Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

St. Louis Law School Dean Resigns Abruptly, Blasts University Administration

ClarkAfter only one year as Dean at St. Louis University School of Law, Annette Clark resigned today and released two remarkable letters.

Here is the letter to the university president and vice-president:

I resign my deanship at Saint Louis University School of Law, effective immediately. For the present, I will remain a tenured full professor on the law school faculty as is my contractual right. I no longer have confidence in either of your abilities to lead this institution or in your commitment to the well-being of the School of Law. ...

Through these and many other acts I could list, you have failed to make good on your assurances to me when I accepted the deanship that you would fully support the law school and our efforts to enhance its program of legal education, national reputation and rankings. From the beginning of my deanship, you have evinced hostility toward the law school and its faculty and have treated me dismissively and with disrespect, issuing orders and edicts that allowed me virtually no opportunity to exercise the very discretion, judgment and experience for which you and the faculty enthusiastically hired me. You have not consulted me on important matters involving the law school’s interests, you have failed to honor commitments that I had assured the faculty you would keep, and you have accused me of being uncooperative and not being a team player when I have objected to these actions.

It is the ultimate irony that a Jesuit university would operate so far outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity. I simply cannot be part of, and I assure you I will not be complicit with, an administration that can’t be trusted to act honestly and in the best interests of its faculty, staff and students. I therefore resign my deanship in the School of Law.

Here is the letter to the faculty and staff:

I am resigning because I fundamentally disagree with the president and vice president for academic affairs (vice president) as to the responsibilities of the law school dean and the importance of honesty, integrity, and honoring one’s commitments. As a result of a number of their actions, I no longer have confidence in their ability to lead this institution or in their commitment to the well-being of the School of Law and so I cannot continue to serve as a member of this administration.

I am appalled and shocked by the president’s and vice president’s actions surrounding the summer research stipends generally, but especially by this most recent withdrawal from the annual fund. I am telling you what has occurred, even though doing so is in clear contravention of the orders I received from the vice president, because I believe I have an ethical obligation to disclose this conduct, which I view to be immoral, in violation of an express commitment made by the president, and harmful to the law school. I do not wish to be complicit in, or provide cover for, these actions....

I have performed my duties as your dean with every ounce of integrity, dignity, and grace I possess and I leave this position with a clear conscience and the knowledge that I did everything within my power to move the law school and the university forward. In terms of my future, I will remain on the tenured faculty for the present, but I anticipate that I will be seeking another deanship in the near term.

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We stood by as Biondi ran rough-shod over local property owners, because it was seen to benefit the school and then city. We gave him the benefit of the doubt as he unilaterally restructured the university to guarantee more power. But, when most all of the faculty and students report that he has become a tyrant only interested in seeking more power we finally say enough is enough. The School is an institution of higher education with reputation and tradition. It is NOT Biondi University. It is time for a graceful retirement by the good Jesuit.

Posted by: SLU Law Alumn | Aug 9, 2012 1:36:46 PM

A University President took money designated by donors for one use and used it for his own slush fund after he promised not to do so, but to instead use money that had already been budgeted and contracted over for that original use. That's important enough to blow the whistle over. Moreover, that money was, in part, annually spent on students. And if he can take the donors' money, and the students' money and spend it on whatever he wants, saddle the school with a future cost that no one else has a say in, and continue to pillage the school's accounts, how can the school survive? And what happens to the students (or the alums) then?

Bravo to Ms. Clark for standing up to someone who seems to have to answer to no one for his misconduct.

Posted by: Anon | Aug 9, 2012 12:15:11 PM

As an alum of SLU Law and a former employee and instructor at SLU, I believe every word Annette Clark wrote. I have no doubt that he and his VP repeatedly lied and went back on promises. Biondi is not fit to run a university. He deserves any and all criticism that has been directed at him--and then some.

