarding a resolution of 11 faculty members opposing the Board of Governors' consideration of a possible relocation to Florida , which was distributed to the law school community yesterday by Professor Falvey.

Although there is much in the memorandum with which I and other Board members would disagree, I only wish to comment on two aspects of it. First, the memorandum, in relevant part, states, “Regrettably, the study prepared by Deans Read and White makes no mention either of the faculty’s submission of the attached resolution or of the specific concerns addressed therein.” There is a simple reason for its non-inclusion. The resolution was submitted to the Board the day before its September 27 Board meeting, and was never submitted to Deans Read and White as part of the Feasibility Study process. If it had been, it would have been included. Because it was not and because the information contained in the resolution was already before the Board at its September 27 meeting, there was no need for it to be included in the final Feasibility Study.

Second, the resolution attached to the memorandum is misleading in that it suggests that it was passed by “the Faculty of Ave Maria School of Law” on September 25. To the extent that this implies that it was a formally passed resolution of the faculty collectively, it is not correct. It represents the views of 11 faculty members and not the entire faculty, of which there are 21, including a professor on approved leave and myself, but not including the visiting professor. It was also not passed at a regularly constituted faculty meeting.

It is regrettable that students have again been drawn into a debate among faculty members, especially as final exams approach. I think it is important, however, that some misleading statements be corrected. My hope is that it will not become necessary to respond to any future communications of this nature by faculty members or others.

Dean Bernard Dobranski

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Ave Maria University School of Law

...has highest Michigan Bar test scores, for a Florida-based institution. Or at least that's what this article would make you believe (Hat tip: FUMARE).

By Healy's logic, I suppose this means that the law school has the "ear" of the Pope, since we are part of the University, and it's provost was a former student of the Pope, and knows him well because he once had a beard, and, nevermind.

My commentary, posted over at FUMARE, is below.

This just shows that the uprooting of AMSOL from Michigan to Florida is in its last phase (at least in the minds of the BOG and Executive Team).And make no mistake - Monaghan, the ET, and the BOG will try to blow up AMSOL in MI just as they did AMC in Michigan.

Those that actually cared about AMC in Michigan were asked to present a plan to the powers that be that would detail how a viable college could remain in MI, even with AMU starting up in FL. A very detailed (and feasible) plan was presented and immediately rejected by Tom Monaghan and the Board, who claimed it was unworkable.However, Tom and Co. could then claim that they asked for input and a viable plan for keeping something intact in MI, but nothing feasible was offered.Earlier this year, Monaghan sent a letter to an AMSOL professor and asked that the faculty come up with a plan to fund AMSOL independently of the Ave Maria Foundtion.

This is a ruse that will be used against the faculty and all those who wish to keep the school in MI and independent of Monaghan, for no matter how good such a plan might be, it will be rejected and used as another reason for the necessity to move AMSOL to FL and reap some "projected" windfall from the Ave Maria Town real estate venture.

It's unnerving to think that AMSOL's Board of Governors have allowed the future of the law school to be completely dependent on "projected" money from a Florida enterprise which is an economic disaster right now.

But luckily the ABA is on the job, and likely wouldn't extend any kind of accreditation to the Florida mess...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ave Maria Florida venture going broke

The Ave Maria Town and University venture is going broke. But don't take my word for it - this is coming directly from AM town and university officials. Below is a news story from the Naples Daily News, which is currently on the AMT website, and talks about the massive scaling back of the project due to rising building costs. Inside sources reveal that construction costs have ended up being 2 to 3 times original estimates for the AMT and AMU project! Fr. Fessio's appeal letter (reproduced in post below this) paints a bleak economic picture for the university in Florida.

