Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Alumnus demands explanation from Board of Governors regarding recent actions and intentions

The following submission was sent in from a member of AMSOL Class of 2004.
With all due respect to AMSOL's excellent and courageous professors, our invaluable Dean Dobranski, and the superlative financial support of Mr. Thomas Monaghan: the alumni and students of AMSOL arguably have as (or more) legitimate an interest in AMSOL's record setting full accreditation from the ABA as any of the above-mentioned pioneers. In the view of this alumnus, the alumni and student property interest in AMSOL's accreditation demands--at a minimum--frank and sincere explanations from the board as to their recent actions and their intentions. As far as I understand it, the Board of Governors is about to steal my and my fellow alumni's law school accreditation and give it to a new institution that will have no resemblence to the institution I enrolled in as one of 75 students in the second class. I and--by far--the majority of my fellow enrollees passed up well-established institutions for the purpose of establishing THE premiere Catholic and legal institution in the nation: not its precursor. In the last year I have had no reassurances from Dean Dobranski, the Board of Governors or Mr. Monaghan that the institution that he (apparently) hopes to build in Florida is not a newly founded one, but the one I and my fellow alumni co-founded with Mr. Monaghan, Dean Dobranski, the Board of Governors and the faculty. I frankly would prefer AMSOL to remain in Michigan, but if it must move to Florida then AMSOL's co-founders--its alumni--must be assured that there will be no "new" AMSOL. There are more than a few alumni who have mortgaged their futures for AMSOL. The BOGs are acting as though the accreditation has been paid for, and is theirs to dispose of as they see fit. The alumni are left to "trust them." However, is trust allowing a group of people--most of whom we've never met--to take our institution thousands of miles from where we've left it when they have never explained why or what's in it for us?
Contributed by Extraneus on 8/12/05


At 6:18 PM, Blogger L. von Shtupp said...

Extraneus said:
"... if it must move to Florida then AMSOL's co-founders--its alumni--must be assured that there will be no "new" AMSOL"

Be careful about simple "assurances" that have no legal binding power. Monaghan's administrators have a long track record of freely offering assurances, then later claiming that neither legal nor ethical obligations exist to maintain them.

What does it mean to be 'AMSL'? How would Monaghan answer compared to alumni & founders? What can be replaced and still have AMSL be 'AMSL'?

In Monaghan's world of "branding", the labels and packaging give the identity, not the contents. Lose the majority of the founders (faculty and alumni supporters), lose the likes of Dean Kenney and Professor Rice, lose some students - people can be replaced. Move the signage, change the stationary, transfer the bank assets, and you still have your brand.

Monaghan will claim that "the mission" of AMSL (and, therefore, 'AMSL' itself) continues on, even if the aforementioned people are lost. It will be claimed that "lack of vision" or "commitment" on the part of some people will not derail "the mission".

So - What IS the mission?
- Can any mission succeed if justice is not served internally in the pursuit of that mission?
- Can a mission that requires the collective contributions of a community ever be achieved when one stakeholder has absolute unquestionable authority over the entire community?
- Can a mission be uprooted from the professional community that supports it, and transplanted over 1,000 miles away in a very different community, put under the mission and administration of a different entity?
- Is the mission thwarted if the institution does anything to undermine the prestige and stability of graduates who need that prestige and stability to execute the very task ("mission") for which the institution started?

At 11:55 AM, Blogger mises74 said...

Not even Gordon Gecko would pull what Tom Monaghan has and is continuing to do.

I'm not a fan of stakeholder theory being applied to for profit entities, but I think the theory is entirely applicable to nonprofits like universities. He's violating ethical boundaries for philanthropic giving by taking some of the valid techniques of the corporate raider and misapplying them to nonprofits. Of course his ultimate goal is for profit with this silly Ave Maria town. I guess Monaghan's dream is to become a feudal lord. If you don't obey, Tom and his friar will kick you off their swamp.

At 12:38 PM, Blogger SGF said...

Maybe you can elaborate on how you know that Monghan's ultimate goal is to profit from the town since you state that this is "of course" his objective.

