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Thursday, December 23, 2010

DePaul Names New Law School Dean, Rejecting Choice of 90% of the Faculty

DePaulDePaul University announced yesterday that it has named Gregory Mark (Vice Dean, Professor of Law and Justice Nathan L. Jacobs Scholar, Rutgers-Newark) as its new Dean. Although Dean Mark certainly has an impressive record, his selection continues the administration's assault on the College of Law and its faculty, beginning with the abrupt firing of Dean Glen Weissenberger in June 2009 and selection of state court judge Warren D. Wolfson as Interim Dean, without any consultation with the faculty (see collection of links here).

DePaul Provost Helmut Epp repeatedly assured the faculty over the past two years that he would honor its wishes in the selection of a permanent Dean. The dean search committee presented four finalists to the faculty, and the faculty voted two of the candidates as acceptable:  Dean Mark and current DePaul Associate Dean Brian F. Havel. The faculty then voted 35-4 in favor of the universally respected and admired Associate Dean Havel, who is ideally situated to heal the rift between the administration and law school.

The timing of the announcement of Dean Mark's appointment three days before Christmas, when most faculty and students are away from the law school, appears designed to quell protest of the decision and to make the appointment a fait accompli when classes resume Jan. 10.  The DePaul administration's actions are especially disheartening for a Catholic university, dedicated to the Vincentian ideal of loving God through serving others: "the DePaul community is above all characterized by ennobling the God-given dignity of each person."

The DePaul administration's actions continue to be far from ennobling. They certainly vindicate Dean Weissenberger, who was fired for fighting to defend the interests of the law school and its faculty despite the enormous strides the school had made under his leadership.

Brian Leiter (Chicago) warned back in June 2009 that Provost Epp "will destroy the College of Law if not stopped. Where is the University President? Where is the Board of Trustees? In nearly twenty years in legal academia, I have never seen a law school mistreated like this by a university central administration."

With the situation now even worse than it was back in 2009, one hopes that the faculty and other constituencies that love the law school will rise up and convince the board of trustees, ABA, AALS, or others to intervene before the destruction of the law school is completed. Given the hefty salaries earned by the university president ($565,057 in 2008) and provost ($420,769 in 2008), it surely is not too much to ask for them to swallow their pride and live out the mission of the university,

I am told that several of DePaul's best faculty are holding lateral offers from other law schools and are awaiting the outcome of the dean search before deciding whether to leave DePaul. If the administration's decision stands, a mass faculty exodus undoubtedly will ensue over the coming years.

Given his outstanding record, Dean Mark undoubtedly could have his pick among many outstanding deanships. He presumably did not know the full facts about the situation at DePaul before accepting the deanship. Now that several faculty have provided him with more information, he hopefully will work with the administration and faculty to find a solution.

(Disclosures: Although Glen Weissenberger is my former colleague on the Cincinnati faculty and Brian Havel blogs as part of our Law Professor Blogs Network, I received the information contained in this post from several other members of the DePaul faculty and community. I reached out to Dean Mark by email at 5:15 p.m. yesterday to get his perspective on the situation, but have not yet heard back from him.)

Update:

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2010/12/depaul-names-.html

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Comments

I don't know the background very well, but I would strongly suspect that the number of DePaul faculty holding attractive lateral offers in this market is very small, and the number of them located in cities is attractive as Chicago is even smaller. Also, if the current faculty is such a good judge of a dean, why does the law school rank 98th in the US News survey? I'm not saying Leiter is wrong about everything, just that you sometimes have to take these things with a grain of salt.

Posted by: mike livingston | Dec 23, 2010 9:50:31 AM

Some of the most dysfunctional governance can be found at the academy. Because the faculty expects to choose their leader, the environment naturally becomes political, self-centered and dysfunctional. Change is to be feared in the faculty lounge.

Posted by: Lisa Maome | Dec 23, 2010 10:10:18 AM

Mike, what does DePaul faculty holding lateral offers have to do with me being right or wrong about anything???

Posted by: Brian Leiter | Dec 23, 2010 11:02:20 AM

Brian, we now know you read TaxProf, this is the most significant advance in tax scholarship in recent years.

I may have misattributed the lateral offers thing from Paul to you. I do think that you and Paul perhaps overstate the significance of this story. The choice of an external candidate over an internal one preferred by the faculty strikes me as unexceptional, particularly at a school that seems to me to be underperforming given its geographic and other advantages, a point which you implicitly accept in a more recent post.