"When Ave Maria founder Tom Monaghan, who also founded Domino’s Pizza, and Barron Collier Cos. first launched their plans for the site, they thought in grandiose terms. But when building became a reality, they were forced to scale back the project by about 30 percent, said Don Schrotenboer, Ave Maria project director.“The one and only reason is the rising cost of materials and labor,” he said.Schrotenboer said the expanded plans are far from scrapped. Six other buildings are designed and ready for construction as soon as endowments and donations are received to make them possible."
On the rise
Friday, August 5, 2006
The Naples Daily News

Intertwined steel beams protrude from the muddy ground 100 feet toward the sky, casting an arcing shadow over the future of Collier County’s newest university and town.
Ave Maria University and portions of its surrounding town have transformed from blueprints to being over the course of a few short months.
The 10,000 acres of former wetlands and farm fields situated near Immokalee in eastern Collier now house 5,000 acres of half-finished concrete buildings, water treatment facilities and lakes. The most notable new development on the site is the makings of a 100-foot tall steel-framed oratory, already visible from miles away.
Since the school’s groundbreaking in February, construction has begun on 10 buildings, some of which are near completion.
The university campus is scheduled to open to students next fall. Retail buildings and homes are expected to stagger their openings, beginning next summer.
“We are extremely excited about where we are in the process today, and the cooperation we’ve had from the local government,” said Blake Gable, project manager for Barron Collier Cos.
“We’ve still got a lot of hard work to do in the next eight to 12 months to make this a reality.”
So far, 48 percent of the university and its utilities are completed, including 32 percent of the library, 24 percent of the student activity center, 31 percent of the science, math and technology building and 16 percent of the undergraduate dorms.
Gable said the university buildings are a top priority, and should be completed between May and July 2007. The college, which is modeled after Princeton University in New Jersey, will house about 600 students next year, and about 6,000 at build-out in 2016.
The easiest building to spot on the muddy, equipment-strewn grounds of the future town is the private Catholic K-12 school, which is 89 percent completed.
The oratory, where future students will attend daily Mass and Holy Communion ceremonies, is 29 percent complete. The steel arc will be encased in stone shipped from New Mexico, and should be completed by December 2007.
In a county notorious for its difficult permitting process and behind-schedule developments, how are Ave Maria planners staying on-task?
“I think a project of this magnitude requires the cooperation of everyone involved,” Gable said. “We set a realistic schedule from the beginning, and set reasonable targets to accomplish with top-notch consultants.”
When Ave Maria founder Tom Monaghan, who also founded Domino’s Pizza, and Barron Collier Cos. first launched their plans for the site, they thought in grandiose terms. But when building became a reality, they were forced to scale back the project by about 30 percent, said Don Schrotenboer, Ave Maria project director.
“The one and only reason is the rising cost of materials and labor,” he said.
Schrotenboer said the expanded plans are far from scrapped. Six other buildings are designed and ready for construction as soon as endowments and donations are received to make them possible.

Each of the university buildings will be constructed in styles inspired by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Each school building will be topped with a copper roof.
Rising copper prices put the value of the roofs at more than $4 million, but because copper materials for the school were purchased about three years ago, developers paid a little more than $1 million, Schrotenboer said.
Initial phases of the town center have begun and should be completed next summer or fall. The town center will include a university bookstore, admissions office, coffee shops, clothing stores and other retail and office spaces on about 100,000 square feet.
Eventually, the town will open up to retailers, such as McDonald’s, Burger King and Walgreens.
Although Ave Maria founders can ask retailers to comply with their religious preferences, such as not selling contraceptives or meat on Fridays, legally, they can’t make them, spokesman Rob Falls said.
“Tom (Monaghan) would like this to be as sin-free of a place as possible, but you can’t legislate lifestyles,” Falls said.
About 70 condominiums also will be available next fall in the town center. Once the town is completed, Ave Maria will house about 30,000 residents, including the students.
Recreation areas, including a water park, ball fields and walking trails, also will be completed next fall, Gable said.
The on-site water and wastewater treatment facility, which will hold up to 1.5 million gallons of water, will be up and running in September. The first test sips already have been taken, Gable said.
Developers are already optimistic about beginning the second phase of the project late next year. They received final approvals for the project’s final phase from Army Corps engineers this month.
Tours of the campus are open to students and their adult family members every Friday at 3:30 p.m.
Senior Thomas DeCaro already has taken advantage of the chance to see the permanent home of his future alma mater. The political science major said he plans to take a year off after graduation to work on the new campus next year.
“It was amazing,” DeCaro, 21, said. “I was hopeful I’d get to be able to be there as a senior, but it’s neat to see the foundation.”
Meanwhile, at Ave Maria’s temporary campus in Golden Gate Estates, new students moved into the dorms Thursday and began preparing for their first year of college. About 140 new students will attend school this year, increasing the school’s enrollment to about 420.
DeCaro, a resident assistant at the men’s Canterbury dorm, busied himself Thursday directing freshman to their rooms and answering routine questions about appliances, schedules and university policies.
“So far, everything has gone really well,” he said. “Everyone seems to be enjoying themselves, and really getting to know the campus.”
Classes begin at Ave Maria’s temporary campus Monday morning.

