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Monday, October 1, 2007

More on the Turmoil at Ave Maria Law School

The Detroit News has published a lengthy article on the continuing turmoil at Ave Maria Law School:   Alumni Feud with Catholic College; Group's Vote of No Confidence Latest Negative Blow to Ave Maria Law School, by Marisa Schultz:

The alumni board of Ave Maria School of Law has issued a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the Catholic college, the latest attack on an administration that is increasingly the subject of negative Web logs, petitions and complaints.

The alumni board last week called -- for the second time -- for the resignation of Dean Bernard Dobranski and the ouster of board Chairman Thomas Monaghan, the Domino's pizza mogul who has donated more than $50 million to fund the law school. By failing to earn and maintain support of alumni, the law school administration has "turned the greatest advocates for the law school to their greatest adversaries," said Justin Berger, a 2003 graduate of the law school, who sits on the alumni board of directors. The board's move followed a rebuke earlier this month from a group of Catholic law professors from around the country. The group issued a joint statement sharply criticizing the law school administration's "failure to live their Christian commitment."

Dobranski says he has no intention of resigning. Monaghan declined to be interviewed. The tension, Dobranski said, is over the law school's move from Ann Arbor to Florida, where it will join Ave Maria University in the emerging town of Ave Maria, both spurred by about $300 million from Monaghan. The town is believed to be the first modern community created in conjunction with a university. "The people who are making the noise clearly don't want the law school to go to Florida and they are willing to do whatever they can to stop it," Dobranski said. "Nothing will change their minds and they will do whatever they can to destroy the school. I think that's unmistakably clear."

Laura C. Hoffman, Ave Maria School of Law Class of 2007, takes issue with Dean Dobranki's response in the article:

Mr. Dobranski's response in this article continues to demonstrate that he fails to acknowledge the problems at Ave Maria involve far more than the decision to relocate the law school to Florida. There's a misconception that this is just about Florida when in reality, the much larger issue is the governance of the law school which includes the decision to relocate the law school. The real downfall occurred after the ABA granted accreditation to Ave Maria because instead of working on building up the law school's reputation in its infancy, there was a dramatic shift to make a decision about Florida. It was never demonstrated to us that that the move to Florida was in the best interest of the law school at this time and even professors who disagree with the governance stated they would not necessarily been opposed if it had been shown it was in the best interest.

I was extremely disturbed by the Dean's comments as follows: "The people who are making the noise clearly don't want the law school to go to Florida and they are willing to do whatever they can to stop it," Dobranski said. "Nothing will change their minds and they will do whatever they can to destroy the school. I think that's unmistakably clear."

We came to Ave Maria for its unique mission -- to protect the dignity of the human person, and we trusted that those charged with leading the law school more than anyone should be promoting that mission internally in the law school in order to prepare us to live that mission in the outside world and to bring it to the legal profession we enter. We want that mission to be restored in the law school's governance, not to destroy what we all worked and sacrificed for to benefit Ave Maria's growth as a premier national Catholic law school.

For prior TaxProf Blog coverage, see below the fold:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2007/10/more-on-the-tur.html

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