I can't really say as to lateral offers, but you or Dan noted in another post that there were precisely zero lateral moves over a recent six? month period, it really boggles the mind to think that there would be a wholesale purchase of large portions of a middle tier faculty in response to a controversial Dean search.

Posted by: mike livingston | Dec 23, 2010 12:21:25 PM

If the new dean was incompetent, or simony or nepotism alleged, I would understand the outrage. But why should we care that the faculty didn't get to pick their boss, or the inmates don't get to pick their warden?

Posted by: guy in the veal calf office | Dec 23, 2010 12:59:29 PM

Paul,

I hesitate to comment because I know nothing about the situation, but I feel compelled to say that your post strikes me as unfair to Dean Mark. If he was deemed "acceptable" by the faculty, as you say, then the Provost was entitled to chose him over the other acceptable candidate (unless the Provost made an explicit promise to pick only the top vote getter--in which case there was no point in having the faculty approve more than one candidate).

Given the positive vote of the faculty, Mark was surely entitled to accept the position. This would be true even if Mark had known that the other candidate received a favorable vote from the faculty. (You suggest that he didn't know this, but it shouldn't matter either way.)

It's not clear why he needs to "work with the faculty" to find a "solution." To what problem? They much preferred the other candidate, as you make clear to the world, but Mark was acceptable to a majority of the faculty as well. That was the faculty's decision. Now he will be their Dean--unless he is run off the job by blog-induced pressure.

Your sensational post has merely made an already difficult job even more difficult for Mark.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | Dec 23, 2010 1:10:59 PM

Mike, I usually read TaxProf when I link to TaxProf, as I did today after Paul sent me his item. Some of the best DePaul faculty do have external offers, as I understand it, which isn't surprising. And please don't confuse Paul's post with mine, which he links to above. As I note, it isn't uncommon for the Admin to pick among the candidates deemed acceptable, without deferring to the faculty's rank-ordering. But given the history here, it would have been wise to do so. But the contempt of the DePaul Administration for the faculty has been clear throughout this decanal catastrophe, as it is in its mishandling of various tenure cases, most appallingly, Norman Finkelstein's.

Posted by: Brian Leiter | Dec 23, 2010 3:38:34 PM

Pardon me for my anonymity, but under the circumstances I think it necessary. I thought it important to put in a voice because a question has been raised about whether any DePaul faculty are likely to leave in the next academic year. My law school offered a full time position to one of the DePaul faculty, who has already accepted the offer. However, I do not know whether the reason for the lateral move has anything to do with the disputes between the central university and the law school.

For what it's worth, I agree with Brian and Mike. The provost could choose between either acceptable candidates. I've known Havel for several years, and I'm confident he'd be a good dean. But Mark (whom I've never met, heard of, nor spoken to) deserves a chance before he gets hit with controversy going into the position.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 23, 2010 3:38:37 PM

It is unquestionable that the DePaul faculty was already demoralized, and that this will add to the demoralization. Brian Havel was the only? law school faculty administrator who stayed in place to try to hold things together, loyal to the university and the law school, when the university refused to adhere to its commitments to improve the law school and fired the dean for pointing this out, and the AALS and ABA toothlessly acquiesced. My school was approached by several top DePaul faculty even prior to this who were seeking to move elsewhere (hence my anonymous posting), whom we would have been happy to hire given relevant openings, and I expect such attempts will only increase. A post on another blog states that the DePaul faculty was forced to submit at least two names, and was assured that the university would choose the person preferred by the faculty. If true, more oil on the water given what the university actually did. As for USNews rankings, what do they have to do with anything, and to the extent that they do, note that DePaul's upward trend was reversed by the university's actions.

Posted by: Anon2 | Dec 23, 2010 5:30:17 PM

The decision to hire an outside dean is a better decision over Havel. Though I do believe Havel to be well suited for such a position, Havel would not have the courage to do what is best for DePaul. DePaul Law has the most incompetent administration I have ever dealt with and the school is going nowhere fast because of it. I think Havel's friendships with the administration would prevent him from taking any meaningful action. Hopefully Dean Mark will be able to better make these not so tough decisions and provide DePaul with the competence that it so desperately needs.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 11, 2011 11:57:59 PM