Monday, January 30, 2006

AMSL is not planning to move to Florida... yet vote to move might come sooner rather than later

I don't quite know what to make of this news story, other than it seems to be just another example of the double speak we've come to expect in regards to discussing an AMSL move to Florida.

Ave Maria law not planning move to Collier campus
By Jenna Buzzacco (Contact)

Monday, January 30, 2006

Everywhere Bernard Dobranski goes, people ask him the same question about Ave Maria School of Law.

It's not about the school's moot trial team or about the possibility it may have its first U.S. Supreme Court clerk among its alumni in the near future.

Instead, everyone wants to know if the Ann Arbor, Mich., school will relocate to Ave Maria Town once construction is complete.

"There are currently no plans to move to Naples," said Dobranski, the school's dean. "But with that said, we will have to seriously consider it, and we will more likely be doing that sooner, rather than later."

The school's Board of Trustees first explored the idea of moving in 2003, when Ave Maria School of Law and Ave Maria University founder Tom Monaghan announced plans to build a town northeast of Naples. At the time, the board of governors decided it was not the right time to relocate, but Dobranski said the board also passed a resolution that stated it would remain open to the suggestion of moving.

And with the town projected to be completed in 2007, the board will have to revisit the topic soon to start the decision process.

But with the school just receiving full accreditation from the American Board Association, the board has more to consider than just whether students and faculty would prefer life in Florida.

"For me it's all about what is in the best interest of the law school in the long run," Dobranski said.

In 2003, the school conducted a study to determine whether it would even be feasible to move. And while nothing has been formally said, Dobranski said an updated study could be conducted as soon as this spring or summer.

But Dobranksi said some faculty members and current students have already expressed their opinion on the possibility of a move.

"I think it's very easy to say you'd rather not do something if you don't have all the information," he said. "I think there is a natural reluctance to leave something when things are going well, and things are going surprisingly well right now."

One thing that is going well for the school is the speed in which it received its accreditation. The school received full accreditation from the ABA last August, after five years of lobbying for it.

"It can't be done any faster and the process was relatively trouble free," Dobranski said.

That doesn't mean questions concerning the school's mission, to educate lawyers using the teachings of the Catholic Church, didn't come up. Dobranski said the ABA asked several questions about the teaching of court decisions that don't necessarily reflect Catholic teachings, like Roe v. Wade. The answer was always the same.

"You teach constitutional law, so you teach the case," Dobranski said. "The nature of our discussion may be a little different based on the background of students, though. But we have a corporate tax adjunct professor who openly says he has more academic freedom here than he does on the University of Michigan campus."

The ABA would need to give Ave Maria School of Law acquiescence before it would be able to relocate, Dobranski said. In order for the ABA to give acquiescence, the school must prove it will be properly financed, have a facility that meets the associations standards and that it will still attract students.

But even knowing that, Dobranski said, it's unclear what the process will be like when, or if, the school applies for acquiescence.

"Nothing quite like what we may do has happened before," he said.

While the ABA has a set of standards for major changes, the total relocation of an established school is not defined in those standards. And since no request for acquiescence has been made yet, ABA spokesman Karl Camillucci said "the American Bar Association does not comment on hypothetical situations relating to specific law schools."

One thing is for sure, though: All of the students who currently attend Ave Maria School of Law will graduate from the Ann Arbor campus. Dobranski said he told students that a move would not come before fall 2008, which would be the first year it would be feasible to relocate.

There's another thing Dobranski said won't be happening if the board decides to relocate the school: Ave Maria School of Law will not become affiliated with Ave Maria University, at least not immediately.

Currently all three Ave Maria education institutions, the law school, university and Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, are separate from one another, each with their own board of trustees. Once the new campus is opened, Ave Maria University will encompass both the university and the college, while the law school remains autonomous.

But Dobranski said, like relocation, becoming affiliated with the university is considered a major change, and one that the ABA may not look fondly upon.

"There is no indication that the ABA would give acquiescence to us if we become affiliated with AMU," Dobranski said.

"We have always envisioned that it could be reasonable down the road, but we will not compromise our autonomy."

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Ave Maria groundbreaking set for February 17th

According to this news story from today, the new AMU campus near Immokalee will open on schedule in the Fall of 2007. Two other things to note: Tom Monaghan is now openly referred to as the AMU chancellor, and Bowie Kuhn, newly appointed to AMSL's Board of Governors, is also an AMU trustee. I believe Kuhn was a good pick for the AMSL BoG, but like some others, did not realize that he had the potential conflict of interest by sitting on AMU's Board as well. We can only hope that he and other members of AMSL's BoG who sit on both boards will recuse themselves from any votes over moving the school to Florida.

