Law Schools

Law Profs Back Embattled Ave Maria Faculty

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Updated: A continuing faculty controversy at Ave Maria School of Law that has become focused, in part, on a planned campus move from Michigan to Florida is heating up.

Faculty say they have been treated outrageously by the current administration, and Christian legal academics are rallying in their support. In a lengthy statement published yesterday by Mirror of Justice, a Catholic legal theory blog, 16 law professors from well-known institutions throughout the country call for Ave Maria faculty concerns to be taken seriously.

However, in an interview today with, Bernard Dobranski, the law school’s president and dean, says “a small group of disgruntled faculty members who don’t want to see the law school relocate” have magnified academic freedom and governance issues. Although he can’t discuss personnel issues, he says the outside academics don’t know “what’s going on here.”

Asserting that “what has happened at AMSL appears to us to violate core Catholic norms” as well as “several procedural norms of the secular academy,” the MOJ statement urges reconsideration of controversial decisions to seek tenure revocation—and suspend without pay—one founding faculty member, as well as to deny tenure to, and suspend with pay, two junior faculty members.

These actions—as well as alleged monitoring of the entire faculty’s e-mail and computers—reportedly were taken in response to faculty complaints of being excluded from law school governance. Those targeted for adverse tenure action allegedly were particularly active in efforts to seek a greater governance role, according to an April 30 Association of Ave Maria Law Faculty statement cited in yesterday’s MOJ post.

“The hour is not too late for [AMSL’s Dean and Board] to model for the legal and academic communities the essence of a Catholic Christian law school,” the MOJ statement of support concludes, adopting the language of an MOJ contributor. “In fact, [we] would suggest [that they] have a better, clearer opportunity to mirror Christ now than when [they] first began because the only path left open is through the cross. It may not be what [they] had planned, but God works in mysterious ways.”

The controversy is a major reason why most of the faculty reportedly is not planning to move with the law school from its current Ann Arbor, Mich., campus to a new southwest Florida campus, creating a potential ABA accreditation issue. Details are provided by the Naples Daily News and an earlier post.

Dobranski, though, points to five new faculty hires at the law school as evidence that it will not have any difficulty recruiting academics to take the place of those who depart.

(Updated at 09-13-07 at 3:40 p.m., CDT.)

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