Recent AMU appeal letter paints bleak economic picture for future of Florida enterprise

The following is taken from a recent AMU fundraising letter signed by Fr. Fessio. The most pertinent parts are excerpted below, with the full letter following. (All bolds from letter have been added for emphasis)
"When you add this to the fact that we are presently still a rather small and unaccredited institution a long way trom most population centers in the U.S., with a limited number of majors, it's clear to me that our growth will necessarily be slow over the next few years.

We've also found that many students who are not yet ready for the academic or the spiritual challenges withdraw after they've been here for a semester or two. So it's clear we can't easily solve the problem of recruiting enough students to improve our financial situation by casting a wider net.
I am concerned, however, that there are many students who want to come here but lack the necessary financial resources. It is critical for us that we provide both merit and needs-based scholarships so those students who appreciate and would benefit from the unique education we give here can come.

To that end I'm starting a task force of Regents to raise money precisely for scholarships that will help us increase our enrollment and our retention.
Without such a scholarship fund, we are going to incur deficits over the next few years which will be unsustainable."


1025Commons Circle Naples, FL 34119

October 18, 2006

Dear ---,

The new freshman class has just arrived, and hard as it is for me to comprehend, they seem to be even better prepared and more spiritually engaged than their predecessors.

The professors I have spoken to have uniformly said that this freshman class is the best they've taught. And I can say that attendance at Mass, Divine Office, and evening Rosary has gottena big boost- and it was already extraordinarily high.

But let me just give you a couple of brief glimpses of the many experiences I've had that give me so much consolation.

On an evening of orientation, I met a mother and father and their two children who were both coming to Ave Maria. I asked them about themselves and they said, "We're unconfirmed Catholics." I assumed they meant that they were recent converts but had not yet received the Sacrament of Confirmation.

I spoke to them at greater length and in our conversation it turned out that the husband had been first a Jehovah's Witness, then a Southern Baptist, but he had then read and prayed himself and his whole family into the Catholic Church.

The mother began telling me about how she thought the most beautiful thing in the world was the Consecrated Host when the priest raised it up after the Consecration. And as she told me, she began to get tears in her eyes. A few days later on two mornings in a row, I noticed that the daughter of this family came up to Communion with her hands crossed across her breast as a sign she wanted only a blessing and not to receive Communion. I doubted very much that she had serious sin on her soul, but I do know people who are very serious about their faith and sometimes become over scrupulous and don't want to receive Communion because they "failed in charity" or some such thing.
So, that evening when I saw her at Evening Prayer, I called her aside and asked her about this. She began to tear up and told me, "But Father, I can't receive Communion. I'm not a Catholic yet." Then I realized that "unconfirmed Catholics" meant that they had made the commitment to enter the Church but had not yet actually been received into the Church. So we talked about getting instruction for her and making it possible for her to receive Our Lord.

The beauty of soul that shone through this young women's face was touching. At one of the same Masses, I noticed a student who received Communion with particular devotion. And, while it takes me a while to get to know the students and distinguish one trom another, she resembled a student who graduated last year and who just recently entered a religious order of women. So I recognized her that evening at the barbecue while she was standing in line. I went up to her and asked her her name and where she was from. It turned out that she is trom a distant province of Canada, so I asked her why she had come so far.

She said that the turning point for her was reading Joseph Pearce's book on Oscar Wilde. I was stunned. Joseph Pearce is our Writer-in-Residence. He's an extraordinarily gifted author. But he's written books on J.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Hilaire Belloc, and G.K. Chesterton. If a high school student had read one of these I'd still have been surprised, because they are works of serious scholarship. But for a woman of her age to have been reading such a serious book on a very profound modem poet with a complicated life story was an amazement to me.

In subsequent conversations, she began to talk about Oscar Wilde's poetry. I was a bit embarrassed because she clearly knew much more about it than I do. I think you can see why my enthusiasm for Ave Maria is unabated and in fact growing. We have a campus full of students like these. Since this is a letter to you as our triend and supporter, I don't mind telling you about a particular problem which this creates.

