Law Schools

ABA Accreditation Issue for Ave Maria

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Updated: An effort to establish a new law school with a religious mission has been threatened by real estate issues and a faculty revolt. However, the dean of Ave Maria School of Law says faculty concerns are overblown, and he is confident that the Catholic institution will soon be doing better than ever after a planned campus move from Ann Arbor, Mich., to the new town of Ave Maria in southwest Florida.

Ave Maria College is already there. But plans approved earlier this year by the law school’s board of governors to move it, too, are causing concern to faculty, students—and the American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, according to the Naples Daily News and the Michigan Daily, a University of Michigan student newspaper.

Law school faculty don’t necessarily oppose the Florida move, but resent being left out of the decision-making process. They gave the law school’s president and dean, Bernard Dobranski, an 11-3 vote of no confidence last year, according to the Naples newspaper. Meanwhile, the dean tells that faculty opposed to the move have “taken that difference of opinion to a a new level” and are now prepared to “seriously harm, if not destroy, the law school the long run” to see their views prevail.

Accredited by the ABA in 2005, Ave Maria is being investigated by the ABA because of faculty complaints, the Naples newspaper reported last month. And because of concerns about faculty retention, an ABA committee “notified the school over the summer that it appears to have failed to take the necessary steps to keep a qualified faculty,” the Chronicle of Higher Education (sub. req.) reported yesterday.

However, in a detailed interview reported in Q and A format by Cybercast News Service, Dobranski said such concerns are overstated.

The ABA has determined all but one of the complaints made by law school faculty to be unfounded, he says, and the remaining faculty retention issue will soon be resolved, too. “The relocation was a catalyst for the complaints. But a major issue is not about Florida—it’s about governance,” Dobranski tells CNS. “And the critics believe that they run the law school and that the board does not.” This, however, is not an accreditation issue, he states.

The new town of Ave Maria is being developed by the university’s founder and chancellor, Tom Monaghan, 70, who was recently profiled by the Palm Beach Post. A devout Catholic, he made a fortune from Ann Arbor-based Domino’s Pizza. More coverage here.

(Updated Sept. 13, at 4:05 p.m, central time.)

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