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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Three Reasons Why There Is No Subversive Conspiracy

It is very puzzling to me why well-meaning and intelligent members of the Catholic community continue to dismiss the concerns of faculty, alumni, and students. The only explanation I have is that the administration and the Board of Governors believe that there is a subversive conspiracy to undermine all that is good about Ave Maria Law, spearheaded by a small number of disgruntled faculty members, who are rabble-rousers inciting students and alumni, inflaming passions in an unreasonable opposition to a Florida move. Though this may sound incredible, I think that this is what Dean Dobranski, Deans Read and White, Kate O'Beirne, and others actually believe.

So, let me attempt to cure this misguided thought. Here are 3 reasons why there is no conspiracy:

1. The students and alumni are able to think for themselves and are not prone to being easily swayed by their passions.

The students who came to Ave Maria during the first few years of its existence are some of the most intelligent and most independent law students in the country, attracted to an unaccredited school because of its mission of providing quality Catholic legal education. To think that they cannot rationally consider the pros and cons of a Florida move but can be manipulated by a few professors is simply insulting. Furthermore, students and alumni have the most to lose: they have staked their entire legal careers on a untested dream; they gambled with their futures to come to a school with no reputation. They have more to lose than Tom Monaghan, than the Board of Governors, and than the faculty, who are all people with already established professions and careers. If Ave Maria fails, the students and alumni will lose the most. They care greatly about the school's future, and only wish its best. After looking into all the evidence, many have determined that the current pursuit of Florida on Tom Monaghan's terms is detrimental to the school's future.

2. If there is a conspiracy, way too many people would have to be in on it.

For all practical purposes, it is impossible for a few disgruntled faculty to have mobilized a majority of the students and alumni in opposition to the Florida move. More importantly, a few members of the faculty could not have orchestrated the large number of students, faculty, alumni, and administrators who were hurt by the Ave Maria College and St. Mary's College fall-out. In fact, for years, many well-respected individuals have been warning and cautioning against certain problems with Tom Monaghan's methods of governance and his practices in managing Catholic institutions. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) A small number of disgruntled faculty could not have been the masterminds behind everyone who disapproves of the way Tom Monaghan runs his Catholic endeavors.

3. There are actually legitimate reasons to oppose the current plan to move to Florida on Tom Monaghan's terms.

I have argued in the past that opposition to the Florida endeavor is not premised primarily or essentially on location, geography, or an unwillingness to move one's family. Instead, opposition to the current plan to move to Florida rests on the way that it is currently being pursued: a wholesale shut-down/start-up done as quickly as possible without regard for the negative consequences for the current set of students, faculty, and alumni, accomplished by a governance that disregards or squelches reasonable opposition. Respected members of the Ave Maria Law community, faculty members, Professor Charles Rice, and others have voiced legitimate concerns about this current Florida plan. As I have discussed before, it is not unreasonable to oppose Florida as it is currently being pursued.

Are these reasons compelling enough to dispel the myth that there is a conspiratorial rebellion masterminded by a few disgruntled professors?

(Note: As is my occasional practice, I reserve the right to edit comments that become too vitriolic on either side of the debate. Facts and reasonable arguments are welcome.)
Update: I posted this clarification in the comments which may be useful:

My definition of the current "conspiracy" is this: An opposition to Florida spearheaded by a few disgruntled faculty, who are against the move for unreasonable reasons like not wanting to move their families out-of-state and not liking Florida weather/hurricanes; and that the faculty has spread this opposition to students/alumni by enflaming their passions in class and through subversive communications.

My post is an attempt to say that this version of the "conspiracy" is foolish and untrue. Two points I'm trying to establish are:

1. Opposition to the move is NOT based on unreasonable reasons like moving out-of-state or the weather; it is based on legitimate concerns as spelled out in Rice's May letter: governance problems, loss of students/faculty, poor public relations, uncertain relationship with Ave Town, the school's future success.

2. Opposition to the move is a reasonable response, reached by numerous intelligent people who have looked into all the evidence, and who have come to this decision on their own and not because someone else encouraged them or inflamed them.