The Ave Maria School of Law, which has been embroiled in a bitter dispute over a planned move from Michigan to Florida, may face a challenge to its continued accreditation, according to a letter released last week by the law school's dean, Bernard Dobranski.
According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, a committee of the American Bar Association notified the school over the summer that it appears to have failed to take the necessary steps to keep a qualified faculty.
The committee gave the dean until Dec. 15 to submit a report demonstrating the law school's compliance with that standard. The report should include "updated information regarding departures and hires of full-time faculty," the letter said.
Dobranski said he was releasing the information to the campus, even though such matters are usually kept confidential, because of "the level of misrepresentation and speculation which has surfaced regarding the ABA's inquiry."
"Of all of the various allegations regarding school governance, academic freedom, and other issues, the only matter on which the ABA has asked us to report regards faculty hiring and retention," Dobranski wrote in his letter.
More than half of the professors at the Roman Catholic law school, now in Ann Arbor, Mich., are fighting a plan to move it to Ave Maria, Florida, in 2009.
The ABA visited the law school last year after faculty members sent a formal complaint to the bar association.
“Mirror of Justice” (MOJ), a blog that is comprised of an impressive array of law professors who are dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory, has also weighed in on the Ave Maria situation.
The group said faculty had not had any meaningful input into the decision to relocate the school and that the administration had intimidated faculty members to prevent them from speaking out against the move. They said one outspoken critic of the administration was suspended, and others have left or been denied promotions or tenure.
MOJ also asserted that the law school failed to live up to the Catholic notions of justice — procedural fairness, truthfulness, and concern for the person and the family.
“In suspending the one tenured and two untenured faculty members, Ave Maria School of Law has deprived them of the dignity of their work – their vocation – without adequate process,” Mirror of Justice said in their statement about the situation. “And, in suspending the tenured faculty member without pay, AMSL has failed to take into account the well-being of that faculty member’s family.”
The group also reported that the dean received a “no confidence vote” from the faculty in April 2006.