Sunday, April 30, 2006

Ave Maria law school dean under fire from faculty

From Saturday's Ann Arbor News
Ave Maria law school dean under fire from faculty
No-confidence votes pass against Dobranski
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Faculty members at the Ave Maria School of Law and the school's alumni association board have passed no-confidence resolutions against the school's dean, Bernard Dobranski.
According to an open letter from the faculty to the Ave Maria community, the faculty resolution passed 11-3 on April 12. The alumni resolution was approved 7-3, with two board members absent.
Detailed reasons for the no-confidence votes have not been made public.

But the main concerns center on the faculty's voice in operating the school and a possible move from Ann Arbor to Ave Maria University near Naples, Fla., where Tom Monaghan, who founded both schools, is building Ave Maria Town, a planned community that will include homes and businesses in addition to the university.
Responding to the votes, the Ave Maria Board of Governors issued a statement affirming its "full confidence'' in Dobranski. Also, two members of the alumni association issued a statement saying the association's board didn't have the authority to pass a no-confidence resolution.
Richard S. Myers, a professor at the school and one of the four original faculty members, declined to reveal his vote or the specific objections to Dobranski, but said the Florida issue is part of the governance concerns.
Dobranski, a former dean at Catholic University School of Law in Washington, was appointed Ave Maria's dean shortly before the law school opened in 2000.
Located on Plymouth Road, the law school has 16 full-time, tenure-track faculty, a number of nontenure-track faculty and about 375 students.
"The school's being run as a sole proprietorship, without significant input from the faculty,'' said Charles Rice, an emeritus professor of law at the University of Notre Dame and until last September a member of the law school's Board of Governors. "Subordinating it to another school (Ave Maria University) destabilizes it,'' he said.
Rice also said the dissension is difficult for the law school. "It's really a terrific place,'' he said.

In a joint interview several days after the Board of Governors issued its support of Dobranski, the dean and board member Kate O'Beirne said a feasibility study, possibly completed this summer, would weigh heavily in the decision to move the law school to Florida. They also said all members of the Ave Maria community - faculty, students, alumni and the board - would have their say.
A 2003 feasibility study expressed reservations about a move for the school, but things have changed since then, Dobranski said.
Ave Maria has received full accreditation from the American Bar Association, and Ave Maria Town is "more than just an idea,'' Dobranski said. If the ABA frowned on a move, it wouldn't occur, he said.

But some faculty members have dug in their heels, said O'Beirne, Washington editor of National Review, a conservative publication. "Some people are so opposed to the move to Florida,'' she said, "that they want to smash the process of considering it.''
Joseph Falvey, another one of the original faculty members, said he is "concerned that we would take a flourishing institution and uproot it in an early stage. ... It's like moving a young plant; it might not survive the transplant.''
Falvey declined to comment on his recent resignation as associate dean for academic affairs. He remains a member of the faculty.
Some law school students also have voiced concern over the Florida question, worried that uncertainty about the location could interfere with efforts to attract the best students or harm continuity with faculty ranks. Other students are willing to wait for the feasibility study.
Dissenters have valid concerns, said Craig Jorgensen, a first-year student, but multiple factors must be weighed. The Michigan site is better established than the Florida one, he said, but the South, including Florida, is growing and that could be good for Ave Maria.

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Naples housing market has "totally collapsed"
But there are clear signs that the tide is turning in Naples. Inventory levels now are four times as high as they were a year ago, local real-estate agents say, largely because nervous investors are trying to cash out their gains before rising mortgage interest rates topple the market. "Big price reduction" ads are starting to pop up in the thick weekly real-estate sections of the Naples Daily News. Worse, at the end of 2005 Naples was 96.3% overvalued -- based on historical norms for home prices, household income, population density and other factors -- according to a quarterly analysis of 299 housing markets by Boston-based research company Global Insight Inc. and Cleveland financial holding company National City Corp. That made it the most overvalued housing market in the country.
California and Florida accounted for 18 of the 20 most overvalued markets, with Naples, Fla. leading the way. A median home in Naples now costs $367,100, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO), nearly double what the study's authors estimate it should.
"In this coming year, we will see further announcements or further evidence of projects not going forward," McIntosh said. "Some people are not going to make a big announcement. They are just going to quietly crawl away with their tail between their legs."He expects to see projects fail and be taken over by their lenders or investors."Heads will roll," McIntosh said.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Letter from faculty to AMSOL community

The following letter was distributed late last week by members of the AMSOL faculty. (To view full-size, hold cursor over letter and click on small icon on bottom right to enlarge).

Will there be a Catholic parish in the forseeable future in Ave Maria Town?

