Friday, March 31, 2006

Time for new leadership at Ave Maria School of Law

Dear Faculty, Administration, Students, Alumni, and Friends of Ave Maria School of Law.
To put it bluntly, there is a full-blown crisis now at AMSOL.
Here is the situation we are facing:

1. When the first few classes entered the school, it was comparable to a top tier law school in the raw numbers (GPA/LSAT) of incoming students, strength of faculty, etc. In fact, a comparison was made to the University of Iowa, which consistently ranks in the top 25 of law schools. The Dean and the Board of Governors continuously promised us a first-rate Catholic legal education, and many of us went to the school relying on that promise.
2. Somewhere along the line (in the last two or three years), the Board and the Dean made the explicit decision to dilute the quality of the incoming class to raise the size of the incoming classes. (Click here for AMSOL Class Profiles) This had to have been done with the knowledge that this would produce a low ranking. Witness that we now have about 140 students in the 1L class, and yet their objective numbers rate no where close to those of the first few years, and in fact compare with Tier 4 schools, which is exactly where we have ended up in the US News and World Report Rankings.
3. Tom Monaghan's insistence on moving the law school to Florida has had a negative impact on recruiting, as prospective students in the last few years have been uncertain of the school's future and direction, not to mention accreditation status if such a move would happen. The vote for a feasibility study of Florida has had a devasting impact on recruiting this year's incoming class, which will now be compounded with the Tier 4 rating.
4. The future of AMSOL under the current governance and leadership is bleak indeed, with dwindling applicants and little hope of moving up from Tier 4 with the Florida move and a possible drop in accreditation. The Dean offered no vision for righting the ship at his town hall yesterday; in fact his only solution was to ask Ave Maria Foundation for more money.
5. The leadership of the law school MUST BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE for their failures and deception towards alumni, faculty, and students.

How do we right the ship and restore confidence in AMSOL?

We call for the immediate resignation or dismissal of Bernard Dobranski from his positions as dean, president, and Board of Governor of Ave Maria School of Law. The new interim dean should be chosen by the faculty, in whom we all support and trust to make the right decision.

Further, we call on the Board to rescind their vote on the feasibility study of Florida and to permanently take a Florida move off the table.

These steps must be taken IMMEDIATELY, in order to show prospective students and donors that we are not giving up on our law school or giving into the moneyed interests that seek to move it. Failing that, I don't believe any of us can really support the school any further or recommend in good faith that prospective students attend it.

Friday, March 17, 2006

AMC Redux - Monaghan's wrecking machine now running on all cylinders to break up AMSOL in Michigan

Dear Friends, Alumni, Students, Faculty, and Staff of Ave Maria School of Law,

We have now reached the point that so many of us feared for our beloved school - the point where Tom Monaghan decides to break up another thriving educational institution that he is the main funder of. As was done to AMC, there are several methods employed by Monaghan and his "yes men" to accomplish this goal.

First, COMPLETE CONTROL over every facet of the school and the eventual move to Florida. This includes, as we will see, the complete stifling of dissent.

We will attempt to lay out most of the events of the last week since the Board of Governors voted to conduct a feasibility study of the Florida site. We will demonstate, beyond a doubt, that the move to Florida is already a fait accompli, at least in the minds of the Dean, Monaghan, and many board members.
We will be adding to our case as new facts and documentation presents itself. For now, here are some of the new key developments:

1. After the Board Vote last week, the tenured faculty of the school
were given a letter saying that Dean Bernard Dobranski had been appointed to a committee to review the tenure policy at the school and the changes would be discussed after the results of the feasibility study were in.

So what egregious attempt to "undo" tenure mean? Two things.
One, the timing is such that no decision will be made on who or who may not remain (or become) tenured until after the feasibility study is complete, at which time the Board will likely vote to move to Florida. So this is a move to shut up the faculty, especially the founding faculty, who it should be noted contributed $100K each of their own money to start up the school.
Second, this is a device for Monaghan and the Dean to get rid of faculty that they don't like, or who speak out against a move to Florida. It has been reported before that Monaghan does not care whether the founding faculty moves to Florida or not- he sees them and every other professor as completely replaceable at any point.

