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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, September 29, 2014

Deep Rift Exposed as SUNY-Buffalo Dean Resigns; Faculty Foes Allege Perjury, Mismanagement of Law School

MutuaFollowing up on my previous posts:

Buffalo News, Deep Rift Exposed as UB Law’s Dean Resigns; Faculty Foes Allege Perjury, Mismanagement of School:

Behind the scenes at one of Buffalo’s oldest and most important legal institutions, there is a growing rift, an internal family feud fueled by allegations of perjury against its leader, a near vote of no confidence and an internal review that paints a portrait of a deeply divided institution.

At the center of the storm is Makau Mutua, a Harvard Law graduate, an internationally known human rights activist, and the dean of the University at Buffalo Law School. Mutua suddenly gave up that position Monday in the wake of criticism over his leadership, and he will step down in December to return as a faculty member.

Mutua’s seven years as dean appear to have divided the law school, pitting a man known across the world for human rights activism against many of the school’s most distinguished faculty members.

“It’s very toxic. It’s very sad,” one faculty member said of the environment at the law school. “We have a community that feels alienated by the administration and distanced from the school.”

The dean’s critics, and they are numerous, include some of the school’s most highly regarded faculty members.

They claim Mutua’s management style divided the school at a time of great economic turmoil. Applications and enrollment at UB Law, like at most law schools across the country, are down dramatically, and the school is going through a downsizing of both faculty and students.

Critics say Mutua, who came from within the ranks of the faculty, arrived in the dean’s office with a “divide and rule” philosophy that placed a priority on loyalty and penalized critics while rewarding allies.

But many alumni and donors view his stewardship as a much-needed step forward.

In their eyes, Mutua shook up a moribund faculty, reached out to alums who felt alienated from the school and succeeded in raising $23 million in private donations. They say the law school’s endowment has nearly doubled since he became dean. ...

Several faculty members spoke to The Buffalo News on the condition they not be identified, but others, including six of the school’s most highly regarded faculty members, talked openly about their lack of confidence in Mutua. Some are retiring next year.

Simmering beneath the surface for years, their dissatisfaction became public when eight filed signed statements in support of a law professor who was fired by Mutua six years ago and subsequently sued the dean in Buffalo federal court.

The suit by Jeffrey Malkan accuses Mutua of lying under oath, not once but twice, about the firing. The faculty members’ statements support Malkan’s account of what happened and contradict Mutua’s side of the story.

“If there’s one thing we should be teaching our students, it’s that sense of honesty, trust and professionalism,” said law professor Martha T. McCluskey.

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