Res ipsa loquitur...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Ave Maria hopes wait won't be long for parish
But diocese chancellor says one isn’t in the town’s near future
By Jenna Buzzacco (Contact)
Monday, April 24, 2006
When the town of Ave Maria opens to residents in 2007, community members will have almost everything within walking distance of their homes.

But in a town conceived around Roman Catholic principles, one key ingredient will be missing: a parish church.
Contrary to popular belief, neither Stella Maris chapel at the interim campus nor the Ave Maria oratory being built in the new town are churches. The Diocese of Venice recognizes neither chapel, meaning priests cannot perform baptisms, weddings or funerals, said Ave Maria University president Nick Healy.
But if Ave Maria officials have their way, residents won't need to wait too long before a parish pops up in the community.
"We hope to be officially declared as a parish in the next year or so," said the Rev. Robert Garrity, university chaplain.
But diocese officials said a parish isn't in the town's near future.
Diocese Chancellor Volodymyr Smeryk said there have been no discussions at the diocese about changing the chapel into a parish church.
According to Canon Law, "a parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stable constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor under the authority of a diocesan bishop." Smeryk said only a bishop can erect, suppress or alter parishes.
MORE COVERAGE: Read more stories about Ave Maria
But Healy said the university submitted an application to become a parish about two years ago. Healy said the bishop had indicated the change may be left to his successor, but university and town officials are hoping it will happen before then.
"The reason we want to be a parish is because most Catholics want to belong to a parish," Healy said. "You have to be a parish to have children baptized. You have to be a parish to have a wedding. You have to be a parish to have a funeral."
Healy said the transition may be taking longer because the chapel and oratory are affiliated with the university. But that hasn't stopped other diocese from granting parish status to university affiliated oratories and chapels, Healy said.
Both the chapel at the University of San Francisco and the chapel at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, are affiliated with the local dioceses, Healy said.
But affiliation and becoming a parish is rare, said the Rev. Art Espelage, executive coordinator at the Canon Law Society of America.
"It is seldom that an oratory would become a parish church, but it has sometimes happened in the past," Espelage said. "Normally parishes are territorial whereas oratories are more closely aligned to shrines where specific groups of people assemble."
Once completed, the Ave Maria oratory will seat 1,100 people and will be about 110 feet tall. University and town officials are touting the 24-hour adoration chapel and multiple daily Masses as a draw for the faithful.
In addition to the oratory, AMU founder Tom Monaghan has said there will be a church or place of worship within walking distance from every house in the town. But Healy said neither the town nor the university would have to appeal for more churches to come to the town.
"If a second parish were to come to Ave Maria, the diocese would typically buy the land and erect the church," Healy said. "There is land that has already been designated for additional churches or (places of worship)."
Healy said, however, that community members should not expect another church to be erected during the first phase of construction.
Until the oratory is designated a parish, Ave Maria community members will have quite a drive if they want to be affiliated with a parish.
Healy said the closest church affiliated with the diocese is Our Lady of Guadalupe in Immokalee, which is about 10 miles away. But Healy said Mass at Our Lady of Guadalupe may not fit residents of Ave Maria, since most of the Masses are celebrated in Spanish.
Even though the application process appears to be stalled, university and town officials are still optimistic.
"I'm guessing we'll have this completed by late 2007 or early 2008," Garrity said.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Women who make the world worse?

How about one who seems to relish fanning the flames at Ave Maria School of Law?

Here is a sampling of Miss O'Beirne's responses to questions from today's meeting with students (note: these are not exact quotes, but accurately reflect what she said, which will be proven once we receive a copy of the audio recording that was made of the meeting):

Concerning the resignation of Falvey as dean: "I don't see that as much of a loss."

In response to a question about provisional accreditation: "I don't know the meaning of that term."

Regarding the votes of no confidence in the Dean by the students, faculty, and alumni board and their supporting allegations: "They did not dignify a response."

Concerning the faculty's resolution and statements in support against the Dean: "I was very disappointed in the non-professional manner of it, especially coming from lawyers".

Kate O'Beirne can be reached at
(specify that your message is for her in the subject line)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Falvey resigns from position as Dean


Dean Falvey briefly addressed questions about his resignation as dean shortly before his Evidence class began.

He said that his resignation (which was submitted last Wednesday) did not mean that he didn't hope to be teaching next fall.

Despite what Deans Read & White have to say, the faculty are permitted to speak about matters that pertain to the community without infringing on academic freedom.

He said that he has personally moved about every 3 years in life, and that if the Marines told him to go to Iraq tomorrow, he would go. It's not about moving. He said that he wanted to clarify some of the things rumors that are floating around, such as the one that the faculty are motivated by self-interest. He said that the faculty at this law school are motivated by only one thing, and that is the students and the best interest of this law school: "The faculty are expressing their concerns for you."