Because our reputation for academic excellence (average SAT scores for incoming freshman have gone from 1119 to 1140 to 1200 to 1218) and very vibrant spiritual life on campus, the number of academically qualified students mature enough in their faith to respond to what we have to offer here is relatively small. When you add this to the fact that we are presently still a rather small and unaccredited institution a long way trom most population centers in the U.S., with a limited number of majors, it's clear to me that our growth will necessarily be slow over the next few years.

We've also found that many students who are not yet ready for the academic or the spiritual challenges withdraw after they've been here for a semester or two. So it's clear we can't easily solve the problem of recruiting enough students to improve our financial situation by casting a wider net.
I am concerned, however, that there are many students who want to come here but lack the necessary financial resources. It is critical for us that we provide both merit and needs-based scholarships so those students who appreciate and would benefit from the unique education we give here can come.

To that end I'm starting a task force of Regents to raise money precisely for scholarships that will help us increase our enrollment and our retention. Without such a scholarship fund, we are going to incur deficits over the next few years which will be unsustainable. So please help us continue to realize this wonderful vision.

Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.

P.S. As with many problems in a new institution, the need for "extra" scholarship funding to cover a probable "added" deficit has crept up on us. It isn't that we did not plan for it. But as a situation unfolds, the problem (or sometimes even crisis) becomes crystal clear. Your generosity is requested, --. And deeply appreciated.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Contact information for AMSOL Board Members

Update: Prof. Collette has been removed from this list, as have past Board members. The remaining list is taken from the law school website, although it is believed that at least a few of these members have already finished their terms.

Just in case anyone has a reason to let the Board members know how they feel about the governance and administration of our beloved law school, we thought it would be helpful to facilitate such communication.

Current AMSOL Board of Governors (according to law school website)

Name Fax No. Phone No.

Prof. Helen Alvare (202) 319-4459 (202) 319-5140
Prof. Gerard Bradley (574) 631-8078 (219) 631-8385
Mr. Peter Carfagna (216) 241-0816
Judge William Clark (805) 238-1234 (805) 238-7110
Dean Bernard Dobranski (734) 622-0213 (734) 622-8043
Edward Cardinal Egan (212) 813-9538
Reverend Joseph Fessio (415) 387-0896 (415) 269-1000
Prof. Robert George (609) 258-6837 (609) 258-2370
Mr. William F. Harrington (914) 683-6956 (914) 949-2700
Mr. Bowie Kuhn
Adam Cardinal Maida (313) 237-4642 (313) 237-5816
Mr. Thomas Monaghan (734) 663-7922 (734) 930-3587
Ms. Kate O’Beirne (202) 543-9341 (202) 543-9226
Honorable William Pryor (205) 278-2025 (205)278-2030
Fr. Michael Scanlan (740) 283-6442 (740) 283-6466
Dr. Michael Uhlmann (909) 621-8545

Sunday, July 30, 2006

NY Times article on Monaghan, Ave Maria enterprises

From Sunday's Business Section (subscription required):

Below is part of the article dealing with Ave Maria School of Law:

Note that the same reporter did the American Lawyer story on AMSOL earlier this summer.

For a while, the Ave Maria School of Law seemed immune to the strife. Its enrollment, now about 380, was growing, and the American Bar Association had granted it full accreditation. But Mr. Monaghan wants to relocate that school to Florida, too, upsetting teachers, students and alumni. Opponents say it is crazy to leave an intellectual center like Ann Arbor, home of the University of Michigan, for an undeveloped outpost on the edge of the Everglades.
“There’s nothing there yet, with all due respect,” said Chris McGowan, a law school alumnus who noted that students in Ann Arbor have easy access to a federal courthouse and many local internship opportunities.
He and others who are fighting the move said the only reason the school’s board was even considering it was that Mr. Monaghan, the chairman, had invested more than $330 million in the Florida university and town and wanted the law school there to shore up that investment.
One veteran board member — Charles E. Rice, an emeritus professor of law at Notre Dame University — tried to make the case against the move. But he said that Mr. Monaghan and other board members, including the law school’s dean, Bernard Dobranski, “did not want a contrary voice,” so last fall they adopted term-limit bylaws and ejected him from the board.
Dean Dobranski denied the bylaws change was directed at Professor Rice, noting that three other members left the board at the same time.
Faculty members, students and alumni rallied around Professor Rice, however, and since last fall they have mounted a campaign that has included pointed attacks against Mr. Monaghan and resolutions calling on Dean Dobranski to resign.
“The bigger issue is school governance,” said Jason B. Negri, president of the law school’s alumni association. Specifically, he criticized Mr. Monaghan’s insistence on operating the school like a private business and what he said was the board’s failure to stand up to him.

