Monday, December 04, 2006

**Naples News story confirms AMU "crisis"**

Confirming what was reported here first by Whose AMSOL? nearly a month ago, the Naples News reports today on the bleak state of affairs of AMU in Florida, with Provost Fr. Fessio admitting that a "crisis" is now facing the school.

Note also the high AMU attrition rate referred to near the end of the article.

Folks, students and faculty are running away from the AMU project.

This story must be relayed to all AMSOL Board members.

If any Board members, after performing his or her mandatory due diligence and becoming properly informed of the issues (including stories like this as well as the recent faculty resolution against moving to Florida) would be committing a grave breach of their fiduciary duties in voting to move to Florida now.

AMSOL Board members - you are on notice.

School's slow growth prompts funding plea
By Jennifer Brannock
Monday, December 4, 2006
Costly tuition prices, lofty academic and maturity requirements and an inching accreditation process could stall the growth of Collier County's most ambitious project.
In a recent letter to Ave Maria University supporters, Provost Joseph Fessio wrote that enrollment and retention numbers at the stringent, private Catholic college are low.
The problems are contributing to "a probable added deficit," which he referred to as a "crisis."
"It isn't that we did not plan for it," Fessio wrote in a letter, dated Oct. 18. "But as a situation unfolds, the problem (or sometimes even a crisis) becomes crystal clear."
AMU needs more students. The ideal growth of the school and 5,000-acre town, to be located between Immokalee and Naples in eastern Collier County, depends on it.
After disclosing a laundry list of problems the school has with recruitment and retention, Fessio made a serious plea to potential donors to fund merit and need-based scholarships so more students could have the opportunity to attend.
"To that end, I'm starting a task force of Regents to raise money precisely for scholarships that will help us increase our enrollment and retention," Fessio wrote.
"Without such a scholarship fund, we are going to incur deficits over the next few years which will be unsustainable."
Despite the ominous statement, Fessio insisted the school and town are far from doomed.
"It's not false," Fessio said of the written statement Wednesday. "Nothing will happen" if AMU doesn't admit more students.
"But we'll be smaller than we should be."
Slow growth at Ave Maria isn't an issue for Collier County planners or developers.
Representatives at Pulte Homes, who have three housing complexes planned for Ave Maria, said they have loads of interested people who say they want to live in the primarily Catholic community. The growth of the school will not be a factor, representatives said.
Because Ave Maria will be responsible for its own water, sewers and roads, the pace of the town's growth won't affect other county projects, said Joe Schmitt, the county's Community Development and Environmental Services Administrator.
"That is a self-contained, self-sufficient entity," he said. "We still expect 500,000 to 600,000 people living in eastern Collier County at build-out, so I don't think they'll have any problems."
AMU has enrolled about 600 students since 2003 at its temporary campus, in The Vineyards in North Naples. Of those, more than 100, about 17 percent, have left the school prior to graduation, Fessio said.
According to statistics compiled by the College Board, about 49.5 percent of freshmen at four-year private universities do not graduate from the institution they started at.
The reasons for leaving AMU, or for not coming at all, are plentiful, Fessio said.
"The number of academically qualified students mature enough in their faith to respond to what we have to offer here is relatively small," Fessio wrote. "When you add this to the fact that we are presently still a rather small and unaccredited institution a long way from most population centers in the U.S., with a limited number of majors, it's clear to me that our growth will necessarily be slow over the next few years."
Fessio said the top reasons for the departure of students are academic and disciplinary dismissal.
The average SAT scores for incoming freshman are between 1200 and 1218, Fessio said. Students must also maintain a 2.0 grade point average or higher to stay in school.
AMU has strict behavioral policies to which some students fresh out of their childhood homes have difficulty complying. Some more troublesome rules include boundaries on male/female interaction and the requirement that students must live on-campus throughout their college years.
But don't expect those rules to change, Fessio said.
"We have pretty high expectations of students when it comes to behavior with relationships, drinking and so on," he said. "We've experienced that some students come here, and it's not as lively as they had hoped, and they leave.
"It takes maturity, and we're not going to diminish our standards for decency and character."
Though the school has received pre-accreditation, they are still 3-4 years away from receiving national accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), Fessio said.
The school offers only 12 undergraduate majors, which has prompted many students to leave the school and finish elsewhere, Fessio said. The school cannot offer any new majors until they receive their SACS accreditation.
"We haven't had any difficulty getting students work after graduation," Fessio said. "Nevertheless, it is a deterrent for students coming here."
The main factor Fessio is working on is the bottom line. Fessio said many Catholic families are large, with several children to support, and cannot afford to spend the $22,575 per year AMU charges for room, board and tuition.
Fessio hopes his Regents task force will form by the end of the year, and will be successful in raising money for prospective students.
"The fact is, if we're going to help the students who need the most help to come here...we have to support them in some way," Fessio said. "I believe if I can communicate to our friends in this area what our students are like, how terrific they are and what we need to get them here, people are generous and will respond."
AMU students like Maria Victoria Puerto Hernandez of Honduras and Andrea Rodriguez of Immokalee have already reaped the benefits of full merit and need-based scholarships.
"I wanted to come here when I saw what Ave Maria offered," said Rodriguez, 20. "I couldn't have come without the scholarship."
"I needed to know how to approach the teachings of the church, and I knew Ave Maria was teaching the truth," added Puerto Hernandez, 19, who wants to work as a missionary. "Coming here gave me the opportunity to be more exposed in terms of culture."
Fast or slow, Fessio said he is confident the university will achieve their build-out goal of teaching 6,000 mature, academically excellent students one day.
"There are students like this all around the country," he said. "It just takes time for them to get to know us, and for us to know them, because we're still new here."