Also, this post provides a good time to ask a question regarding the nature of Monghan's giving to the school. If I write a check to the law school simply as a donation, or maybe even with the understanding that my name will be displayed outside the moot court room, for example, then I don't have a right to expect much say in the affairs that follow. But if I enter into a partership with people, wherein I'll supply a lion share of the financial capital, and you'll supply the academic framework, administration, etc., and the understanding is that we have a partnership, and not just that I am funding an effort of yours, then I have more of a say in the affairs of that insitution than does the person in the first example. So here's the question: Did Monghan just give a donation to the actual founders to start the law school detailed in Safranek's talk, or did these people parter up, with the possibility of a joint University (whether in MI, FL, Japan, or otherwise) existing on the horizon from the beginning?

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Torgo said...


You need to hop over to and read the "Whatever happened to making Ann Arbor a mecca of Catholic education?"

The law school was opened with the intent of being a Michigan fixture. People have donated money and effort to the school with the intention of it being a Michigan fixcture as that was the promise made.

The school building is even funded with state bonds.

Your speculation is nice, but irrelevant to the facts: the law school was built to be and promised to be a Michigan law school.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger L. von Shtupp said...

mises/sgf - A billionare might not need money, but very much need the attention and assurance of religiously-oriented people to stroke him in perpetual gratitude. My question is, can seeking "profit" mean more than just seeking "money" in legal terms?

At 4:21 PM, Blogger SGF said...

I have read the post you refer to, as well as the articles linked to therein, but I have to admit that I don't see where they establish that law school was intended to be a MI fixture. It may have become that in the mean time due to its unexpected success, and I think it can rightly be said that in the beginning, all of the schools were going to be in MI. That quote about making "Ann Arbor as famous for conservative Catholicism as it is for the joint-smoking, run-naked liberalism of the University of Michigan" should be attributed to the author of the article, and not anyone from the foundation. And even if it was someone from the foundation, it seems to be a humorous quip, and not a statement on which much can be hung regarding the future placement of any of the schools.

A review of the articles did turn up this quote, however, from a June 7, 2000 Detroit News Article:
"A university affiliation will be a very helpful thing. If you look at the best law schools in the country, they are all affiliated with universities," said Law School Dean Bernard Dobranski."

The article also noted that:
"The Ave Maria Law School, where the first class of students will start orientation Aug. 21, will likely affiliate with the new university within the year, an important step in getting accredited by the American Bar Association."

Now, this affiliation did not occur, and I can remember Dean Dobranski extoling the virtues of our independance while I was a student there, but association with the undergrad was on everybody's mind from the beginning.

Regarding Monghan's intentions, the post also seems to make that case that Monghan's goal of ensuring Ave Maria's presence in Ann Arbor was so important, that it was believable by some that he would attempt to fix an election to make it happen.

The articles quoted in the post answer the question asked in its title - what happened to making Ann Arbor a mecca for Catholic education is that the project, as envisioned, met with a lot of opposition that it was not met with when proposed elsewhere. Those articles make an even stronger case (although a strong case does not necessarily mean the truth) that the law school, from its very inception and certainly prior to opening its doors to students, was part of an overarching plan for a great new Catholic University.

The question that Monghan would have to answer then, is that given the fact that his dream cannot be achieved in Ann Arbor, and given the success of the law school in Ann Arbor, does he head off to FLA without the law school or with some loose affiliation with it, or does he dig in his heels and fight to move an entity that he does not consider himself an outsider to, but an integral part of.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger SGF said...

One more thing, Torgo,

Would you please indicate where a promise was made that AMSOL would be a MI fixture, and provide evidence that a single person donated money based on this promise. My thinking is people probably made donations to the school based on its mission, and not because of assurances they were given that it would be a MI fixture. If people want to donate to Michigan fixtures, maybe they can ring up Conor O'Neills.

At 4:48 PM, Blogger mises74 said...


