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.

15 Comments:

At 1:46 PM, Blogger J. T. Corey said...

What you mean "we," paleface?

 
At 4:12 PM, Blogger Boko Fittleworth said...

I'm not going to join in a public call for the Dean's resignation. I do think, however, that AMSoL's poor showing in the recently released USNews rankings should be an occasion for reflection and candid speech about the state of the school. Important questions have arisen, from publicly available information, about whether AMSoL's Board of Governors is pursuing the original AMSoL mission (the establishment of a first-rate law school educating lawyers in the Catholic tradition) and whether there exist conflicts of interest among Board members that would hamper their ability to pursue this mission. These are the questions I hope the Board members are asking themselves:

1. What is the mission of AMSoL?

Some sort of public (re-)statement of AMSoL's mission is in order. Those who get involved with AMSoL, as employees, students, or donors, deserve to know to what plough, exactly, they're putting their collective hand.

2. What is the relationship between the mission of AMSoL and that of the AMU/Avetown project?

Are the two missions identical or even complementary in all respects? Have you (the Board) ever allowed the interests of AMSoL to be dictated by, or even subsumed by, the interests of the Florida venture?

3. Do any Board members have conflicting interests, so as to make them unable to exercise a fiduciary duty to AMSoL and its mission?

Are the Board members substantially independent of each other, so that the Board benefits from as many views as it has members, or are some Board members beholden, financially or otherwise, to Mr. Monaghan or another Board member, so as to deprive the Board of an independent exercise of stewardship? Does any Board member have fiduciary duties to two or more institutions, the interests of which may conflict (e.g. AMSoL and AMU)?

4. What promises were made (and, one might add, relied upon) regarding contributing, both financially and otherwise, to the AMSoL project, and by whom?

Have these promises been kept? What has the Board done to hold people to their promises?

And finally, 5. Are you satisfied with AMSoL's recent fourth-tier ranking and, if not, what do you propose be done about it?


These are the questions that have been occasioned by recent (and not so recent) events. I hope they are among the questions upon which the Dean and the Board are reflecting as they work at making AMSoL live up to the initial promise she so brilliantly showed, a promise the brilliance of which was in no small measure a reflection of their own.

Your faithful servant, but God's first,

Charles C. Pavlick
AMSoL '05
ccpavlick@alumni.avemarialaw.edu

 
At 7:33 PM, Blogger Socrates said...

I love the wailing and gnashing of teeth, as if we were to get any ranking other than a 4th tier. You all seem to forget that we will always be despised by the left.

Forget about inconsequential rankings and concentrate on the mission of the school. As attorneys we should all take a pro-life pro bono case! TAKE IT TO THE LEFT IN FORCE.

Those who seek honor from the world will become a part of it.

 
At 12:51 AM, Blogger RealityCheck said...

Which of us would you start shooting to improve you life, NoMan? Your incoming student information is simply false. You are cackling like an old spinster. Butch up a little and stop fretting by blaming others. Such a tactic will be unwelcome at the Throne of Judgment.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Thales said...

Socrates, I don't think anyone is overly concerned with the fact that we are not respected by the left and have a bad reputation score on the US News. I think people are concerned because the statistics show that Ave Maria is, in GPA/LSAT entrance and percentage of applicants accepted, comparable to a Tier 4 school, which is not what the Dean was telling everyone 2 or 3 years ago.

RealityCheck, you said "your incoming student information is simply false." I don't think that's right. Do you mean GPA/LSAT? Take a closer look at the US News comparisons.

The problems with GPA/LSAT entrance scores and percentage of applicants accepted could be corrected to some extent by simply not accepting the bottom quarter of those applicants now getting into Ave Maria. It is more than a little odd to be taking on 140-150 students per year, when the space constraints, parking lot snarl, and class scheduling are such huge problems currently. Why not accept only 100 students? The only two arguments against this idea that I see is 1. that you'll be cutting off 40 "Ave-mission supporting" potential lawyers; and 2. for financial reasons. I don't believe the first argument is that strong or factually accurate (and besides, I would rather have a smaller, yet stronger, school, than overextended and weak); and for the second argument, I fear that financial reasons play too much of a role in deciding the school's future.