Courtesy Southwest Florida News-Press

Gov. Bush to speak at Ave Maria groundbreaking
By Joan D. LaGuardia
Originally posted on January 19, 2006

Developers of Ave Maria University and the town that will be built with it will hold a celebratory, invitation-only ground breaking ceremony Friday, Feb. 17, Gov. Jeb. Bush will be among the speakers.

The Roman Catholic university, which will cost about $220 million to build, will sit on 750 acres about 5 miles south of Immokalee in east Collier County.

“We’re still scheduled for a fall of 2007 opening of the university, and we are shooting to open homes late spring and early summer of 2007,” said Blake Gable, spokesman for Ave Maria Development.

That Naples-based partnership between Barron Collier Companies and the Ave Maria Foundation is developing the university and its town.

The community, also called Ave Maria, will have as many as 11,000 houses and apartments when it is fully built..

Plans for the new university were first announced in November 2002 by Thomas Monaghan, a Catholic philanthropist whose wealth comes primarily from the $85 million sale of the Detroit Tigers in 1992 and the $1 billion sale of Domino’s Pizza in 1998.

He is the largest donor to the university foundation and is the university’s chancellor.

In the fall of 2003, the university opened an interim campus north of Naples in The Vineyards community. Its current enrollment is about 400.

The new campus will have a capacity of about 6,000 students.

Lay Roman Catholics have founded the university, and they run it.

Site work and construction of the main roads and water management system began in April of 2005, Gable said.

“Now we are at a point that enough of that work has been done, we are ready to get started with the vertical construction,” he said.
Building began in December on about 330,000 square feet of commercial space, including 70 condos that will be above retail and office businesses.

A groundbreaking set for Nov. 1 was cancelled and $50,000 budgeted for the event was given to the Guadalupe Center in Immokalee for Hurricane Wilma relief. The hurricane hit the area of the new campus on Oct. 24.

Gable said that was not the appropriate time to celebrate progress on the new campus and town center.

In addition to Bush and Monaghan, speakers at the Feb. 17 groundbreaking will include Lamar Gable, chairman of Barron Collier Companies and Bowie Kuhn, former commissioner of professional baseball and a university trustee.

Blake Gable said Naples Community Hospital, which wants to build a clinic in Ave Maria, is among the prospective tenants of the town center.

Leases are also being negotiated with a coffee shop, ice cream store, bike shop, bank and several restaurants.

Pulte Homes will be the primary builder for the first three neighborhoods aimed at active adults, family and a village community patterned after Village Walk of Bonita.

Ave Maria Development will develop affordable housing for low-income residents and the commercial properties.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

5 AMC students throw wrench into AMU's plans to close AMC earlier than promised

According to yesterday's Ann Arbor News, there are still five AMC "holdouts" that have refused to accept AMU's offer for a transfer or buyout, so that AMC can be closed down this Spring, one year earlier than AMU officials had promised to the current AMC students and faculty. For those not familiar with the promise by Monaghan and AMU officials to keep AMC open until at least Spring of 2007, I will refer you to this earlier post.Full story is reproduced below.

Ave Maria has five holdouts
All other students at college have accepted transfers or buyouts
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
News Staff Reporter
This past fall, when the college's Board of Trustees realized next year's class could be just 27 students, it offered two alternatives: paid tuition, room and board at Ave Maria University, which is northeast of Naples, Fla., or $15,000 toward expenses at another school.

As of Monday, said college President Dan Guernsey, 26 students have signed an agreement indicating they will accept either a transfer or a buyout by May 1.

However, five of the 31 eligible students eligible have asked for $45,000 apiece - three times more than offered.

The U.S. Department of Education requires that as part of closing Ave Maria College, the Board of Trustees provide a way for the students to complete a four-year degree, Guernsey said.

Several students who signed agreements declined to talk. However, Monica Grant, a 20-year-old junior from Houghton Lake majoring in history, said she hasn't decided what she's going to do but that she's hoping to find a school with the same academic standards as Ave Maria College.

Bonnie Beales, a 20-year-old theology major from Plymouth, Wis., said she hasn't signed the agreement for several reasons, including worries about what a transfer to another college might ultimately cost if the school doesn't accept all her Ave Maria credits. Extra courses could cost extra money - more than the $15,000 Ave Maria is offering.

Guernsey said students must weigh that concern against AMU's willingness to take all credits earned at the Ypsilanti campus.

However, Beales worries because Ave Maria University isn't yet fully accredited. Tuition at Ave Maria College is $12,600 per year; with room and board, total cost is about $18,740.

Beales said she and other students would like to have the compensation placed in an escrow account. Also, they do not want the money tied to living on campus, saying living elsewhere could be cheaper.

The buyout is all about "giving students a choice of college experience they want,'' Guernsey said.

The offers, first made in November, expired last Thursday.

