Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Houston Dean Rapoport Resigns Following Flap Over Drop in U.S. News Rankings

Brian Leiter reports that Houston Dean Nancy Rapoport announced her resignation yesterday, effective May 31.  Today's Houston Chronicle notes that the resignation followed a stormy faculty meeting over the school's fall in the U.S. News rankings:

University of Houston Law Center Dean Nancy Rapoport announced her resignation Monday, six years into a tenure that saw the law school drop 20 spots in the U.S. News & World Report rankings.

The decision comes just one week after a faculty meeting in which students who showed up to discuss the drop in rankings and some professors aggressively criticized Rapoport....

In a letter to faculty, staff and students at the law center, Rapoport tied her decision to "events of the past week or so," but did not elaborate before going on to reflect on her time as dean.

School officials credited Rapoport with helping to hire qualified faculty and adding to the financial endowment, as well as helping the school recover from Tropical Storm Allison, after which its library lost some 300,000 volumes. "She has done a lot of very good things for the law center and for the university," said university Provost Donald Foss, who cautioned against putting too much stock in the magazine rankings. Applications to the school remain high, Foss said.

The law school was ranked 50th in 2002 and 52nd in 2003 before it fell to 69 in 2004. Rankings released earlier this month placed UH at No. 70 in a tie with six other schools, including Seton Hall University and the University of Denver. "A drop of 15 or 20 points is important. But it's important in a way that the stock market price is important," Foss said. "Prices do not necessarily reflect the underlying value of a company; they are sometimes too high and sometimes too low."

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Those rankings, while notoriously inaccurate, do place a lot of emphasis on a school's reputation among bench and bar. Frankly, given the lack of research and writing ability demonstrated by the students and recent graduates of the Univ. of Houston, I can't say I'm shocked that the rankings fell. It is indicative of the culture of that school more than of Dean Rapoport's actions -- but just as Rome wasn't built in a day, so did Roman emperors fall prey to the thwarted aspirations and political machinations of those around them.

Posted by: Susan | May 1, 2006 10:01:37 AM