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?


At 3:17 PM, Blogger L. von Shtupp said...

"How can you do a feasibility study of something that doesn't really exist? "

If AMSoL is to be relocated to Ave Maria Town, more should be disclosed concerning the things that DO exist - understandings, contracts, and investments between all the entities involved in the venture. Open those books and see who is getting what. The most compelling reason to move is proximity to Tom's money and investments; but a feasibility study should get beyond just the surface promises of one man, a man who is not known for persisting in his philanthropic 'investments'.

If AMSoL is to be joined into AMU, then let AMU publicly disclose its statistics - finances, faculty/student/employee turnover, accreditation progress, student admission profile, student job & graduate school placement, the relationship with AMC-Americas in Nicaragua. Get it all out in the open so that the AMSoL community can see what it is they're joining. How free are the AMU faculty to govern themselves and have grievances addressed?

AMSoL should demand to know how ABA accreditation is tied to AMU. My understanding is that AMU, to date, only has "pre-accreditation status" with AALE, which runs out in November 2007. That's it. But that's not all. The US Dept. of Education, in January 2006, advised that AALE be suspended as an accrediting body due to a "lackadaisical approach to compliance". Nice.

AMU is said to be applying for SACS accreditation. But what they don't tell you is that, because AMU is moving from it's temporary Naples campus to the Town, this constitutes a "major change". And SACS will need to do a complete reassessment AFTER that move. Do existing and prospective students/parents know this?

In August 2003, Naples News quoted the AMU Vice President as saying "We can now confer bachelor's and master's degrees as a university" with the article headline "Ave Maria Gets State License to Confer Degrees in Florida". Was that true?

The Florida Dept. of Education's Commission for Independent Education did not grant a degree-granting state license to AMU until late Fall 2004, over one year AFTER the newspaper article. For over a year, tuition-paying students, along with unwitting AMC faculty who were advising students to transfer to AMU, understood that AMU could grant degrees when, in fact, it could not.

The Town does not yet exist. But AMU does. There's a record. And given AMU's insistence that she is "the continuation of AMC", then AMC's records should also be included in that "study". How feasibile is it that AMSoL come under the current AMU administrative team, given that team's track record to date? What must AMU do, specifically, to keep the financial benefit of 'co-developer' with the Colliers? AMSoL must demand that the so-called 'feasability study' also address AMU - past and present, not just her speculated real estate windfall profits.

At 10:08 AM, Blogger RealityCheck said...

While I am unconvinced that moving to Florida is a good idea, it has sadly become clear that those who are so vehemently against moving to Florida (or simply are against anything that has to do with Dean Dobranski or Tom Monahan) are unavailable for even the possibility that moving to Florida could be in the best interests of the school. Their objections are couched in terms of personal attacks and "concerns" such as "How can you make an informed decision to move to a building that does not exist?" What is startling about these tirades is not simply ignorance of the temporal realities involved in such a "major change", which should be answered by the study, but how the "Catholic character" of the school takes a back seat to screeds about conspiracy and deception. The most blatant example being the "conflict" between the board vote in the Fall and the June 15th date to inform incoming students whether they would graduate in Ann Arbor if the board votes to move.
The questions remain, but why not look for an opportunity to answer them? How will you back down from your high position of righteousness if in fact moving to Florida would be the best thing for the future of the school and the future of its students? Are you even available to that possibility? Have you considered that many of the obstacles encountered in Michigan may be, in time, overcome in Florida? I don't know the answers to these questions but they are questions we should ask ourselves before embarking on a crusade that will not only be futile but will only add to a prospect no one wants —a lifeless AMSOL.

At 11:28 AM, Blogger L. von Shtupp said...

Realitycheck, if you're so truly "unconvinced that moving to Florida is a good idea", then why not put such arguments forth rather than make nebulous accusations against those who you apparently agree with at some level?

