Gainesville Sun op-ed: Failed dean search delivers a terrible blow to law school, by Michelle Jacobs (Florida):
I am a tenured full professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. I came to this institution in 1993, as both the college and the university were struggling to free themselves from the legacy of southern segregation.
Between then and now, the College of Law has experienced many tumultuous moments, particularly over diversity issues. These chaotic upheavals have rarely produced anything of value for our college. The same can be said of the current fiasco created by UF President Bernie Machen's act of failing our dean search.
An article in The Sun last week did not adequately reflect the depth of the anger and embarrassment our community is experiencing as a result of the rejection of two candidates we believed provided our college with an excellent opportunity to move forward. Machen could not give any concrete explanation for why the candidates forwarded to him, particularly University of Kentucky College of Law Dean David Brennen and former ambassador to New Zealand David Huebner, could not satisfy his criteria.
In an email sent to our faculty, he stated that he made his decision after consulting "stakeholders." These "stakeholders" could not have been anyone from our community who would have worked with the new dean. We suspect that these "stakeholders" were the individuals who tried to force Alex Acosta, dean of the Florida International University College of Law, upon our faculty.
Our faculty rejected him as unsuitable. Machen was quoted as saying he wanted a "visionary" to lead the law school. Where was his concern for visionary leadership when he reappointed our current dean six years ago, despite the fact it was clear he had absolutely no coherent vision for our college?...
Machen's decision delivers a terrible blow to our college. He has damaged our institution in the eyes of our peers throughout the country, and has now burdened any search we will conduct next year. What candidate of high quality would consider applying to be dean at UF after these shenanigans? Machen disrespected our faculty, students and staff, not only by crushing our hopes, but also by reminding us that he neither values nor understands the assets here at the College of Law.
For far too long the college has rested on laurels it achieved decades ago. We routinely squander opportunities that open the door to greatness, but this time, our college stepped up to the plate. We dared to hope and speak out loud that we could become great. But Machen was not ready. UF is not ready.
Perhaps the saddest truth is that we are now forced to admit publicly what we have only whispered among ourselves privately: this university and our college, pulled in the wake, are not capable of being more than what they were 20 years ago.
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