Friday, July 28, 2006

American Lawyer article on AMSOL

From this month's American Lawyer student edition:

Heck, No, We Won’t Go

Domino’s Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan wants to relocate the law school he started—but students and faculty are resisting.

Many people might jump at the chance to swap Michigan’s icy-cold winters for life in sunny central Florida.
Not so students and faculty at Ave Maria School of Law, the conservative Ann Arbor–based Catholic law school started by Domino’s Pizza, Inc., founder Thomas Monaghan.
For now, plans to relocate the six-year-old school to a new campus, 30 miles east of Naples, Florida, are only in the discussion phase. But many Ave Maria professors, students, and alums are dead-set against packing up for Florida—so much so that the issue has set off a major rebellion at the school. This spring, the Ave Maria School of Law Alumni Association and a faculty group both passed resolutions calling for law school dean Bernard Dobranski to step down. A total of 150 students (out of a student body of about 360) signed a petition asking the school’s board of governors to halt a planned study of the feasibility of a potential move and remove “the Florida question from the table.”
That’s not likely to happen, given that Monaghan, the law school’s founder and chief benefactor, has already committed at least $250 million for construction of the new Florida school—Ave Maria University—along with a new Catholic-oriented township. The undergraduate college he started in Michigan has already made the move to temporary digs near the future campus. And Monaghan has told members of the law school board that he would like Ave Maria law students to relocate to Florida as well.
Opponents of the move, however, insist it’s too soon to uproot the school, which Monaghan launched in 2000 to train a new cadre of conservative Catholic lawyers. Since then, grads have gone on to clerkships with high-profile conservative judges, including appellate judge William Pryor, Jr., and Samuel Alito, Jr., when he was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Ave Maria received full American Bar Association accreditation last year.
By moving to Florida, the school would risk losing that accreditation, says Ave Maria law professor Stephen Safranek, a critic of the move, who contends that only a small minority of faculty members would be willing to relocate. (ABA accreditation is based in part on the strength of a law school’s faculty.) Plus, the new campus will be much farther away from internship and externship opportunities and potential clerkships, say Safranek and other critics. (The nearest major federal courthouse is in Miami, nearly two hours away.) They also complain that the new campus won’t offer nearly as rich an intellectual climate as Ann Arbor, the home of the University of Michigan. “We’re in one of the real academic centers of the Midwest,” says Andrew Doran, a rising third-year Ave Maria law student who is against the move.
“You give up a lot of advantages when you’re not near a major metropolitan center,” agrees Terrence McKeegan, a 2003 Ave Maria grad, who has helped organize alumni opposition to the move. “I don’t see how being in the middle of nowhere in Florida is a move forward.”
A spokesperson for Dean Dobranski said that he was not available for comment. The dean has not taken a public position on the move, but McKeegan and other alums perceive him as being far too willing to go along with whatever Monaghan wants. Many also blame him for the law school’s fourth-tier showing in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, saying that Dobranski has not done enough to maintain the school’s admission standards or to boost Ave Maria’s profile in the wider legal community.
Law school board member Bowie Kuhn, the former U.S. baseball commissioner, insists that the criticism is unfair. “I think [Dobranski] has done a smashing job as dean,” says Kuhn. He contends that upset over the move is premature, since the feasibility study will not be completed before August, and board members will not make any decisions on a move before at least September. “The board’s going to have a lot of homework to do,” says Kuhn, noting that even if the move is okayed, the Florida campus won’t be ready for law students until at least fall 2009.
Still, Ave Maria alum McKeegan points out that the school did a similar feasibility study three years ago, which weighed in favor of staying in Ann Arbor. And he fears that the current study will simply be window-dressing for a decision that’s already a done deal—given that the school’s top donor is pushing for the move.
In fact, McKeegan and other critics say the real problem is Monaghan’s insistence on running the school like a sole proprietorship, and the board’s failure to stand up to him. “The bigger issue is school governance,” says Jason Negri, a 2003 Ave Maria grad and the head of the alumni association.
A spokesman for Monaghan said that he was not available for comment.
Some alums are exploring whether it might be possible to raise enough funds to sever the school’s ties with Monaghan and keep the school in Michigan. But for now, the move’s opponents concede that Monaghan will likely continue to call the shots.
“I think he looks at it as his law school,” says Negri, “and he can do with it what he wants.” —Susan Hansen

