Paul L. Caron

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Duquesne Dean Resigns After Given 24-Hours Notice to Resign or be Fired; Tenure Battle, Lack of Faculty Scholarship Cited as Reasons

Duquesne Dean Don Guter, given 24 hours to resign or be fired, has opted to step down after only three years in his deanship.  Guter, a 1977 graduate of the school, is a retired Rear Admiral, Judge Advocate General, and former top lawyer for the U.S. Navy.  Con Law Prof Ken Gormley has been named interim dean.  Press reports say that Dean Guter blames "a personal feud with university President Charles Doughtery" stemming from a tenure battle:

During Mr. Guter's tenure, the law school has seen gains in a number of indicators including its bar-passage rate, which rose to 97% from 68%. But there have also been tensions between the law school and university President Charles Dougherty, including the president's initial refusal to grant tenure to professor John Rago despite a favorable faculty vote and backing of the dean. The president's refusal sparked a student protest before Dr. Dougherty reversed course and granted Mr. Rago tenure.

For TaxProf Blog's coverage of Professor Rago's tenure battle, see here and here.

In justifying the firing, a university spokesperson claimed "we need to improve the level of scholarship at the law school."  (Duquesne ranked among the bottom 25 law schools in the most recent study of per capita productivity of articles in top journals by faculty at non-Top 50 law schools.)

Update:  From Dean Guter's 2-page letter to President Dougherty:

During my short tenure as Dean, we have enjoyed record bar pass rates that rose from 68% at my arrival to 88%, 91% and 97% in my three years. These are our highest rates in at least 25 years and rank us second in the state. ...  Our relationship with alumni has never been stronger and giving is robust. Perhaps most importantly, I brought surcease to a divided and angry faculty and high morale to our students, all in consistent support for the University's mission statement.

I need not go on because you know all of these things and many more. I chronicle them only to rnake the point that under these circumstances, it would be dishonest, disingenuous, unbelievable to the public, and most importantly unethical for me to abruptly resign in the middle of the school year and in the middle of exams no less, by accepting your invitation to manufacture an excuse to cover-up what is obviously and unprofessionally your personal animus toward me despite my attempt this last Easter season to seek reconciliation with you through Fr. Fogarty. You rebuffed my attempts in a most un-Catholic manner which I am told by a Spiritan is "the one unforgivable sin."

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He was fired. As the excerpt states, " would be dishonest, disingenuous, unbelievable to the public, and most importantly unethical for me to abruptly resign in the middle of the school year and in the middle of exams no less..."

Posted by: | Dec 13, 2008 5:19:27 PM

Tim, unlike the kinder blogger above, I don't think there is anything to be proud of concerning the things you've done. You were lucky to be accepted to Duq Law school and you know that. Where would you be if it weren't for Duq.? Certainly not where you are now or else you would have been there to begin with. Here's some real advice, Tim: Stop burning your bridges. The legal community is small and everyone will see your true character for what it really is. You aren't fooling anyone.

Posted by: K | Dec 11, 2008 2:38:58 PM

From a current student's perspective, it's foolish to think that a school with administrative issues is rare among universities. The fact is, there will always be two 'schools of thought' among professors and administrators that cause friction. The better schools use that friction to make changes and achieve progress. Duquesne's progress over the last three years has been astounding. Tim, we both know there are many more redeeming qualities about this school besides Professor Rago. I understand why you left and am proud of what you've done. Don't let this event change your perception of the time you spent here.

The "removal" of Dean Guter is the straw that broke our back. It is unquestionable that the student body is upset by this decision and strongly disagrees with it, but we are making every attempt to cast light on the real issues here.

President Dougherty is committing injustices that affect not only the Law School, but our graduate business school, pharmacy school, and Institute of Forensics and Law. He is attributing Dean Guter's 'removal' for a lack of performance and failing to meet his position’s objectives. Essentially, President Dougherty feels that bar passage rates, national rankings, and extreme improvements in our funding and alumni relations mean nothing to the "performance" of our Dean. Also keep in mind that Dean Guter was alerted of his official 'removal' via an online blog, and his position was to be formally evaluated at the start of next semester. Why the sudden urge to 'remove' him this week? Coincidentally, this was our first week of Final Exams; quite an inconvenient time for students to rally together to protest such a drastic move. Unfortunately for President Dougherty, the students are more committed than he may have thought.

A change needs to be made and we are going to pull our efforts together and attempt to make it. Please respect our initiative and if you can, give us your support.

Posted by: J | Dec 11, 2008 1:07:06 PM

This is terribly sad. I wonder if we'll see this repeated at Drexel/Widener sometime soon?

Posted by: phil | Dec 11, 2008 11:37:34 AM

As a student who transferred from Duq last year. That place is a trainwreck - I couldnt be happier about my decision to get out of there. The only redeeming thing about that school was Professor Rago - and they tried their absolute best not to keep him. Hopefully Guter was just the start and Fisfis, Krasik and the rest of them will follow.

Posted by: Tim | Dec 11, 2008 8:43:04 AM

The level of scholarship at the law school is not the only thing that needs improving at Duquesne.

Posted by: W.R. Chambers | Dec 11, 2008 7:56:40 AM