Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Tony Varona Takes The High Road In His Farewell Message After Being Fired Less Than 2 Years Into His Deanship

Miami Law Dean Tony Varona took the high road in his farewell message:

VaronaDear Miami Law Community –
As you know, tomorrow is my last day as Dean of our excellent law school. I write to thank you all for an extraordinary 23 months. I was privileged to work with faculty and staff colleagues, alumni, and students to accomplish a great deal in this short amount of time.

Together, we devised a shared vision that emphasized Excellence, Prominence and Community, and that challenged us to aspire to new levels of achievement in many areas. We made significant progress on all fronts.

We admitted the strongest class in at least 30 years and possibly in all of Miami Law history last fall, thanks to a strategic new approach to student recruitment and marketing that far outpaced the national and Florida application trends. We built out a new Intellectual Life Program that expanded and enhanced our scholarly activity at the law school, promoted our faculty in innovative ways, and boosted our law school’s national reputation among academics and practitioners alike. We recruited and welcomed outstanding new faculty and staff colleagues, and retained faculty wooed by other schools. We created a new International and Graduate Programs structure that optimized our degree and curricular offerings, leveraged our location in a burgeoning global capital, catalyzed our international engagement, and achieved a Top 30 rank [and #1 rank in Florida] in the US News & World Report international specialty rankings. We launched comprehensive Diversity, Equity and Community initiatives, enhancing our recruitment/admissions, pedagogical, and student services efforts towards ensuring that all Miami Law students are welcomed and empowered to thrive. Miami Law, in fact, was a national leader in legal education’s response to the 2020-21 movement against systemic racism.

We launched a new Environmental Law Program, Transactional Skills Program, Human Rights Program, and a Health Disparities Project, with additional initiatives in criminal justice reform, technology and the law, and Caribbean and Latin American Law underway. We strengthened our experiential education programs, achieving a new Top 25 specialty rank in Clinical Legal Education (joining eight other specialty areas that climbed in national stature). We greatly expanded our staffing and curricular resources in support of bar success, and reorganized our student affairs operations – enhancing our students’ experience. We are on the verge of launching a new SJD Program, and a new and important partnership in Latin America with Yale Law School. We started addressing our space challenges, reorganized and sharpened our communications operations, and developed an outstanding summer pipeline program for law school aspirants.

The Miami Law community was galvanized by the challenges and disruptions posed by COVID-19, which we dealt with for 16 of the last 23 months. We all worked together, day and night, to migrate our large and complex law school to all-online platforms in Spring 2020 and a hybrid approach during Academic Year 2020-21. We helped each other adapt, quickly and effectively, to teaching, learning, and working online. We did all we could to be of assistance to those in the Miami Law community who needed special help during an unprecedentedly difficult time. We advocated forcefully for our disrupted bar examinees. We worked hard to help students find job opportunities in a challenging hiring market. And despite COVID, we raised millions of dollars, kept our outstanding alumni engaged and apprised, and were careful stewards of our finances, closing both fiscal years in the black, with healthy surpluses that we have dedicated in part to enhanced student scholarships.

We have done even more than all of that over the last 23 months, but what I am proudest of is that we accomplished it all together – as one community. Thank you, all of you.

I thank President Frenk and Provost Duerk for the opportunity to serve as Miami Law’s Dean for these 23 months. I gave it my all. I also appreciate President Frenk’s offer to have me retain the M. Minnette Massey Chair. At my Massey Chair investiture, I had the honor of spending time and speaking with Dean Massey’s family. They were rightly delighted that Dean Massey’s name and ceiling-shattering legacy – forever symbolizing the importance of diversity and inclusion in legal education administration – had been memorialized with a chair that would always be held by each sitting Dean of Miami Law. I would want us to honor that commitment, and so will relinquish the Massey Chair to my successor once he or she is named, and will do everything in my power to help them succeed.

I am proud to be a tenured member of the outstanding Miami Law faculty, a great honor and privilege in itself. I wish you all a happy and healthy conclusion to the summer, and a celebratory and safe return to school in August – in person, and on the Bricks.


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