Friday, June 09, 2006

Chris McGowan resigns from Alumni Association Development Committee

If AMSOL alumni have checked their school email accounts in the last 24 hours, they might have read a message purportedly from the Alumni Association and signed by "THE DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE OF THE AVE MARIA SCHOOL OF LAW ALUMNI ASSOCIATION".

So who is on this "Development Committee" of the Alumni Association? After Chis McGowan's resignation from this committee, which occurred before this email was sent out, exactly ZERO ALUMNI. In fact, the only person on this committee is Dave Kelly. So now we have a message claiming to be from the alumni association without a single alumni approving the message.

God save our law school.

Mr. McGowan's letter of resignation is reproduced below:

May 31, 2006

Dear Mr. Negri:

I regret to inform you that after much deliberation, I can no longer, in good conscience, lead the effort to solicit financial gifts from our fellow alumni for the Ave Maria School of Law’s Annual Alumni Giving Campaign.

As the volunteer Chair of the Alumni Association’s Development Committee, achieving our rank and distinction as first in the nation for percentage of alumni participating in planned giving served to confirm the passion our alumni have for AMSL, and was a source of satisfaction for me personally. Furthermore, I am proud of my role as a student in conceiving the Graduate’s Grotto, initiating and executing the placement of the engraved names of the inaugural graduates on the library study carrels, and, after graduation, participating in the creation and underwriting of the first alumni scholarship. Like you, I have also labored to assist efforts to recruit qualified students and help graduates secure permanent employment.

Jason, suffice it to say, whether it was in my capacity as the President of the Student Bar Association, as a member of the Honor Board, as the student commencement speaker in 2003, or now as a graduate of AMSL, I have always done my very best to be a positive and steadfast reflection of the exceptional people and the laudable ideals the Ave Maria School of Law once embraced. Unfortunately, developments at the law school over the past year have caused me a great deal of discomfort, and I am no longer willing to financially support this institution. As such, I have concluded that it would be inappropriate for me to ask others to do so.

While it is beyond disheartening to craft this correspondence, so long as the law school’s leadership continues to demonstrate what I consider cavalier and dismissive attitudes toward the legitimate concerns of our students, faculty, and alumni, I must respectfully retreat from actively supporting the Ave Maria School of Law financially. It is my sincere hope that our leaders will eventually alter their present course, actively perform the fiduciary duty that they are morally and legally obligated to execute, and ultimately reengage AMSL’s most ardent supporters.

Please allow me to add that I have enjoyed working with our Director of Development, Mr. Dave Kelley. I have found Mr. Kelley to be a cordial, committed, and capable gentlemen, and only wish circumstances would allow our continued collaboration on behalf of AMSL. While I do not presently intend to resign from the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, should you, with the support of the Alumni Board, believe our association and AMSL would be best served by my resignation, I will submit it without delay.

Finally, I wish to acknowledge your exceptional service and leadership as our Alumni Association President. Very few people have access to the comprehensive information you possess, and therefore lack the informed perspective you command on these many difficult issues. My respect for your leadership, as well as your considerable discretion with these sensitive issues has grown considerably as you have navigated these troubled and turbulent waters. You have earned and deserve the gratitude and appreciation of all alumni, as well as many others, for your tireless efforts to act in the best interests of our Alma Mater.


