Law Schools

Law Students Worried About FAMU

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Concerned about perceived problems, law students at Florida A & M University are criticizing—and in some cases leaving—the five-year-old taxpayer-funded institution.

Vilma Martinez, for instance, has transferred from FAMU, in the state’s center, to Stetson University College of Law, on Florida’s gulf coast near her native Tampa, starting classes there this week. “I’m heartbroken,” she tells the St. Petersburg Times. But staying at FAMU “is like staying in a dysfunctional family,” she says. “At some point, you have to have tough love and cut your losses.”

Provisionally accredited by the American Bar Association, the law school, which is part of of a historically African-American university, has been without a permanent dean for two years. This may have contributed to what the newspaper describes as an atmosphere of disorganization and faculty infighting that is making some students concerned about the law school’s future—and their own. If the law school isn’t fully accredited by the ABA at some point down the road, alumni would have limited career options because most states allow only ABA-accredited law school graduates to take the bar exam.

Although a new law school dean has been lined up—LeRoy Pernell, currently dean of Northern Illinois University’s law school—he isn’t expected to start right away. And, one unnamed FAMU law professor told the newspaper, “January will be too late.”

Law school officials didn’t comment specifically, but in a written statement two weeks ago, FAMU’s president made clear that he, too, is looking to Pernell to lead the way. “This is such an important appointment at a critical time in our law school’s development,” wrote James Ammons. “This choice represents the desire to skillfully chart a path for our student body and navigate our efforts to seek full accreditation.”

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