In 2003, college founder Thomas S. Monaghan committed to keeping the school open until the end of the 2007 academic year, after which the campus of AMU is scheduled to be up and running.

The board, whose next meeting is in February, hasn't responded to the five students who've asked for more money.

The campus includes an academic building, an administrative building, two dormitories, a student activities center and several smaller buildings.

Monaghan, who founded Domino's Pizza in 1960, founded the college on West Forest Avenue in 1998. At its peak in 2003, it had 229 students, Guernsey said. The temporary campus in Naples includes 352 undergraduates and 93 graduate students, a total of 445 students.

Monaghan is building Ave Maria University on a 5,000-acre parcel that will also include homes and commercial businesses. Centered on conservative Catholic beliefs, Ave Maria offers a liberal arts curriculum.

Catherine O'Donnell can be reached at or 734-994-6831.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Professor Rice shares his personal views on relevant issues facing AMSL

Professor Rice has again weighed in with views in a memo sent out today, which focuses on the potential move to Florida, and all of the problems involved with contemplating such a move. The full memo can be found here, while a sampling is included below (my italics added).

..."But, as noted above, and as Mr. Monaghan would surely agree, AMSL is not Tom Monaghan’s law school. Or perhaps some might think that if AMSL does not so move, Mr. Monaghan’s Ave Maria Foundation (AMF) will terminate any further funding commitment to AMSL so as to use its resources elsewhere (as it would have the right to do). It is not at all clear, however, that AMSL could not obtain replacement funding if AMF publicly so terminated its commitment. Moreover, any decision to move to Collier County in Florida, not because such a move would be objectively in the best interests of AMSL but instead because of a feared loss of AMF funding, could convey to AMSL students the message that the most important consideration in evaluating professional options is to avoid disturbing the money flow. A Catholic law school should have a better idea."

"Those who propose a move of AMSL to Collier County have the burden of proving that such a move would sufficiently benefit AMSL in comparison with the continued growth and achievement of AMSL in Ann Arbor. AMSL has achieved unprecedented success. But now, in the uncertainty and disorientation created by the recurrent focus on Florida, the momentum has been diminished. The disruptive effects of the Florida focus are multiplied by the general realization in the AMSL community that the proposed move involves, in effect, a potential subordination of the interests of AMSL to the interests of another institution and agenda."

"The overall bottom line is that there is no conceivably rational basis to conclude that a relocation to Florida would be in the best interests of AMSL now or at any foreseeable time."

"I emphasize again my opinion that all those involved in deciding these issues are acting in what they see as the best interests of AMSL. My disagreements reflect differences of perception and judgment. Nothing in this memo should be interpreted otherwise or as a personal criticism of anyone."

Monday, January 09, 2006

5th year anniversary celebration in D.C. attracts many luminaries

Whose AMSOL received quite a few glowing reports of the 5th year anniversary celebration held in Washington D.C. last Thursday. We were about to post a report and then came across this story (reproduced below) by Congratulations to all who put on such a prestigious event!

Top Conservatives Fete Ave Maria Law School

Some of America's top conservative leaders, present and former government officials and legal scholars marked the fifth anniversary of Ave Maria Law School, the faith-based Ann Arbor, Mich. school critics predicted would never make it.

Ave Maria was founded specifically as a law school that emphasizes its Catholic roots and teaches law from the perspective of traditional Catholic moral teaching. It was established in 2000 by Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, a devout Catholic, who says he was inspired by Pope John Paul II's encyclical letter "Fides et Ratio," (Faith and Reason).

According to a spokeswoman for the school, many dignataries among the 200 guests attending the anniversary celebration held at Washington's Hay Adams Hotel was Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, and former ambassador to the Vatican, Jim Nicholson; Theodore Olsen and Kenneth Starr, both former solicitors general; and former Supreme Court nominee, Judge Robert Bork who teaches law at the school. Also in attendance were Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform; Janice Rogers Brown, federal Court of Appeals judge for the Washington, D.C. Circuit; former U.S. Attorney Joseph DiGenova and his wife Victoria Toensing, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Justice Department and former Chief Counsel of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee and Candace de Russy, a State University of New York trustee.

"Ave Maria was granted full accreditation by the ABA in just five years, the shortest possible time,” said Bernard Dobranski, Ave Maria School of Law's Dean. "This is a testament to the knowledge and skill employers can expect from our graduates.”

Said Bork, "The curriculum at Ave Maria is in-depth and rigorous. It teaches that justice is based on individual rights and the dignity of the human person. As a result, the Ave Maria School of Law graduate will be both technically proficient and well formed in the moral foundations of the law - a truly unique achievement in today's law school environment."

Ave Maria School of Law says it offers a rigorous legal education enriched by the Catholic intellectual tradition and characterized by a commitment to justice, excellence, and the highest ethical and moral standards. The school says that since its opening, Ave Maria has enrolled students from 45 states and abroad and from more than 200 colleges and universities.