2. The Board of Governors can no longer claim to be unbiased and independent, due to two factors. One is the fact that at least 5 members on the board - Monaghan, Dobranski, Fessio, George, and Kuhn currently serve (or have served) on the Board of Ave Maria University. This is such an obvious and fundamental conflict of interest which still has not been addressed by the Board (probably because they know they have no defense of the fact that these Board members continue to push for and vote on items that would directly enhance AMU's interests. Not to mention that Monaghan would be the chief economic beneficiary of such a move, yet has not excused himself from any votes on anything to pertaining to Florida.
The second factor that undermines the independence of the AMSOL board is that fact that so many of its members belong to organizations that receive substantial contributions from Tom Monaghan. This will be documented further as time goes on.
This all having been said, there is word of a small revolt against Monaghan and the Dean by some other members of the Board, although some Board members have privately admitted that Monaghan has promised to pull out all of his funding immediately if the Board does not vote to move to Florida.

3. The Dean is not even pretending to take a neutral, "wait and see approach" on Florida anymore. At a meeting held this past week with students, one student questioned the need to move the school from Michigan, as it is thriving there and there were no guarantees for what might happen in Florida. The Dean replied that, as long as AMSOL remains in Michigan, it will always only be the second best law school in the state. Additionally, the Dean made comments to staff members at a meeting with them, in response to a question about transitioning to Florida, that even though the Board had not decided anything yet, he could speak for them in promising all current staff that they would be welcome to move to down to Florida. Additionally, he said that he knew that Monaghan was of the same mind regarding a transition of AMSOL to Florida as he was for AMC, with the implication being that it would be handled in a similar manner. Finally, the Dean stated that he would still be open to voting for a move, even if it meant a bump down to provisional accreditation.
But hey, nothing has been decided yet...

4. The desire for COMPLETE CONTROL and the crackdown on dissent continues. In what is becoming frightenly reminiscent of '1984', the administration continues its all-out-assault on basic freedoms at the school. As reported here before, the school previously implemented a new electronic discovery system that would allow it to monitor emails more easily. After that the Dean torpedoed any attempt for the AMSOL staff to unionize by calling a meeting without the organizer present and telling staff that joining a union was against the mission of the school and could result in retaliatory measures.
In the last week, this administration has suspended an outspoken student's email account (although no violation of the school's email policy could be found), has threatened a lawsuit against another current student for copyright infringement of the school's logo, and has effectively silenced the faculty with the "revisting tenure" shenanigan.

5. The school just sent out a new issue of the Advocate which has only one purpose - to glorify the Dean and Monaghan. We will devote a separate post to this shameful piece of propaganda, but we should note that it takes great pains to present a history of the school that completely cuts out any mention of the founding faculty and makes the Dean and Monaghan appear to be the oldest of friends and the two people who came up with the whole idea of starting the school.


Memo on possible relocation of AMSL to Florida

Hot off the press - this was released after 5:00pm Friday. We have been preparing a lengthy post which will be up by 6:30pm today. Stay tuned...

DATE: 3/17/2006

At its March 8, 2006 meeting, the Board of Governors discussed the question whether it would be in the best interests of the law school to relocate to the Naples, Florida area.
The first thing to emphasize is that the Board did not make a decision on the ultimate question of relocation. It simply began an evaluation process to gather the kind of information necessary to make a thorough, careful, and well informed decision on what is in the law school’s best interests.
As a first step in this process, the Board authorized an updating and broadening of the 2003 Feasibility Study. To perform that task, the Board has employed Professor James White, from the University of Indiana, Indianapolis, and Professor Frank. T. Read, from the South Texas College of Law. Professors Read and White are two of the most experienced individuals in American legal education. Professor White served for twenty-six years as the Consultant on Legal Education to the ABA Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the most important position in legal education. As the Consultant, he oversaw and guided the development of the ABA Standards on Legal Education, during the most critical period in legal education. He also served as a member of the team which conducted the 2003 Feasibility Study. Professor Read not only served as Dean at five different law schools, but also served as Deputy Consultant on Legal Education. He is also a past president of the Law School Admissions Council and past Chairman of the Board of the Law Access Group (legal education’s loan program). In addition, Professor Read served as our Consultant on Accreditation.
In outline, the process will be: Update and broaden the earlier Feasibility Study to provide the Board with all the relevant information necessary for an informed decision. Input will be sought from the faculty, students, staff, and alumni and alumnae. After all the necessary information is gathered, the study will be presented to the Board for its consideration and deliberation. It will also be shared with the Ave Maria Law School Community. If the Board, based on the information available to it, decides that it is not in the best interests of the school to move, the matter ends. On the other hand, if it decides it would be in the school’s best interests to relocate, the matter must then be submitted to the ABA for its acquiescence.
No timetables or timelines for this process have yet been established. I will share that information with you as it becomes available.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

