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."


At 2:36 PM, Blogger Anakin Aquinas said...

This line...

"Nothing quite like what we may do has happened before," he said. the scariest thing I have ever read.

and perhaps the most honest the Dean has been in this whole process.

At 9:54 PM, Blogger L. von Shtupp said...

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

... and because Tom will withdraw his money and sink the institution if we don't move, it is in the best interest of the law school in the long run to serve Tom before all other duties.

So why consider the move "sooner rather than later"? Because Tom's town will be ready sooner? Because AMU has been blowing money like a drunken sailor on that temporary campus? So much for "we will not compromise our autonomy". My recollection is that, at the time AMU was first announced in Florida, the AMSL Board decided to table even any -discussion- of the notion of moving until 2008.

At 9:20 AM, Blogger The_Peach said...

Isn't AMSL's autonomy for the decision process already compromised-- if some individuals are sitting on both the AMSL and the AMU boards?

At 11:28 AM, Blogger mrbooks said...

Some people have a very different definition of autonomy than the rest of us. AMC was told it was autonomous. AMC was told that Dr. Ron Muller was it's president, and that Dr. Nicholas Healy, pres. of AMU, would not interfere in the running of AMC. Yet, as I have said previously, it was Healy who mad the phone call that nearly scuttled AMC accreditation.

At 11:55 AM, Blogger Mariano said...

This is a little off topic, but I would like to ask all of you for your prayers for my mother, Diane Aquila. My mother just learned that her cancer has returned and spread to her bone. Right now the prognosis is very good. For updates see:

For those of you who don't know, Diane Aquila is the wife of Dominic Aquila, who used to be Provost of AMC (2000-01).
I must admit that I was quite upset and angry about the whole AMC situation for quite some time, but since my mother was diagnosised with cancer a year and a half ago I began to see the whole AMC drama in a new light. While it is certainly not a petty struggle, when you look at it in the broader sphere of human events it is a mere footnote to the injustices of war, the oppression of totalitarian regimes, and the sicknesses which many people bear with such inspiring serenity and trust. Again, I don't wish to undermine the whole injustice of the AMC/AMU battle. I just want to share my perspective. So in closing I would like to ask you to offer up your prayers and sufferings for my mother and several other family friends who are currently fighting cancer.
Thank you all in advance for your prayers!
-Justin Aquila

At 6:50 PM, Blogger ElizabethBennet said...

Thank you for airing your concerns about AMSL! I wish that people from my alma mater, TAC, would likewise get the courage discuss problems relating to social justice rampant in its administration.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger mrbooks said...

Forgot to mention, all you AMSOL folk do know that there is a model of the future AMSOL building, Florida, in the foundation offices, don't you? Went on display some time last fall, I believe.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger Anakin Aquinas said...

Mr Books...

r you trying to tell us, that the Dean and Co have already made the decision to move to Florida, even though they're saying they haven't made a decision yet?


At 12:12 AM, Blogger Avoid the Noid said...

Listed below are some statements made in writing to AMC students less than two years ago:

"We are writing on behalf of the College to . . . assure you of our plan to continue academic programs in Ypsilanti through the spring of 2007. This plan to operate the Ypsilanti campus until the spring term of 2007 has never been in question."
- Thomas Monaghan and President Ronald Muller to Ave Maria (MI) Students and Parents 3/18/2004

"[W]e reaffirm the fact that regardless of the outcome of this study, it is our plan to meet our obligations to current students through May 2007..."
- AMC Board to Students, Parents, Faculty and Staff 4/27/04

"Students enrolling in the fall of 2003 were promised that Ave Maria College would remain in Michigan through the 2006/07 school year, thus allowing such students to graduate in Michigan. This promise has never been repudiated nor is it in question."
- Rev. Joseph Fessio, S.J., and Nicholas J. Healy, Jr. to Students, Parents and Friends of Ave Maria College 6/2/2004

"In my letter to you of March 18, 2004 I affirmed my commitment to keep the Ypsilanti campus opened until May of 2007. I reaffirm that commitment now."
- Thomas Monaghan to Ave Maria College Students and Parents 7/1/04

It is interesting to note the striking similarities in the Dean's article:

"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."
- Jenna Buzzacco, Naples News 1/30/2006

At 11:17 AM, Blogger mrbooks said...

Just stating the facts, Anakin, just the fact. How people choose to interpret them is their business.

At 11:57 AM, Blogger twolawschools said...

I may be biased, but I think AMSOL has been a raving success. With that in mind, perhaps we should quit dissin TM and instead really promote the benefits of having two law schools. This is a mission which not only will help the Ave community, but all Catholics and Christians in the U.S. I also would propose that one of the law schools, either in A2 or Naples be called Thomas More School of Law. In any event, another Orthodox Catholic Law School in a different U.S. geographical region would be a GREAT thing, and I do believe TM would fund such a project. He has in the past.

It's a win/win/win. Let's put down our dukes alittle. There are other options to a knock down drag out, rip it to shreds battle.

At 4:29 PM, Blogger mrbooks said...

Sorry, twolawschools, but I would be surprised if that were to happen. When the AMU/Ave Maria Town project was announce, all who received support from the Foundation were informed that they had three years to become independent (WDEO, Spiritus Sanctus Academies, Agnus Dei Academy, etc). All, that is, ecept AMC and AMSOL.

AMSOL seems to have been left in limb. AMC was to close at the end of 2007. In brief, they submitted a proposal to move toward indepence, as with WDEO and the rest, but under a different name, but were turned down. I saw the proposal, PP presentation, and the three year budget for the transition. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted when it was called "vague" and "lacking in specificity," among other things. I am told by some present at the meeting that the board barely looked at it and discussion was virtually non-existent.

If the foundation or whoever would see as a threat the AMC idea , which had a totally different vision that AMU, and which intended to remain a small Catholic liberal arts college, , imagine what a threat another law school, which would actually be competing, would be.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger twolawschools said...

You may be right. However, I have been told that AMSL is the "crown jewel" of the whole Ave Maria group. Since it has been so successful, I think a very strong case can be made for two Orthodox Catholic Law Schools churning out lawyers who can change the direction of this Nation, particularly since they would be in opposite ends of the U.S.

Please consider pushing this idea hard instead of negative tactics. It is a worthy cause. We can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, so to speak. God Bless.

At 1:55 PM, Blogger mrbooks said...

Twolawschools, you are quite right. This is a noble idea, and what a grand bit of work it would be if it succeeded. (I wrote something like this yesterday, and would have sworn it had posted).

I hold no animosity for AMU and wish it all the success in the world. At the same time, I am concerned about the parallels between recent discussions about AMSOL (and actions taken) and those of the past at AMC.

This is not a matter of "negative tactics," as you put it. It is merely stating what I know as a warning to watchful.

Honestly, I have always been considered an optimist. However, knowing what I do of the many "promises made promises broken" at AMC, and of the lack of charity (to put it mildly) on the part of some who have been in authority there, it is very difficult to maintain a positive attitude.

I will take the liberty once again to remind readers of this blog about Puddleglum (Narnia, The Silver Chair). He was accused, as I and others have been, of "negative tactics" and "maliciousness." In the end he was proven right. I hope,for AMSOL's sake, that we have been wrong, that whatever ill may have befallen AMC, AMSOL remains safe, strong, and independent. None-the-less, it would have been remiss of us, under the circumstances, to remain silent and not sound the warning.


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