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Suit claims law profs were fired after opposing proposals to discourage student transfers

Posted Jun 4, 2013 12:09 PM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Updated: Two tenured law professors at Phoenix School of Law have filed a suit claiming they were fired after objecting to proposals making it more difficult for students to transfer to other schools.

Michael O'Connor and Celia Rumann, who are married, claim they were fired after objecting to the anti-transfer proposals and proposed changes that would reduce tenured faculty, the National Law Journal and Courthouse News Service report. Their suit (PDF) claims breach of their employment contracts.

The professors say they were informed in 2012 that 18 percent of 1Ls who enrolled in 2011 had transferred to other law schools. After that, the school began requiring students to meet with an administrator before releasing transcripts, the complaint says. Also discussed, the suit says, were proposals to discourage transfers by refusing to write recommendation letters, changing first-year classes to make them incompatible with other schools, and adopting a pass-fail grading system that would make it hard for other schools to identify top students.

The professors say the faculty narrowly voted against proposed curriculum changes as a whole, but the vote was overruled when ballots that contained support for some provisions were interpreted to support all of the provisions.

The law school issued this joint statement by its president, Scott Thompson, and dean, Shirley Mays, on June 11: "For the past eight years, Phoenix School of Law has firmly built its reputation as a school, an employer and a community partner based on honesty, transparency and integrity. While, as a policy, we do not comment on the specifics of ongoing litigation, this is fundamentally an employment issue. We are extremely proud of our employment record, student outcomes and commitment to diversity, and remain confident that, when the facts in this case are presented, the courts will find in our favor."

Updated on June 11 to include statement by Phoenix School of Law.

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