AMSOL Board votes for feasibility study for Florida

The Board of Directors for Ave Maria School of Law met very quietly last Wednesday, with the assumption being that they would vote to have a feasibility study done for the AMU site in Florida.
The word now is that this indeed happened, and an announcement should be coming soon...
Stay tuned to Whose Amsol for complete coverage...

First sales begin at Ave Maria

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 |
First sales begin at Ave Maria
Seventy condominiums, part of a mixed-use development called La Piazza, are now for sale

By Theresa Stahl (Contact)

Friday, March 10, 2006

The first residential units in Ave Maria are up for sale.

The 70 condominiums, called La Piazza, encircle the oratory of Ave Maria University, which sits on the edge of the school’s campus and in the heart of the town.

La Piazza is a mixed-use project that will have retail units on the first floor and residential on the second and third floors of each of the six buildings.

Nearly three-fourths of the condos have been reserved with a refundable $10,000 deposit. La Piazza has not been marketed. Barron Collier Cos., the developer, and Ave Maria officials have been quietly handing out materials about the condos to their business associates.

The condos range from $330,000 to $665,000 for two or three bedrooms and from 1,186 to 1,834 square feet of space. Each unit also has a balcony or terrace.

Blake Gable, project manager for Barron Collier, said the prices are not indicative of the cost of housing in the rest of the community. The median price of condos sold in January in Collier County was $404,700, according to the Florida Association of Realtors.

The creators of Ave Maria have promised to build affordable housing for moderate-income residents such as teachers and service workers.

“We are going to be so affordable across the board,” Gable said.

La Piazza will be part of 1,900 units that will be ready in the summer of 2007. Of those, 350 will be slated as affordable housing, which will be townhomes offered for $175,000, Gable said.

The prices are higher for La Piazza because mixed-use projects cost more to build, he said. It is one of seven communities that will be located in Ave Maria.

Since the university’s groundbreaking last month, Barron Collier has received hundreds of inquiries about housing, Gable said. The event, which Gov. Jeb Bush attended, drew national media attention.

Daniel Dix signed up for one of the units at La Piazza as soon as they were available. He’s the future owner of a coffee shop that will be on the bottom floor of his condominium building.

“It seems nice that you could wake up and walk down and go to work,” said Dix, a Fort Myers resident who owns the Sanibel Bean on Sanibel Island and two locations at Midfield Terminal. Dix also is pursuing a master’s degree in pastoral theology for personal development, because he has a wife and children and can’t become a priest.

When the contract for the condominium is ready this summer, he’ll pay around $500,000 for a three-bedroom 1,400-square-foot home of which he’s only seen the floor plans. It doesn’t bother Dix, who said he’s excited about the concept of Ave Maria.

“I’m going forward in faith,” he said.

For more information about La Piazza, call Barron Collier Cos. at 262-2600.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Two AMSOL students in the news

As frequent readers of this blog know, we try to highlight the achievements of the AMSOL community when we can (or at least when we have the time to do so). Here are two such recent achievements.
Courtesy Ave Maria School of Law website

Ave Maria Student Elected Chairman of Michigan College Republicans

Daniel Carlson, a first-year law student at Ave Maria School of Law, has been elected to the position of chairman for the Michigan Federation of College Republicans (MFCR), a state-wide organization with more than 10,000 college-student members.

For the past six months, Carlson has been the acting chair of MFCR, due to the resignation of Sam Moore, the 2005 elected chair; but his election marks the beginning of Carlson’s first full term in the office. In this position, Carlson will oversee all 23 Michigan MFCR chapters.