This message was sent out today from Dean Dobranski:
"This is to inform you that I have accepted Dean Joseph L. Falvey, Jr.'s resignation as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. He and I have agreed to work together to effect a smooth transition."

This message was sent shortly after by Prof. Murphy:
"I know I join the entire law school community in thanking Dean Falvey for his many years of outstanding service to the Law School. The administration's loss is the faculty's gain!"

Note the contrast between the two emails above. Dobranski doesn't even thank Falvey for his service to the law school!

Forced out by Dobranski and Monaghan? Resigned in protest to Dobranski and Monaghan's 'iron fist' rule?

Either way, this is one more sign that Dobranski and Monaghan do not have the support of the AMSOL community.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Megan Boever

Megan Boever, beloved wife of Matthew Boever, class of 2003, passed into eternal life today at 3:15 p.m. She passed peacefully with her entire family by her side.

During the Octave of Easter and during the Novena to the Divine Mercy, her passing after a courageous struggle with cancer is a testimony to us all.

The funeral mass will be either on Thursday or Friday of this week.

May she rest in peace

Eternal rest give unto her, O Lord;
And let perpetual light shine upon her.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006



Stay Tuned for More Details.....

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Absurdity of the Whole Feasibility Study Subterfuge

A Feasibility Study of ........

Ave Maria Town, March 22, 2006
Future site of Ave Maria School of Law
(at least according to Tom Monaghan)

How can you do a feasibility study of something that doesn't really exist? How can you make an informed decision to move to a building that does not exist? Why wouldn't you wait until the campus and homes and infrastructure and a track record are in place before even commissioning a study? Is Florida a good location for another law school? What do Catholics and others in Florida think about such a proposed move? What do faculty, students, staff, and alumni think of such a move?

All good questions, and all issues that were already addressed in the 2003 Florida Feasibility, which was kept firmly under wraps, until now. And now we know why.....

2003 Feasibility Study Summary:

This is located at the circulation desk at AMSOL, and there are many access restrictions. No email went out to inform students that it would be there, and only 4 have checked it out so far – none for over an hour. It is over 1000 pages, and it is clear why it needs updating…

The following excerpt-summaries are highlights:

Under Standard 105 of the ABA, the change of location (closing in Ann Arbor and reopening in Florida) will constitute a “major change.”

A canvassing of Florida lawyers revealed much ambivalence:
Many Catholic lawyers were perplexed as to why another Catholic law school would be opening in Florida, as so many others had opened in recent years.

One Florida lawyer noted that Ave Maria seemed to have found the one place in Florida where there wasn’t a law school.

The phrase “in conjunction with Ave Maria University” begins on page 1, and appears throughout the study, until the question of whether or not these entities would remain distinct is raised. After discussing the relationship between AMSOL & AMU, the study discusses law students’ reactions, which were overwhelmingly opposed to affiliation with the AMU.

Page 5: Reputation of AMSOL “runs a serious risk of being damaged by relocation to Florida without internal support.” (Internal support is later defined as: Faculty, staff, students, Board of Governors, and Alumni.)

Page 6: The authors of the feasibility study recommended an aggressive marketing campaign to improve reputation and perception BEFORE any move should occur.

Page 7: The Support of the Faculty: If the core faculty will not relocate, it may cause the ABA to examine the situation with “serious scrutiny,” as this may constitute a new educational “entity.”

Page 8: Then-current 2L class (class of ’05) was angry and expressing a “high level of anxiety and bitterness,” though the authors of the study acknowledge that these students knew that they would not be personally affected by the relocation.

Page 19: Tom Monaghan’s Money is a Liability: The study recognizes that Mr. Monaghan’s money is a donor liability, deterring other donors, who view AMSOL as “Tom’s School.”

Page 6 of the Current Student Survey (2003): The current students cite the administration as a weakness of the school because it is not being truthful about a prospective move.

So, now does everyone see why the Board and the Dean does not want to "update" the previous study, and why the Dean's good friends are in charge of a new, improved feasibility study?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

For your consideration

Three items for your discernment:

1) Dean's new message for potential incoming students

2) ABA Rules for Major Program Changes

3) AMSOL Alumni Board Letter detailing all of the problems involved with a move to Florida

UPDATE: List of Student Grievances against Dean

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Newest issue of The Advocate reveals plan to diminish Founding Faculty of AMSOL

What happened to the Founding Faculty? Maybe they didn't really exist in the beginning...

As reported earlier on this blog, the newest issue of The Advocate is a shameful attempt to rewrite the history of the founding of AMSOL and glorify Dean Dobranski and Tom Monaghan, to the detriment of the most important element of the law school, the Founding Faculty. Below is the relevant excerpt from the new issue, which somehow manages to tell the story of the founding of AMSOL without once mentioning the contributions of any of the Founding Faculty, who were the ones who approached Monaghan with the idea of the new law school, and did much of the work in developing the mission, vision, and curriculum of the school.

