Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Was This Law Dean Fired Because He's Gay? His Supporters Want Answers

Following up on my previous posts (links below):  Karen Sloan (Daily Business Review), Was This Law Dean Fired Because He's Gay? His Supporters Want Answers:

VaronaLegal educators in South Florida and across the country have risen to the defense of ousted University of Miami law dean Anthony Varona, calling on campus leaders to reconsider their decision to push him out of the job and questioning whether his firing was motivated by bias.

Both the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) and the Association of American Law Schools’ Section on Minority Groups have issued letters in recent days condemning Varona’s firing and raising questions about the real reason he was dismissed. Meanwhile, the law school’s tenured faculty and the university’s faculty senate adopted resolutions saying that University President Julio Frenk’s unilateral decision to fire Varona without consulting the law professors ran afoul of shared governance principles.

“Dean Varona was UM’s first Latinx and openly gay dean,” reads the letter from SALT. “The appearance of an arbitrary dismissal raises particular concerns that the dismissal may have been motivated by bias. In this situation, it becomes important to clarify the motivation for his dismissal. To that end, SALT urges a review of the decision.” ...

Varona is openly gay and is active in the LGBTQ rights community. He teaches sexuality and gender law, alongside contracts, administrative law and media law.

The University of Miami Law Alumni Association also entered the fray with a May 28 letter condemning the decision to dismiss Varona as dean.

Miami Herald editorial, UM, the Wall of Silence Won’t Work. We Need More Transparency on Law School Dean Firing:

The furor over the firing of the University of Miami’s law school dean is getting worse. Faculty members and graduates are demanding answers. We think they deserve them. ...

Despite that cascade of criticism, Frenk’s reasons for dismissing Varona, a leader in the LGBTQ community and the law school’s first Hispanic dean, have remained frustratingly murky. ... That sort of high-handed attitude isn’t helpful in this heated environment and it’s not the kind of thing we expect from a civic heavy-hitter like the UM. ...

We understand that UM is a private institution. It can fire employees. We don’t have a right to know why. And lawsuit threats — it’s a law school, after all — are already flying. That puts UM in a defensive posture, like it or not.

We also know fundraising and law school national rankings and the passing rate for the Florida Bar exam all have to be central to any dean’s job.

This dean, though, has been in his job since August 2019, meaning he has held the position mostly during the pandemic, which has to be considered an extenuating factor.

As the outcry continues, the fractures between UM and the community are widening. It’s time for the university to stop waiting for the storm to blow over and deal with this controversy as directly as possible.

The wall of silence isn’t working.

Glenn Reynolds (Tennessee), I Still Don't Know What's Really Going On Here. But It Looks Bad:

SALT Calls For Review Of Dismissal Of University Of Miami Law Dean Tony Varona, ‘UM’s First Latinx And Openly Gay Dean.’ They knew he was gay and Latino when they hired him, so I doubt that has anything to do with it. But they won’t say why they fired him, which naturally raises suspicions. He is by all accounts well-liked by the law faculty, and he had just gotten a positive review and a merit raise, so who wants him out?

Complete Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

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