Law School Deans, Law Schools, Vicious Infighting

At Saint Louis University School of Law, Things Are Starting To Get Ugly

The people out at Saint Louis University School of Law sure know how to get in the news. First, the law school dean resigns behind an epic departure memo. Then they hire a new law dean who is really a personal injury attorney. Then the personal injury attorney/law dean says he’s not a “butt boy” to the University President, Father Lawrence Biondi.

I think from now on the logo should read: “SLU Law: When the law stops being polite, and starts getting real.”

While New Jersey law students have been swimming to school, out in the heartland the kids are protesting the university president. And the law faculty issued a historic vote of “no confidence” in the university leadership…

The faculty ire directed at Father Biondi and his Vice President, Manoj Patankar, stems from the only thing that ever gets a faculty to rise up as one: tenure. Normally, when administrators and faculty start fighting over tenure, my eyes glaze over like a sports fan who just wants the billionaire owners to drop the puck so the millionaire players can drop the gloves (yeah, that was a hockey reference from a black guy). Luckily, SLU Law professor Marcia L. McCormick neatly explains what the faculty is complaining about over on Workplace Prof Blog:

Before Dean [Annette] Clark joined the law school, the University had been through some rather serious restructuring. Schools and departments were closed, and the graduate school was reorganized without any real faculty input. After Dean Clark resigned, the University proposed a new policy for all university faculty that seemed to require scholarship (or more scholarship) from all kinds of faculty, indcluding those on only yearly contracts and which effectively would have turned tenure into a system of six-year contracts at best…. The Arts and Sciences faculty voted no confidence in the President a couple of weeks ago. Late last week and early this week, the faculty held teach-ins, and students held protests. This culminated in the no confidence vote by the full faculty senate yesterday.

It’s not that the students were really out there getting worked up over faculty tenure. They were more concerned over the bigger picture at the law school. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Among the leaders of Tuesday’s protest was Liz Ramsey, a law student from Kirkwood, who spoke afterwards about what she described as a climate of fear among students and a desire to see improvement on the school’s academic front.

And while there’s been a lot of attention focused on an administrative scuffle with faculty over tenure rules, she said students were concerned about more than that.

“We want a change in the direction the school is going,” Ramsey said.

Change in direction? How so? Well, let me ask this in a way that the new dean, Thomas Q. Keefe Jr., would understand: Do you think SLU Law should employ additional butt boys, or fewer?

With the campus roiling around him, Father Biondi sent what can best be described as an SLU advertising brochure to students at the university.

Umm, buddy, it doesn’t sound like there is a whole bunch of “disagreement” within the faculty ranks. They all seem to agree that they want you gone.

Biondi then goes on to present a “we’re great” PowerPoint to students who opened the attached PDF file. SLU Law’s #101 ranking from U.S. News is conspicuously absent from Biondi’s presentation.

It’s all a mess. Anytime you find yourself making PowerPoint presentations about how great your school is to kids who are already there, it’s a mess. Anytime you’re hiring outspoken members of the community to come in and inject a new something to your law school, it’s a mess. Anytime your dean resigns in epic fashion, it’s a total freaking mess.

“No confidence” seems like an understatement when describing what’s going on at SLU these days.

SLU Faculty Vote No Confidence in Biondi [Workplace Prof Blog]
SLU faculty vote no confidence in Father Lawrence Biondi [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Earlier: Law Dean Denies That He Is Priest’s ‘Butt Boy’

(hidden for your protection)

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