 
At 7:22 PM, Blogger Valjean said...

Thales,

Second everything you say, except I want to be sure folks understand that it's not a matter of accepting "only 100 students" versus "taking on 140-150..."

Because Admissions doesn't know how many students will actually enroll, my understanding is that it has to engage in a bit of algorithmic soothsaying in order to accept the number of students that will eventually enroll and fill 100, 140, or even 150 seats. This may have been exactly what you were talking about, but I wanted to be sure everyone understands the fact that Admissions has to trade precise control over number of admits in order to avoid artificially throttling the incoming class size. This fact, combined with what is likely a smaller application pool than other schools, may be one of the biggest factors in our sky-high 67.3% '05 Acceptance Rate score.

It's actually likely that that number has dropped to where it is now, if you consider that most applicants for the first few classes were admitted. I have no data for that, folks, but those who attended in the Early Years know that this is likely the case given the anecdotes we heard from the admissions office.

Do not misinterpret this to be an apologia for the actions of the Dean and the rest of the AMSL administration in depositing us where we are today...below the dreaded TTT (Third Tier Toilet).

And "RealityCheck," you give every appearance of being one of the AMSL administration's plants. You might want to tone it down and be a bit less obvious in future comments.

 
At 11:19 AM, Blogger littleleaguer said...

Jean,
True about lack of precise control over incoming class size, but I believe it was the administration's GOAL to get classes to 150 - note the Dean's positive comments about how we've gotten the class size up that high, and the consistent size at admission of current 2L and 1L classes. 150 was the goal.
And, realitycheck - poorly named. Justice demands that we give blame where it is due. We can argue about where, and why, it's due, but unless you think No Man is HIMSELF responsible for the current AMSOL problems, blaming others is exactly what he should be doing - provided he is fair, and so far, he seems pretty reasonable to me. Look at the evidence.

 
At 6:16 PM, Blogger RealityCheck said...

A "plant"? Wow. The consipracy theory has risen to new heights. I suppose you will now suggest that the 4th tier assessment was purposeful to aid in moving to Florida. Regarding admissions, the number of people who have reserved seats for the fall is at the same place it was at this time last year. Also, reserving seats at a law school is like reserving seats on an airplane. You have so many seats and you know a percentage that won't show up. The best way to improve that number is to be careful in offering seats to those who almost assuredly will come. To offer by the numbers only requires sending out scores of offers to people who probably wouldn't come anyway. I am sure the new admission director is well aware of the hot seat he has jumped on and will make adjustments accordingly.
Finally, risk is risk. You pay your money and take your chances. People who come here are mostly interested in the mission, not the review of popular magazines—regardless of their influence. I find it hard to believe that even if the school were "ranked" in the 4th tier several years ago, people dedicated to the mission of the school wouldn't come. If you were told that the school is in the 4th tier but with dedication and belief in the mission it could improve, you would just walk away? I don't think so. The proof will be in the resolve of the incoming class. Why was the risk worthwhile to them?

 
At 11:57 PM, Blogger Kate said...

Hmmm....Admissions straining to bulk up the numbers? This sounds pretty familiar. You might want to try and find out who is setting the admissions goals. At AMC we had a real problem with micro management from above of admissions goals. It was a strain on the admissions department, it shot our standards for incoming freshman out the toilet, and it strained our resources. On top of which, promises were made to the freshman and programs added that really weren't sustainable, all for the sake of a number TSM could point to and brag about. Not pretty. Not sustainable.

 
At 5:37 PM, Blogger Anakin Aquinas said...

Here's how I see it, There's alot of division in the community.

either, all of the Dean/Admin's actions are intentionally misleading, and therefore he should resign as dean.