Posted by: Greg Knott | Aug 9, 2012 5:09:22 AM

Why is "The claims she is making are that the school took over $1m budgeted to the law school, without notifying or asking anyone associated with the law school, and put them in a crappy unsuitable building." troubling? Law schools are not legal entities.
They are divisions in a corporation. Presidents have the authority, indeed the responsibility, to allocate resources as they see fit. There may be better academic opportunities in another faculty. The dean, as most bureaucratic managers in a NFP world, is simply fighting for a bigger budget. If she was not tenured, this would not happen.

Posted by: Ron Mann | Aug 9, 2012 4:49:09 AM

I am very glad my father passed away in 2004 and cannot see what has become of the law school he graduated from. My older brother who was employed by SLU quit last year, as he said the working conditions had become intolerable. I had hoped my kids could attend either SLU or Wash U as their grandfather had, now I will only allow them to consider Wash U.

Posted by: Mark | Aug 8, 2012 9:27:22 PM

As a practicing Catholic loyal to the Pope and the Magisterium, I grew up in the St. Louis area, and have several siblings who attended SLU for undergrad degrees. I have personally worked as an employee in Catholic parishes, a Catholic diocese and a Catholic parochial school. One of my two graduate degrees is from a Catholic institution of higher education.

With that background laid out, I will say this: anyone who trusts the Jesuits in any organization of higher learning in America is clearly not paying attention. I have never seen evidence of integrity, fair-dealing or justice anywhere in Catholic higher education, particularly Jesuit Catholic higher education, nor have I ever heard of anyone who has seen such evidence. Indeed, everything I have heard and seen points in quite the opposite direction.

Every bureaucracy is populated with sharks.
Catholic institutions are in no way exceptions to that rule.
You would think most people would have figured that out by now.

Posted by: Steve Kellmeyer | Aug 8, 2012 8:48:50 PM

I wonder which institution "cas127" is from.

Posted by: Larry Sheldon | Aug 8, 2012 6:36:44 PM

1) Why would Annette Clark want to stay on as a professor? Maybe because she realizes she needs to find a new job? That doesn't seem inconsistent with her statements. If she stayed on for more than a few months (enough time to interview), that would on the other hand be different. I really doubt she'll be there past this academic year. Most likely, she interviews this fall and takes a leave of absence in the spring.

2) Whether or not one thinks third tier schools are scams is kind of irrelevant to this particular food fight, as the particular claims have nothing to do with that debate. Unless the peanut gallery has some evidence that SLU, under Dean Clark, was engaging in deceptive practices (such as misleading students about employment practices), I think you're just tossing bombs. Really really stupid bombs. The claims she is making are that the school took over $1m budgeted to the law school, without notifying or asking anyone associated with the law school, and put them in a crappy unsuitable building. If true, those claims are (regardless of whether you view SLU Law as a TTT scam or not) pretty troubling.

Posted by: Bob Loblaw | Aug 8, 2012 4:30:38 PM

The dean is definitely in the Ann Barnhardt league.

Posted by: buddy larsen | Aug 8, 2012 4:30:13 PM

Maybe she, as well as the readers here, are not too familiar with Biondi's reputation. Unfortunately she should have known before taking the job or thought it would be different with her there as dean.

Posted by: JC | Aug 8, 2012 4:27:21 PM

cas127 : It doesn't sound like Annette Clark is a champion for defrauded law school students - rather just another shark fighting for her cut of the corpse.

I think you are right, considering her order of "best interests":
" the best interests of its faculty, staff and students"

I don't think she'll find another deanship. Right or not, she is a "trouble maker". No schools can afford her "speaking up".

Her professorship is tenured, so she will not be fired, but her colleagues will either keep a wide berth, or be over sympathetic which is even worse.

Posted by: elkh1 | Aug 8, 2012 3:44:53 PM

What unmitigated arrogance and entitlement mentality all around. What an argument for knocking the whole rotten edifice down. I think Law School Faculty can damn well cover their own summer vacations, err research stipends. What are these privileged jerks making anyway? Talk about a first world problem.

Posted by: motionview | Aug 8, 2012 3:43:57 PM

The one thing that sticks out to me is that she wants to hang on as a tenured prof. If it were really that bad and she really wanted to make a statement, she'd ditch that too. Also, I guess the Jesuits didn't offer her a severance package to keep her mouth shut, at least one not big enough.