Christopher J. McGowan
Class of 2003
cc: Mr. Dave Kelley, Director of Development

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ave Maria College to remain open with three students

From Naples News

Ave Maria College in Michigan to have 3 students next year
AMC founder Tom Monaghan vowed to the students that he would keep the college open until 2007, when the first phase of the new university is completed near Immokalee

So maybe we should start taking bets now on the over/under for students at the AMSOL Ann Arbor campus in 2009?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Dean to AMSOL community: Incoming class assured of graduating in Michigan

Good news, but this administration should never have put prospective students in a situation where they had to apply and put down a deposit for a school that couldn't guarantee that it could graduate them at its present location.


This week I received an update on the construction schedule for the Ave Maria campus in Collier County, Florida. This update arrives some weeks earlier than expected. While AMU still plans to open at the new campus in August 2007, in light of the newly revised construction schedule, it now is apparent that a potential move to Florida by the law school cannot feasibly occur anytime before the fall of 2009 at the earliest. This news allows me to give full assurance to our incoming students that they will be able to graduate from the School of Law in Ann Arbor come May 2009.

As previously communicated, the question relating to the timing of a potential move to Florida is distinct from the question of whether a move to Florida is in the best long-term interests of the law school. This second question will be thoughtfully and carefully examined by the Board of Governors at future meetings based on the feasibility study currently being conducted by our two consultants, Deans White and Read. The consultants will complete and submit the feasibility study as originally planned.

I realize that the issue of a potential move to Florida has prompted great emotion and concern from many members in our community, oftentimes straining relationships that have been built up over these last six years. Your continued prayers for wisdom when the Board considers a potential move would be appreciated.

Sincerely yours,

Bernard Dobranski
President and Dean

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Rice letter to Dobranski and Monaghan offers solution to current AMSOL dilemna

Thank you once again Professor Rice, for being the voice of reason and clarity, and for offering a solution to save Ave Maria School of Law. Let's all pray that Mr. Monaghan, Dean Dobranski, and the Board of Governors take this letter to heart.

May 5, 2006

Mr. Thomas S. Monaghan
Dean Bernard Dobranski
Ave Maria School of Law
3475 Plymouth Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105