The two men's paths converged in the fall of 1998, with historic results. It was mid-November 1998, and Dobranski recalls sitting in his office at Catholic
University when he got a call from Monaghan. The two knew each other because Monaghan had previously served on the Board of Catholic University, and his daughter had attended University of Detroit Mercy Law School while Dobranski was dean there. Dobranski was interested to learn that Monaghan was getting ready to sell Domino's and wanted to put the proceeds into his foundation in order to fund a number of projects, including a new law school.
Monaghan had been thinking for a long time that the legal profession needed to go in a different direction. While he served on the Board of Directors of Franciscan University of Steubenville during the mid-1990s, the idea of starting a law school at Steubenville had been explored. Although it was ultimately rejected, the idea of a new Catholic law school remained firmly planted in Monaghan's mind, and he continued to think about it for several years.
Having seen thousands of lawsuits while at the helm of Domino's, he was convinced that lawyers and judges are among the most influential people in our society.
"Most politicians are lawyers and many of our corporate executives and CEOs are lawyers," he explains. "It's a good springboard to the executive suite and the boardroom, so a law school seemed like one of the most important programs to have in Catholic higher education."
When he decided to pursue the idea, he thought of Dobranski, whom he knew to be a very strong Catholic and well-thought of in academic and legal circles. "He's a very effective leader, planner, and organizer," Monaghan says.

Different Direction

Dobranski's first comment to Monaghan after being approached about a new Catholic law school was, "Gee, do you think we have too few lawyers that we need another law school?" But he was intrigued by the idea of starting something new.
"I had certainly thought off and on over the years about, if you were
starting from scratch, what a Catholic law school would look like,"
Dobranski explains. "But nobody was starting from scratch. I was dealing with the problems in the context of being the dean of Catholic University, an existing law school. "
But Monaghan convinced him that he was hoping to do something different from anything that had been done before. After that initial phone call, the two had several more conversations about what a new law school would look like and how it would be funded. The two quickly agreed on the direction and the mission of the new entity: it would be academically rigorous, would compete with the best law schools in the country, and would be infused with Catholic traditions and teaching. Dobranski agreed in principle to head the new entity, an agreement that was firmed up when he met with Monaghan in December.
When the school was announced the following April, skepticism came from various quarters, both religious and secular. Neither Monaghan nor Dobranski was deterred for a moment. "I've been around long enough to know that the more we get criticized, the more on track we are," Monaghan observes. "I didn't get out of Domino's to do something the same as everyone else is doing. I wanted to make change and be a pacesetter rather than a follower."

Compare this to the 2002 issue of the Advocate, which our friends at Fumare were so kind to post, as well as the Dean's previous version of the founding published in the University of Toleda Law Review and posted here. The 2002 Advocate story and the Dean's Toledo law review article are also very consistent with Professor Safranek's talk last year on the founding of the school. It is very clear that Monaghan and Dobranski have changed their story on how the school was founded, and you don't have to take our word for it.

This rewriting of the history of the founding mirrors the battle going on behind the scenes at the law school, where the Board, led by Monaghan, and the Dean, his enforcer, are attempting to gag the founding faculty by threatening to revisit tenure, while simultaneously putting forth an 'alternative' view of the founding that completely leaves out any mention of the Founding Faculty. This plan would allow the Board and the Dean to effectively dismiss the Founding Faculty and help to pre-emptively fight off legitimate lawsuits (which are sure to be filed) over who has the proprietary rights to the law school, which will be a central issue when a vote to move to Florida is made.

Concerning the serious issue of trying to revoke or revisit the tenure of the Founding Faculty, a review of the ABA rules shows that this is clearly not in line with its standards:
(a) A law school shall establish and maintain conditions adequate to attract and retain a competent faculty.
(b) A law school shall have an established and announced policy with respect to academic freedom and tenure of which Appendix I herein is an example but is not obligatory.

One final note: Monaghan's quote in italics is chilling: "I've been around long enough to know that the more we get criticized, the more on track we are". Yes, that might be a good thing when you are talking about the secular media and academia, but what about when most of the people in your own 'orthodox' Catholic circles criticize what you are doing and you ignore them? This is exactly what happened at AMC, with the chapel fiasco, and now with Monaghan's insistence on moving AMSOL to Florida. He actually believes that all of the criticism he is receiving from good Catholics (especially at the law school) is somehow a sign that he is on the right track. We must pray for this man, that he would listen to the just criticisms and back down from continuing to tear apart the law school.

There is word in many circles of an uprising now against the administration and demands for the leadership to be held accountable. Alumni are encouraged to check their alumni email accounts for updates, and to follow this blog and Fumare for further news and developments....