Posted by: Tommy Shanks | Aug 8, 2012 3:10:55 PM

As Robert noted, any practicing orthodox Catholic could have told her to stay away from the Jesuits.....the word "clueless" comes to mind...

Posted by: Joe | Aug 8, 2012 3:00:54 PM

As I know little to nothing about the school, I can't really be sure if she has a case, or is a complete drama queen. It could be either. (From her letters, I tend a toward the latter. My boss got one in the same sort of tone - and same sort of eloquence - after he'd fired someone who lost us a bunch of accounts due to...well...being a drama queen.)

If she's not a drama queen, I hope she gets another job soon. If she is? Well, I hope she gets a job with someone who deserves her.

Posted by: Kathy Kinsley | Aug 8, 2012 2:59:28 PM

Why is the peanut gallery taking sides? We have an angry letter of resignation. The dean is clearly fed up. That doesn't mean her complaints are legitimate or her criticisms are fair.

As outsiders, we will likely never know the truth. Once the lawyers (not the law profs) step in, everyone will go silent and all public statements will be official blather. The dean will probably get a financial settlement on the condition that she not talk about it.

Posted by: kato | Aug 8, 2012 2:54:54 PM

I am amused by her dismay that a Jesuit institution would lack decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity. As a practicing Catholic, loyal to the Pope and to the Magisterium, I can only ask the former Dean: Have you been asleep the past forty years or so? Have you ever seen any behavior by the Jesuits during that time that would have led you to assume that their personal dealings with you would be otherwise?

Posted by: Robert | Aug 8, 2012 2:28:58 PM

Written with all the petulance of a 5-year-old screaming for cookies at the grocery. In my experience this type of childish self-righteous flogging is nearly always the spewing of an emotional infant.
Gee...and they get to keep her on the faculty?
She's the greatest argument against tenure...EVER.

Posted by: jack gott | Aug 8, 2012 1:57:28 PM

"would operate so far outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity."

1) Didn't she realize she was in charge of a law school...
2)...why didn't she talk to some law school alums, they could have pointed out the scamblogs...

Actually, this sounds more like a "rats vs. snakes" fight between the University and the Law School (over money of course).

It doesn't sound like Annette Clark is a champion for defrauded law school students - rather just another shark fighting for her cut of the corpse.

Posted by: cas127 | Aug 8, 2012 1:51:19 PM

So, if you served on a search committee looking for a new dean, would you consider these letters a plus or a minus on Professor Clark's record?

Posted by: David Walser | Aug 8, 2012 1:45:02 PM

"Such forthright statements of principle are to be commended."

If indeed that's what it is. In the same way I am suspicious of anyone who calls himself "Honest John," I am suspcious of anyone who makes statements like the following: "I have performed my duties as your dean with every ounce of integrity, dignity, and grace I possess..."

Posted by: Dana H. | Aug 8, 2012 1:43:26 PM

HT: Instapundit.

Just wow.

Can we get Annette Clark to run for public office? Anywhere? Do the Jesuits have a saint opening somewhere?

Posted by: Paul A'Barge | Aug 8, 2012 1:39:27 PM

Sounds like the activities coordinator complaining that she is having great difficulty ordering the layout of the deck chairs on the SS HigherEd.

And this is just from the tip of a very large iceberg.

Posted by: ThomasD | Aug 8, 2012 1:35:52 PM

Such forthright statements of principle are to be commended. However, it might not be as easy to find another deanship as one would hope.

Posted by: Mike Spehar | Aug 8, 2012 1:33:00 PM

Wow. She didn't just burn that bridge, she sent postcards of it on fire to her superiors and anyone else looking. Man.

Posted by: E.M.H. | Aug 8, 2012 1:10:11 PM

I've heard good things about SLU from graduates, but in a successful 30-year professional IT career, it is the only place that ever fired me. As a result of internal politics. In clear violation of their mission statement. At the VP level.

Posted by: lpdbw | Aug 8, 2012 1:04:55 PM