Yesterday, we broke the news of the dean of St. Louis University School of Law’s abrupt departure, and the accompanying fiery resignation letter she sent to the powers that be at the university. Ex-dean Annette Clark’s missive was more of a bitchslap than anything else, but like Phillip J. Closius before her, she made it absolutely clear that she would rather quit her job than run a law school whose sole function was to serve as the university’s cash cow.
Now that the dust has settled a bit, we’ve found out that Clark’s passionate letter may have been penned in one of those “can’t fire me, I quit” type scenarios. Clark may have purported to be going to the mattresses for her students, and she might have been doing just that. But as we all know, there are two sides to every story….
After Clark sent out her resignation letter to Father Lawrence Biondi, St. Louis University’s President, and its Vice President, Manoj Patankar, Biondi quickly responded and addressed the issue with the law school faculty. In his letter, Biondi claims that Clark was to be fired (the full letter is available on the next page):
This is, of course, less cutting than Clark’s claims that the university was operating “outside the bounds of common decency, collegiality, professionalism and integrity,” but Biondi certainly does an effective job of calling Clark’s professional capabilities into question. If anything, this looks like the type of damage control that you’d expect from anyone else whose balls had just been put in a vise in a public forum.
So, rather than pledging to change the status quo at the law school, or acknowledging any of Clark’s allegations as truths, Biondi decided to appoint an interim dean:
Thomas Q. Keefe, a personal injury attorney without any teaching experience who claims that he’s “nuttier than a fruitcake,” will serve as dean for the 2012-2013 school year. We can already envision some of the names that students who are rightfully pissed off about this dust-up will call Keefe behind his back (coughDeanQueefcough).
In an interview with Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Keefe noted the following: “I think people are a little tired of everyone working so hard sometimes to be politically correct. A little dose of humor and a little dose of common sense take us a long way toward a little bit of sanity.”
But perhaps Keefe takes his humor too far? One tipster expressed the opinion that Keefe’s jokes can be “vulgar” — but also noted that the interim dean “prays non-stop.” Interesting dichotomy there.
Law professors and SLU Law students are already reacting to Biondi’s hiring decision. Here’s a funny Facebook status update from a law professor at another school:
I’m fascinated that at St. Louis University Law School, after the Dean resigned and alleged wrongdoing by the University President, the University President responded the next day by appointing as interim Dean a personal injury lawyer in Swansea whose work e-mail address is “[email protected]”. Hmm.
As far as the law students are concerned, they are happy that someone finally had the stones to stand up to Biondi, but are displeased with what he’s offered up as their interim dean. “It will be interesting to see how a personal injury lawyer is able to lead a law school,” one student noted. Another, a rising 3L, was simply annoyed by the fact that members of her class have “had a different dean every year.”
At least Tom Keefe’s heart seems to be in the right place. He’s already acknowledged that studying law at St. Louis University “costs a lot of money.” Let’s hope that Keefe will actually be able to help the students at SLU Law — be it through dirty jokes, constant prayer, or jobs at his firm.
UPDATE (8/27/2012): Tom Keefe wants the world to know that he is not Father Biondi’s “butt boy.”