"The school is thriving despite those who said it would be hard to attract students and professors, so it is a real testament that there are thousands of people out there who are interested in attending after they graduate from college," Alexandra Preate a spokeswoman for the law school told

Monday, January 02, 2006

Vertical construction to start in January on Ave Maria campus

Courtesy Naples Daily News
December 30, 2005
Soon the 5,000 acres of land between Camp Keais and Oil Well roads will be bustling with activity.
"In January, vertical construction on the new campus and town is scheduled to begin," said Ave Maria University President Nick Healy. "Soon you'll finally be able to see something besides clouds of dust."
The first building to be complete isn't very glamorous, Healy said, but it does mark the beginning of a journey to create a permanent home for Ave Maria University and town.
The first building to be erected is expected to be the central plant, with the library and town center soon to follow, said Barron Collier Cos. President Paul Marinelli.
The campus will occupy about 1,000 acres of the 5,000 acres set aside about five miles southwest of Immokalee for the university and community. It's a significant increase from the 12 acres the temporary campus occupies in the Vineyards in North Naples, Healy said.
"There will be room for substantial increases," Healy said.
If the student population continues to grow at the rate it has been, the university may need to use the room to expand sooner than expected.
When school started at the temporary campus in August 2003, campus officials estimated that 100 students had enrolled.
This year, the university estimates about 400 students are en rolled, and Healy said he expects about 550 students to be enrolled in the university for fall 2007.
"Everything will be much larger," Healy said.
Fall 2007 will mark the first year students will be at the permanent campus. It's also when Healy expects that the majority of people will begin moving into the new faith-based community.
The town will offer several op tions for people who want to move to Ave Maria town, Marinelli said. Residential properties have not been put on the market yet, but Marinelli said his company has received several thousand inquiries about the residential properties.
Marinelli said he expects the first of the residents to move to the town in spring 2007.
One place people will be able to live is in the town center, Marinelli said. The six-building complex will house retail space on the ground floor, while condos will occupy the space on the floors above.
"It will be comparable in quality of those on Fifth Avenue South," Marinelli said.
While it will not be mandatory for faculty and staff members to live in the community, Healy said, he expects many will make the move. Healy said he expects about 1,000 families will have moved to the community by the end of 2007.
While construction began in January, the official groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Feb. 17, 2007.
The ceremony originally was scheduled for early in November, but was rescheduled after Hurricane Wilma hit Oct. 24.
"We didn't think it was seemly to have a big celebration while others were struggling," Healy said.
Instead, officials canceled the lavish ceremony and donated $50,000, which had been set aside to pay for the ceremony, to the Guadalupe Center in Immokalee.
While the groundbreaking ceremony won't be as large as originally planned, Healy said, the excitement of the event will still be in the air.
"If anything , we're in season now and a lot of people who may not have come down in November will be down here in February," Healy said.
The February groundbreaking is just the first of several events planned for February, Healy said.
The month is expected to be busy with conferences and the university's first art festival.
On Feb. 8 and 9, community members are invited to the "John Paul II and the Holy Land" conference. The conference will bring together Christian and Jewish scholars to discuss Pope John Paul II's work regarding the Holy Land.
"It's an all-star conference," Healy said.
Healy said the keynote speaker for the event will be George Weigel, Pope John Paul II's biographer.
Religious leaders from across the country are expected to flock to Ave Maria University for a pastor's conference Feb. 21-23. It will feature Bishop Thomas G. Doran of the Dicocese of Rockford, Ill., as the keynote speaker.
The most exciting event may be the university's festival of arts, Healy said.
The three-day festival, scheduled for Feb. 24-26, will feature the performing arts, music and visual arts. Students will perform an original play, and author Michael Novak will be among the speakers. Novak has written more than 25 books, most of which have dealt with modern theological issues. Novak's work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine and The New Republic.
But what may be the highlight of the three-day festival is the art auction, Healy said.
"We're going to auction off the use of a Renoir," Healy said.
"Whoever makes the highest bid can display it wherever they want for the year they purchased it for."
Healy said all of the details have not been ironed out for how the auction will be handled, but that university founder Tom Monaghan has volunteered to auction off the use of the painting.
The festival of arts fits in with an artistic theme the university has planned for its lifelong education classes this winter. Many of the classes have to do with the role art will play within the university and town.
But with all of the changes happening to the permanent campus, students who are attending Ave Maria University have little to worry about when it comes to changes to their temporary home, Healy said.
"I think our curriculum is pretty well set," Healy said. "We may be expanding, but we won't be adding any new majors."
There won't be any changes to the interim campus, either, Healy said. Instead, all of the attention will be placed on creating a permanent home for the university.