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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Florida Coastal Law School Asks Dean Candidate to Leave Midway Through Lunch Presentation for Raising Concerns About Plummeting Student Credentials and Job Placement

Florida CoastalLaw Deans on Legal Education:  Florida Coastal Dean Search Raises Deeper Issues, by I. Richard Gershon (Dean, Mississippi):

The editors of this blog have received disturbing reports from sources inside the Florida Coastal School of Law regarding its dean search. ...

One oddity was that the faculty was told they could only exclude one of the seven candidates from consideration. In effect, that means that the faculty has very little role in selecting the dean from the six remaining candidates. That is odd, but not particularly alarming, provided that the faculty had a significant role in the selection of candidates.

The disturbing part of the report involves a candidate who raised concerns about the school’s declining student credentials and bar pass rates. That candidate was asked to leave in the middle of the lunch presentation. The candidate resisted, but was told that security would be called to remove the candidate from campus. This all happened in the view of about 40 faculty and staff present at this presentation, which was being recorded so others who were teaching class could see it later. 

Th concerns raised by the dean candidate are supported by publicly available information showing that the 2013 entering class at Coastal had the following 75/50/25 LSAT profile: (148/144/141). Reports indicate that the students who have placed seat deposits in 2014 have a virtually identical profile as the 2013 entering class.

The LSAT in 2008 and 2009 was (153/150/147). In 2010 the numbers were (152/149/146). The decline continued to in the succeeding years (151/147/145) in 2011 and (151/146/143) in 2012. 

As might have been  predicted, the weaker entering class of 2010 had a low bar pass rate, 67% for first time takers on the July 2013 Florida bar.  This was the first time in several years that Florida Coastal had dropped below 70%.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Update:  Maryann Jones (Dean Emerita, Western State),  Chair of the Dean Search Committee for Florida Coastal, asked me to post this description of the Florida Coastal dean search process.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2014/04/florida-coastal-.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

"One oddity was that the faculty was told they could only exclude one of the seven candidates from consideration. In effect, that means that the faculty has very little role in selecting the dean from the six remaining candidates. That is odd, but not particularly alarming, provided that the faculty had a significant role in the selection of candidates."

Does that comport with Standard 206, specifically interpretation 206-1?
206-1:"The faculty or a representative body of it should have substantial involvement in the selection of a dean. Except in circumstances demonstrating good cause, a dean should not be appointed or reappointed to a new term over the stated objection of a substantial majority of the faculty."

Posted by: ATLprof | Apr 23, 2014 8:13:04 AM

The account is written somewhat in the passive voice, so it is unclear who asked the candidate to leave. The interim dean? The President? The search committee? It is hard to imagine a consensus on something like this developing in the middle of a presentation.

Posted by: Kollier | Apr 23, 2014 1:55:50 PM

It is useful keep in mind that Florida Coastal is a for-profit law school owned by Sterling Partners, a private equity firm which invests in education, health care, and business services. I assume that Sterling's representative at the meeting asked the candidate to leave. Notwithstanding Interpretation 206-1, I doubt the faculty has any significant input into any significant decision at the school. The purpose of the law school is to maximize return on capital.

Posted by: Theodore Seto | Apr 23, 2014 3:08:04 PM

A fundamental point is that FCU's statistics scream out for legislatively mandated entry requirements for law schools. We know quite well that these abysmal scores relate directly to bar passage rates. Unless we decide that the bar exam is actually not a practice capability exam then admitting large numbers of people with very low credentials is incredibly unwise and a direct assault on the quality of the legal profession--which already has a significant number of quality and professionalism issues with which it should be dealing. These admissions data are frightening.

Posted by: David | Apr 23, 2014 4:08:39 PM

I never managed this, but I did visit a certain private, West Coast law school where I met with the dean in the morning and, I was told, was scheduled to do so once more in the afternoon. Apparently the rest of the interview did not go well, because when I returned to the dean's office in the afternoon, I was told, "He doesn't need to see you again." I did have a wonderful drive along the California coast instead.

Posted by: michael livingston | Apr 24, 2014 5:16:09 AM

If this is how the candidate is treated when bringing up this subject, it brings up real questions about the ability of the faculty to do the same.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 24, 2014 6:25:35 AM

The same company that owns Florida Coastal is the same one attempting to buy Dean Gershon's old school, Charleston School of Law. Dean Gershon worked hard to build that school up. I wonder if it pains him to see all that hard work potentially eroding away because of the moneyed ambitions of this company? It is disheartening that a future leader of a school is prevented from talking about the elephant in the room.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 24, 2014 7:59:55 AM

"The purpose of the law school is to maximize return on capital."

To pretend that a money grubbing orientation is the unique province of privately held law schools is to engage in the misdirection so sadly typical of the legal professoriat - which is likely more outraged at having to share its lucre than it is outraged at the extraction (usually upon false pretenses) of the lucre from the student body in the first place.

Posted by: cas127 | Apr 24, 2014 1:18:57 PM