Dear Tom and Bernie:
You both have played essential roles in the inception and development of Ave Maria School of Law (AMSL). As a founding member of the Board of Governors, I know the difficulty of the task and the effort and personal resources you both put into it. The purpose of this letter is to suggest a course of action that could lead to an equitable and constructive solution of the present crisis at AMSL.
The occasion for this letter is the unprecedented concurrence of formal declarations by the AMSL faculty, the AMSL alumni board and the signers of the AMSL student petition, all expressing what amounts to a terminal lack of confidence in Bernie’s leadership of AMSL. That lack of confidence implicitly applies also to Tom because of the reality, as well as the perception, that, contrary to ABA standards, AMSL is, in effect though not by design, governed as a sole proprietorship with Bernie as the resident agent.
This is not the place for a detailed analysis of the specifications laid out by the faculty, alumni and students. They credibly allege serious abuses, including significant violations of ABA standards. I am not a member of the full-time AMSL faculty, but I can corroborate a number of the grievances they have alleged. The credibility of both of you among those primary constituencies has evaporated.
Please understand. I believe that you both are acting in what you see as the best interests of AMSL. In effect, however, your conception of those interests has resulted in a subordination of the interests of AMSL to those of Tom and his Florida venture. You are doing what you think is right. But it has long been evident that this course you are pursuing is on a collision course with the welfare, and even the survival, of AMSL. Since 2002 I have documented, in the records of the Board of Governors, from which I was ejected last December, my concerns about the prudential and constitutional problems involved in Tom’s transfer of his personal focus from Ann Arbor to Florida and especially in the possible involvement of AMSL in the
projected Ave Maria Town (AMT) project.
On October 15, 2003, I wrote a private, four-page letter to Tom explaining in detail my reasons for concern. I have not shown that letter to anyone else and have no intention of so doing. I mention it here only to emphasize that the imprudence of the course you are both pursuing has been obvious for years. Yet you have persisted in policies that have destabilized the school by subordinating, in effect, the interests of AMSL to Tom’s agenda. You both surely believe that such policies are in the best interests of AMSL, but all that belief does is validate the concerns expressed by the faculty, alumni and students.
In light of the foregoing points, what can be done to resolve the crisis? You both seem determined to carry out Tom’s purpose to move AMSL to the new Ave Maria Town (AMT) in Florida. Let’s be blunt. If you do so, all you will take to Florida will be the name, Ave Maria School of Law, some movable assets and such students, faculty and staff who see no alternative. It will be a mere shell of the school that is AMSL. I am informed also that the likely expense of uprooting what can be uprooted from Ann Arbor and moving it to Florida, building at AMT a new law school building of sufficient quality to attract students and faculty to such a location, subsidizing several years of students with scholarships and stipends sufficient to lure them to that school, buying a new faculty and promoting the entire venture, along with other major transition costs, would probably exceed the cost of starting from scratch and accrediting a brand-new law school at AMT. In either case, ABA accreditation mechanisms would be involved.
The reality is that if you proceed with that uprooting and transplantation, the school will continue to be involved in turmoil and negative publicity resulting from your repudiation of the serious concerns of your present faculty, students and alumni, and other possible controversies. A further consideration is the unjust hardship that would result to the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni, and their families, who committed themselves to AMSL in Ann Arbor without any expectation that the school would be subject to uprooting and transplantation under such conditions. AMSL is not Tom Monaghan’s law school. You both, as well as the Board of Governors, have a serious fiduciary duty not only to AMSL but also to the members of its community.
Again to put it bluntly, your well-intentioned but imprudent subordination, in effect, of the interests of AMSL to another agenda has made such a mess of things that another solution must be sought. I hope you will agree that it is time for you both to sit down with representatives of your AMSL constituencies and develop a constructive, friendly resolution under which you would take to Florida the name, Ave Maria School of Law, together with willing faculty, students and staff. An equitable financial settlement could be reached with respect to the Ann Arbor school and the Ave Maria Foundation. The Ann Arbor school would retain its accreditation and would adopt a new name. The result would be a two-fer, with two Catholic law schools instead of one, with one in AMT and the other, financially and organizationally independent, in Ann Arbor. This arrangement would seem to be achievable under ABA regulations. With an equitable arrangement for interim financing, there is very good reason to expect that the Ann Arbor school could be self-sustaining in an acceptable time. Bernie, of course, would retain his position as a tenured member of the faculty of the Ann Arbor school.
Under an arrangement such as this, AMSL would be free to establish itself under that name at AMT and the existing school in Ann Arbor would enjoy restored stability and an unimpeded opportunity to grow. My personal view, incidentally, which I have not cleared with anyone else, is that with Joe Falvey as Dean and Judge James Ryan as Chairman of the Board, the Ann Arbor school would take off like a rocket because of the resulting assurance not only of competence and total integrity but also of the certainty that every decision would be made according to the undiluted criterion of the best interests of the school.
I present this proposal to you both rather than also to the Board of Governors. I am confident that the Board will agree with whatever Tom decides. The Board confirmed its compliant role when it voted “[u]nanimously” to express its “total confidence” in Bernie on the same day that virtually unprecedented charges were made against Bernie by the faculty who requested a discussion with the Board. The Board rejected the faculty complaint without deigning even to discuss it with the faculty. That act of the Board was, in my opinion, irresponsible and a violation of its duty to the faculty under ABA standards. It was disgusting. Every Governor who voted for that resolution should resign. Incidentally, the Board resolution of approval was described as “[u]nanimously passed at a special meeting,” which apparently was a telephone meeting. I know at least one Governor who declined to vote to support that resolution because that Governor had not heard both sides of the issue.
This letter contains merely my own personal opinions, for which no one else is responsible. I am not sending this letter to the general AMSL list, but I will make it available to interested members of the AMSL community. I hope you will consider this letter in the spirit in which it is written. That spirit is neither combative nor unfriendly. Rather it is one of accommodation. You both, and I, have been involved in AMSL virtually from its inception. The differences here are of judgment and any criticisms are of policies or acts rather than of persons. We are accustomed to speak with candor. And you know that the views I have advanced in this letter do not imply that you have done anything except what you perceive to be in the best interests of AMSL. But the fact is that, unless constructive measures are urgently taken to solve the problems your policies have created, the very existence of AMSL, whether in Ann Arbor or AMT, will be gravely imperilled.
The most important suggestion here is that we join in a union of prayer, especially to the Patroness of Ave Maria School of Law, for a successful resolution that will advance the mission of her Son in his Church.

With appreciation and best regards,


Charles E. Rice
Professor Emeritus of Law