MFCR is an organization established to create future leaders of the Republican Party and build a network to benefit all College Republican members and the entire Republican Party. The majority of its membership is comprised of undergraduate students; however, the organization does have an active group of graduate members as well. As chair, Carlson will be the spokesperson for MFCR members and the official liaison between MFCR and all Republican officials.

While completing his undergraduate work at Kalamazoo College, Carlson founded a chapter of the College Republicans and worked to make it one of the most active chapters of the state of Michigan, participating in events such as the 2004 George W. Bush campaign and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Carlson credits his friends and family with assisting him in attaining this position and says he also received encouragement from members of the Law School community.

"There is no way I could do this from any other law school in the country," says Carlson. "It is the supportive, understanding, and spiritual environment that Ave Maria provides that makes this possible."

Ave Maria Student Wins Religious Freedom Law Fellowship

Diamond Zukas, a second-year law student at Ave Maria School of Law, has been selected to receive the inaugural International Religious Freedom Law Fellowship for the summer of 2006. Zukas is one of only three students nationwide to be selected for this award, which is given by Freedom House’s Center for Religious Freedom.

Fellowship recipients are awarded $5,000 to pursue summer internships in the field of international religious freedom in Washington, D.C. This year’s recipients, which include students from Stanford Law School and Georgetown University Law Center, will work at the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and at the Center for Religious Freedom.

Zukas is the vice president of the Women’s Law Association at Ave Maria and a member of the Law School’s Moot Court Board. During the summer of 2005, she worked as a legal intern at the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania, where she conducted research on the integration of European Union laws into the Lithuanian system.

Freedom House, founded in 1941 by Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie, is America’s oldest human rights group and a vigorous proponent of democratic values. Its Center for Religious Freedom defends against religious persecution of all groups throughout the world and advocates the right to religious freedom of every individual.

Friday, March 03, 2006

ABC News interview with Tom Monaghan and Barron Collier chief executive Paul Marinelli

Watch the video here

Monaghan "modifies" plans for Ave Maria Town

From Yahoo News Top Stories today

Pizza Magnate Modifies Plans for Fla. Town
By BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writer

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Domino's Pizza founder Thomas S. Monaghan, who is helping to bankroll the birth of a Florida town and university, backtracked Friday from comments that he'd like the community to be governed by strict Roman Catholic principles.

His ideas about barring pornography and birth control, he said, apply only to the Catholic university.

"There are a lot of misconceptions," Monaghan said Friday.

Both the town of Ave Maria and its Ave Maria University, the first Catholic university to be built in the United States in four decades, are set to open next year about 25 miles east of Naples in southwest Florida.

Monaghan's comments Friday contrasted with statements he made last year to a Catholic men's group in Boston that pornographic magazines won't be sold in town, pharmacies won't carry condoms or birth control pills, and cable television will carry no X-rated channels.

"I would say I just misspoke," Monaghan said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press. "The town will be open to anybody."

Monaghan had declined to comment earlier in the week, while his attorneys were reviewing legal issues surrounding his original ideas.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida had said it would sue if the proposals were instituted. Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist said he saw nothing in Monaghan's proposals that violated state law.

The town is being developed through a 50-50 partnership with the Barron Collier Co., an agricultural and real estate firm. Barron Collier and Monaghan will control all commercial real estate.

The town will not allow adult bookstores or topless clubs. However, it will merely suggest, not prohibit, businesses from selling adult magazines or contraceptives.

"We are not going to censor any of that information, but in deference to Ave Maria University, we are going to request that they not sell that merchandise but we are not restricting," said Barron Collier chief executive Paul Marinelli.

"The misconception we're trying to clarify is that this is not going to be a strictly Catholic town. ... I think it would be boring if in fact it was all Catholic," Marinelli said.

He said the town would welcome "synagogues as well as Baptist churches."

Barron Collier executive Blake Gable said homosexuals will be welcome despite the church's belief that homosexuality is a sin.

Also contrary to Monaghan's earlier statements, the town will not restrict cable television programming.

Marinelli said the town, expected to attract 25,000 residents, will offer affordable and extravagant housing, including seven different communities for groups from seniors to young families.

"We're just trying to create an environment where children will be safe on the streets, where they can ride their bikes and play ball in the park," he said. "We're truly just trying to create a town with traditional values."