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.


At 9:08 PM, Blogger Thomas said...

what a boring article, even the reporter seems disinterested... is she used to covering the weather?


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