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

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Thoughts on the Board of Governors

In the past, I've often disagreed with Advocatus Militaris and his language, tone, or hyperbole in arguing about the controversy surrounding AMSoL. But I can't say that I disagree with his recent post, on which he has been taken to task by some commenters who say that some members of the Board of Governors don't deserve it.

Now I have a huge amount of respect for many of the Board of Governors members: they are great people, great Catholics who have accomplished many wonderful things for the Church and for our nation. But here are the facts: AMSoL is in disarray; there is a tremendous lack of confidence in the school's leadership; morale is terrible among students and worse among faculty; there has been no real attempt at getting AMSoL out of Tier 4 where it looks like we've been leapfrogged by University of St. Thomas; there is a real possibility that AMSoL is being run in a manner that doesn't comply with ABA standards; there is a real possibility that AMSoL may lose its full accreditation; and regardless whether you think the Florida move is a good idea or not, the move as it is being executed right now threatens the stability and survival of AMSoL.

Which body has the authority and responsibility of governing AMSoL? Which body has been making significant decisions about AMSoL's future, decisions which have contributed to the current instability at AMSoL? Which body has ignored the concerns of the faculty, students, and alumni for more than the past year? If AMSoL implodes, which body is most responsible for the end of AMSoL? The Board of Governors. And I'm sorry, but the claim that a Board member didn't know what was going on or wasn't involved in Board decisions is not a sufficient excuse for the member's negligence.

Now, I don't know what is going on in the mind of each Board member. I believe that some of the Board members want to or have already tried to resign from the Board. (Whether they can do so unilaterally or only after the Board accepts the resignation is still unknown.) If individual Board members secretly see the problems in AMSoL's governance and generally agree with the position of the faculty/students/alumni, then I applaud them. I can understand if they feel as if their hands are tied, that there is nothing they can do on the Board to change Monaghan's will, and that the most they can do is to resign from the Board. I can understand that position, but I'm still saddened because it means that the people who I trust and respect and look to for help (like Fr. Scanlon and other Board members) are jumping ship and leaving me and the rest of AMSoL on a sinking vessel from which we can't escape.

UPDATE: I've been taken to task in the comments that I'm being too lenient on the Board of Governors, and that's a fair criticism. Inaction on the part of the Board members while the law school suffers is a breach of fiduciary duty and a breach of the community's trust. Their responsibility is to govern the law school and to sneak out of this responsibility now when they haven't acted during the last couple of years is not to be lauded. They could have gracefully resigned a while ago the way that Judge Ryan and Judge Pryor did.

All of this brings up the puzzle which I think we all share: how do I reconcile the virtues of our esteemed Board of Governors with their negligence and disregard for AMSoL?

UPDATE 2: Some commenters indicate that Fr. Scanlan is no longer on AMSoL's Board of Governors, that he resigned a while ago, and that he hasn't been involved in Board of Governors activity for some time. That is good news; the criticism directed at the Board of Governors need not be directed at Fr. Scanlan. Fr. Scanlan, thank you for your work in Catholic education, and keep AMSoL in your prayers. I note also that the law school's website no longer lists Fr. Scanlan and Fr. Fessio as members of the Board of Governors, so I think it's safe to say that they're no longer on the Board. I have no idea how long the website has been changed.