I am "unconvinced" that you, in fact, think Florida a bad idea. Even your questions give you away - i.e. "Have you considered that many of the obstacles encountered in Michigan may be, in time, overcome in Florida?" You are about as "unconvinced" as Dean Dobranski.

And surely you must realize by now that the opposition is no longer centered on merely "moving" but on a host of other issues even larger and more damaging in scope.

Your colors show when you call the efforts of alumni "a crusade that will not only be futile but will only add to a prospect no one wants - a lifeless AMSOL". Opposition to Monaghan is "futile"? Hmmm. Well, that works against your clarion call for looking at all sides of this issue. You recognize, as everyone else does, that to oppose Monaghan is to end with a "lifeless AMSOL". And therein is one of the founding alumni's major complaints - that the entire institution turns on the whims of one man. Do what he says or suffer the consequences. And you, "unconvinced that moving to Florida is a good idea", are more concerned about everyone giving Monaghan's commands full and fair consideration? "Unconvinced" as you are, you still miss the point - "do or die" makes everyone's "convincing" completely irrelevant, including yours.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger informationoverload said...


Actually, realitycheck's comments are fair and open-minded to an idea that he/she likely will not find compelling. Unfortunately, you, like most folks at whoseamsol, are not objective and do not have the best long-term interest of the law school formost in you mind. You don't want the law school to go to Florida, and you are unwilling to even entertain the idea. The majority of AMSoL students do not agree with your postition. We want what is best for the law school, even if it is not in our personal best interest. The mission and strength of AMSoL is more important than my short-term requirements.

Cool down a bit. Believe it or not, we are all on the same team. Destroying the carreers and lives of men who have given their lives and/or substantial amounts of money (tens of millions) to AMSoL simply because you refuse to enteratain the idea of moving to Florida long enough for a feasibility study to be completed is evil.

At 10:36 AM, Blogger L. von Shtupp said...

"The majority of AMSoL students do not agree with your position. We want what is best.."

And your "objective" evidence for this "majority" is? When you use "we", that means you are an AMSoL student, correct?

In the end, it does not matter in the least what the students think, nor the founding faculty, nor the alumni, nor the Dean for that matter. AMSoL is run by one person, and every duty is superceded by one supreme duty - serving Mr. Monaghan's wishes. That is the core problem, of which Florida is only a symptom. Donor, not owner.

When someone tells you "do this or I will destroy you", you can stand there and pretend to be "fair and open-minded" while "entertaining" what to do, as if you had a realistic choice. You can do a so-called "feasibility study" to soothe your conscience for taking the path of least resistance. You can try to frame your acquiescence as a personal virtue (that you're doing what you're told even though you don't "find it compelling" and in your "personal best interest"... that doing the command and avoiding destruction "is more important than my short-term requirements"). But you're only fooling yourself, and laughably so.

The truly "fair and open-minded" person will explore the ALTERNATIVE to Monaghan's sole-proprietorship. In its current form, this "feasibility study" is asking "Can we get to Florida without completely imploding?"; it is not asking "Should we really do this?". And here's the proof - When asking "should", one must consider all alternatives. Will the study thoroughly explore what will happen if AMSoL refuses Monaghan's desire to go to Florida? They must thoroughly explore how AMSoL will stay afloat in Michigan if Tom pulls his money for refusing Florida. Any true objective feasibility study needs to examine that alternative scenario, otherwise, the study will clearly be seen for what it is - a sham to make Monaghan's command appear the best of the one option considered.

Have you even considered that an AMSOL without Monaghan might be in the community's "best interest" (long-term and short-term)? He doesn't need to be booted; he'll voluntarily remove himself if his command to move to Florida is not followed. Or maybe you're afraid that he'll destroy the school on the way out?

Those promoting the objectivity of this "feasibility study", in its current incarnation, who do not also demand that the ALTERNATIVE OPTION be fully explored, show themselves for what they are - too scared and comfortable with Monaghan's teat in their mouth.


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