OR The dean has acted in complete ignorance as to what effect the timeing of the term limits and feasability study would have on the greater Ave Community.; if this is the case, then he has proven himself unqualified to guide us thru such a process, and thusly should resign.

the way I see it...He has a fiduciary duty to put the school's best interests first. He has a moral duty (because of the mission of the school) to keep us united as a community (because the devil would love nothing more than to split the community).

So IF the move to florida is the best possible move for the school, he has a duty to conduct it in a reasonable manner.

This has not been done.

 
At 5:46 PM, Blogger Anakin Aquinas said...

Reality Check made the following points, which are worth addressing in this discussion

I find it hard to believe that even if the school were "ranked" in the 4th tier several years ago, people dedicated to the mission of the school wouldn't come. If you were told that the school is in the 4th tier but with dedication and belief in the mission it could improve, you would just walk away? I don't think so. The proof will be in the resolve of the incoming class. Why was the risk worthwhile to them?

The problem, is that given the mission of the school, and the opposition faced by its graduated (the job market was brutal for me b/c of being an Ave Grad) we need to have an academic institution of the highest regard.

Students incoming were told we compared with, on these very numbers, the University of Iowa at #18, and probably a realistic shot at top 50.

Obviously that's optimistic, but that's what we were told.

So, either at the time we were told that information it was a blatant lie. Or it's possible that we were admitting students with the criteria of University of Iowa when we were first told of the comparisons, and then somewhere along the way the plan changed and we stopped.

I would be interested in knowing why that plan changed.

On an unrelated note, I think the dean had a duty to disclose that the school would be ranked the moment he knew it would be ranked.

 
At 5:51 PM, Blogger Anakin Aquinas said...

My good friend whom i respect Charles Pavlick said

I'm not going to join in a public call for the Dean's resignation. I do think, however, that AMSoL's poor showing in the recently released USNews rankings should be an occasion for reflection and candid speech about the state of the school. Important questions have arisen, from publicly available information, about whether AMSoL's Board of Governors is pursuing the original AMSoL mission (the establishment of a first-rate law school educating lawyers in the Catholic tradition) and whether there exist conflicts of interest among Board members that would hamper their ability to pursue this mission.

I would say that people have been asking those questions, they just get stonewalled and politically polished answers.

You have to admit that the fact that a faculty review that was scheduled for this year, getting pushed back to next year (following any attempt to speak negatively of the feasability study) is prima facie evidence that the powers that be have no intent to engage in an honest conversation about this move.

while I would be inclined to agree with you about waiting to call for the dean's head, I think that perhaps we have waited too long.

I have no problem with Ave Moving to Florida. I want to make sure that my degree is still worth the paper its printed on though. And the way they are going about things, this doesn;t appear to be the case.

I would say that the Dean is no longer qualified to lead us through such a move, and we need someone who can accomplish it without destroying the community, which is just what the devil wants.

 
At 6:04 PM, Blogger Anakin Aquinas said...

If it wasn;t obvious in my above response to Reality Check, I nwould note, that wether or not certain students would be willing to take the risk is not the issue.

The issue is getting highly qualifies students, who are dedicated to the mission, and who would come here but have been scared off by the uncertainty of the florida talk.

Additionally the issue is why are we ranked fourth tier, vs what we had been told.

I am sure students will be willing to come to the school, but we're not a catholic fraternity. We are an institution dedicating to educate catholic lawyers to go into society at the highest levels and change the culture.

You can't do that when the focus is shifted to anything other than how do we make this school teir 1. (which focusing on florida has done, I believe)

I think reality check raises a point definitely worth considering in this discussion, but I am not sure it touches on the real and relevant issues.

 
At 12:41 AM, Blogger oldmixer said...

Good Lord! Who is the blow hole who wrote this? Speak for yourself!

 
At 12:47 AM, Blogger oldmixer said...

"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."

This statement INFURIATES ME! You do not speak for me! If you want to go, then get the hell out. I'm in for the long haul.

 

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