Law Schools

Turmoil at SLU: Law Dean Resigns, Cites Funding Issues, 'Hostility,' Prez Says She Was to Be Fired

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Updated: The dean of St. Louis University’s law school has resigned after a year on the job and plans to return to teaching as a tenured faculty member.

In a Wednesday resignation letter, Annette Clark stepped down from the job, effective immediately, and brings up multiple issues with the SLU’s president, Father Lawrence Biondi, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

But a subsequent Post-Dispatch article says Biondi shot back in his own memo, later the same day, telling faculty and staff that he had planned to fire Clark from the dean’s job at an 11 a.m. meeting.

“Prof. Clark did not have the courtesy to honor this regularly scheduled meeting, and instead emailed a letter of resignation … in which she resigned as dean effective immediately,” Biondi wrote.

“Her emails to … me, and to the faculty and staff of our School of Law, demonstrate a lack of clear and comprehensive understanding of the duties and obligations, autonomy and authority of a modern-day dean at a large and complex university.”

SLU provided a copy of Biondi’s memo (PDF) to the ABA Journal.

In her letter (PDF), Clark cited a series of disagreements concerning how law school programs would be funded and, she said, last-minute changes in funding plans.

Clark criticized, for example, the university’s acquisition of a downtown building that is now expected to house the law school, saying that SLU embarked on this project without consulting law school leaders.

She also points to personality issues and what she describes as contradictions between what she was promised when she accepted the position as law dean and the day-to-day reality of the job.

“From the beginning of my deanship, you have evinced hostility toward the law school and its faculty and have treated me dismissively and with disrespect,” Clark wrote, “issuing orders and edicts that allowed me virtually no opportunity to exercise the very discretion, judgment and experience for which you and the faculty enthusiastically hired me.”

Biondi says in his letter that he cannot comment further about Clark because of the university’s policy on employment matters.

Updated at 1:15 p.m. to include and accord with subsequent St. Louis Post-Dispatch coverage about Biondi memo and at 3:27 p.m. to include link provided by SLU to Biondi memo.

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