That's a good question. Profit does not necessarily have to be thought of in the monetary or legal sense. Monaghan's profit in his legally defined "nonprofit" endeavors can be explained as the increased satisfaction an acting man gains from particular actions. So while a philanthopist may be losing money by giving a charity donations, he could be gaining "psychicly" by the increased satisfaction of seeing that philanthropy fulfill its mission (Here is the economist LVMises discussion on profit

In Monaghan's case, his psychic profit will be realized with the building of his complete Ave Maria enterprise all in Naples including AMU, AMSOL, and his real estate venture. I think his psychic profit extends to what an earlier post alluded to, which is Supreme Head, Lord Thomas of Ave Maria.

Through Lord Thomas we can own a home, send our kids to college and law school, and we can retire with his mutual funds (

At 5:39 PM, Blogger The_Peach said...

In response to SGF, yes, the law school was originally supposed to be affiliated with the university. However, as you note, the original plan was for the two to co-exist on a joint campus in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area. Although that plan may have changed, the fact remains that the law school was initially established looking towards a permanent future in Michigan. And the nature of a law school suggests a permanent rather than ephemeral fixture.

And I can indeed indicate a promise that AMSOL would be a MI fixture. Dean Dobranski personally promised my father and I, in our presence, that there was no truth to the FL rumors, that AMSOL was separate from the college's move to FL, and that AMSOL would remain in MI.

At 6:44 PM, Blogger mises74 said...

Here is my question, would the ABA have approved full accredidation if they thought the law school was really going to be transient?

Also has any law school ever moved across state lines before? The closest example of a move I can find is with Thomas Cooley where they are experimenting with satillite campuses, but these are all in the same state. Also Penn State bought and merged with the Dickinson School of Law but they didn't force the school to move to the State College, PA campus. Neither of these examples risked moving their original campuses even within state boundaries.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger GenXsurvivor said...

What I don't understand is--why can't AMSOL affiliate with AMU and remain in Michigan? In today's age of communication and travel, that would seem to be an advantage of sorts, a wave of the future. Besides--law schools, even when on campus, seem to run independently from their universities, from my outsider's view anyway. Is there some archaic problem with the university accrediting agencies that would prevent this? I doubt it. If AMU can clean up its act, then why not satisfy Monaghan by affiliating, but just don't move the school. If long-distance affiliation is possible, then a demand to move the school would be less attractive.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger GenXsurvivor said...

Seriously--maybe we can make lemonade out of this after all. Video conferencing is going to make up half of court hearings and depositions in ten years. Court filings are going paperless, as are libraries. If we can conduct classes from Cooley, why not let AMU create a virtual AMSOL campus in Florida. Students who want to attend classes in person can do so in Michigan; students who prefer a warmer climate can attend by video in Florida, can access professors by video, phone, and email, and can take exams down there too. This would have minimal impact on our accreditation, and could evolve into fully dual campuses in the long term without ripping the heart out of the school in a couple of years. We would be hailed as innovators--and yet be traditionalists. That Chestertonian paradox would attract attention and good quality people. The technology added to enable a virtual campus would also provide training in electronic lawyering, which is already a necessary (and poorly practiced) tool in many courts. For a fraction of the cost of ripping the school out of Michigan, we could not only avoid the bloody PR of the move but be leaders in legal education. Aspiring to be the new Notre Dame is so 20th Century--we need to model Catholic higher education for the 21st Century, to infinity and beyond!
Of course this plan would require good faith on both sides--the eager participation of the faculty, and us, in supporting the plan, and the sincerity of Mr. Monaghan that the whole thing isn't just a ruse to phase out the Michigan campus. Institutional mechanisms could ensure that--like keeping the administration housed in Michigan, and the fact that the Florida site won't be available for years, and a commitment not to change so rapidly that accreditation would be affected.
Our students have won national negotiation contests. Lets apply that expertise to our own troubles and show the world how it's done.

At 10:57 AM, Blogger GenXsurvivor said...

I mean, "if we can conduct classes from Wayne State"

At 6:27 PM, Blogger AgensIntellectus said...

I think SGF should do some reading on codependent mindsets. Making excuses and rationalizing the indefensible is part of the illness. Part of the especially sick aspect of this whole thing is that TSM BD and Fr. MO point to the alumni, faculty and students and blame them for making a stink over their self-centered idiosyncratic behavior.


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