Friday, December 01, 2006

Safranek response to Dean Dobranski

Subject: RE: Response to Nov 30 E-mail Memo
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2006 22:50:53 -0500
From: "Safranek, Stephen"
To: "Dobranski, Bernard" , "All Law System Distribution" , "All Alumni"

I write in response to Dean Dobranski's memorandum distributed just hours ago when most of us had gone home for the night. This, like the "Feasibility Study", was released after regular business hours before the long Thanksgiving Break.

The Dean's attached e-mail states that "the memorandum is misleading in that it suggests that it was passed by 'the Faculty of Ave Maria School of Law.'" Of course, what the Dean is saying is that it DOES NOT say that it was "passed by the 'Faculty of Ave Maria School of Law." It does not say so. Nowhere is that phrase found in the memorandum. If it were there, the Dean would quote it. He does not because he cannot. The Dean does not note how the memorandum "suggests" such. He merely posits it, i.e. we misled either intentionally or not. The Dean further states that the resolution "implies" "that it was a formally passed resolution of the faculty collectively." It nowhere says it - the Dean does not state how it "implies" such either. He merely posits this implication.

The resolution was signed by eleven faculty. That is a majority of the faculty.

The Dean states that there are 21 faculty. That is true in some fashion, indeed in some fashion one could claim that there are over 30 "faculty" at AMSOL. The Dean includes in the number 21 at least the following: a faculty member who has never attended a single faculty meeting and who does not reside within 300 miles of this school; and a faculty member on leave who lives over 150 miles away and obviously does not attend faculty meetings.

Therefore, eleven faculty signed the resolution. No more than eight faculty who are here at the school working regularly did not sign. The lack of those other signatures does not mean those faculty do not agree with the resolution, it just means they did not sign it.

The Dean states that "It is regrettable that students have again been drawn into a debate among faculty members, especially as final exams approach." I do not know what "debate" he is talking about. If the Dean is talking about a debate on the feasibility study, it is incomprehensible that such a debate was not certain to occur upon the release of the feasibility study.

It is regrettable that the Dean, who had complete control over when to release the feasibility study, chose to do so after 5:00 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving just before the last two weeks of classes. It is regrettable that the Dean then created a comment period for students running in the last two weeks of classes, i.e. right before exams. It is regrettable that the Dean felt it necessary to send out his e-mail to correct what he calls "misleading statements".

Of course, any statement could mislead anyone. The statement upon which the Dean chose to comment was issued by Professors Myers, Falvey, Murphy and me in light of the feasibility study which is ripe with misleading statements.

I wish to point out to you one aspect of the "study" that I think characterizes it and is reflective of so much more.

In the preparation of the feasibility study, Deans Read and White promised that all comments would remain confidential. The Dean reiterated this promise to faculty at a faculty meeting. Thus, if you look through the entire study, not a single faculty member, student, or alumni name appears - except mine. Deans Read and White did not say that written statements would not remain remain confidential (all the alumni and other written comments are scrubbed of names). Deans Read and White ensured that my name and my comment alone is placed as a special tab in the study with my name on it.

Deans Read and White explain that they did so because I did not ask them that my comments remain confidential. Of course I did not ask because they had promised that all comments would remain confidential.

It is clear that Deans Read and White knew, or should have known they were breaking that confidence, because they place the specific "explanation" in their study - I did not ask that my comments remain confidential. Of course, neither Dean White or Read called me to ask me whether or not I wanted my name on my statement. They never e-mailed me to ask me. Instead, they thought up their "explanation" and presented my comments to the Board. The Dean then authorized the release of the study to all of you and to the internet world even though he had promised confidentiality to the faculty.

I stand by what I said in my statement. If I had known that it was to be shared with the world, I would have written even more - or maybe I would have written what I did more eloquently. The release of my statement by the Deans was meant to expose me to all of you and beyond when it was released to the internet world. Of course that release did much more.

It showed that they broke their promise. That should tell you as much as you need to know about who is misleading whom.

Letter from Dean Dobranski in response to Faculty resolution

Dean Dobranski wrote this in response to the faculty email and resolution concerning the newest Florida feasibility study.

Whose Amsol will respond in the next few days to the Dean's email.

Dear Ave Maria School of Law Community,

I write in response to the November 30 e-mail memorandum signed by Professors Myers, Safranek, Falvey and Murphy regarding a resolution of 11 faculty members opposing the Board of Governors' consideration of a possible relocation to Florida , which was distributed to the law school community yesterday by Professor Falvey.

Although there is much in the memorandum with which I and other Board members would disagree, I only wish to comment on two aspects of it. First, the memorandum, in relevant part, states, “Regrettably, the study prepared by Deans Read and White makes no mention either of the faculty’s submission of the attached resolution or of the specific concerns addressed therein.” There is a simple reason for its non-inclusion. The resolution was submitted to the Board the day before its September 27 Board meeting, and was never submitted to Deans Read and White as part of the Feasibility Study process. If it had been, it would have been included. Because it was not and because the information contained in the resolution was already before the Board at its September 27 meeting, there was no need for it to be included in the final Feasibility Study.

Second, the resolution attached to the memorandum is misleading in that it suggests that it was passed by “the Faculty of Ave Maria School of Law” on September 25. To the extent that this implies that it was a formally passed resolution of the faculty collectively, it is not correct. It represents the views of 11 faculty members and not the entire faculty, of which there are 21, including a professor on approved leave and myself, but not including the visiting professor. It was also not passed at a regularly constituted faculty meeting.

It is regrettable that students have again been drawn into a debate among faculty members, especially as final exams approach. I think it is important, however, that some misleading statements be corrected. My hope is that it will not become necessary to respond to any future communications of this nature by faculty members or others.

Dean Bernard Dobranski