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

Friday, October 19, 2007

Honor Board and the AMSL Deans Debate

Below is the entire record of events concerning the debate between the Honor Board Chair and the Associate and Assistant Deans of AMSL.

First, the Honor Board Chair made a statement at the October 15, 2007 AMSL SBA meeting. The statement was recorded in the minutes of the meeting. The meeting minutes were distributed to the AMSL community in the normal fashion, just as all SBA minutes are distributed. This is the Honor Board Chair statement:

Letter to Ave Maria School of Law

I have been asked by students to offer my opinion in the matter of the disharmony of our school's community as the Chairman of the Honor Board and an Officer of the St. Thomas More Society.

I do not speak with the authority of the Honor Board for our jurisdiction is limited to academic conduct. And I do not speak with the authority of my Office in the St. Thomas More Society for our jurisdiction is limited to the oversight of student organizations. However, I do speak as a concerned 3L for the community of our school.

Our school was conceived by the ideas, prayers, sacrifices, hard work, and families of five professors: Professor Safranek, Professor Kenney, Professor Falvey, Professor Murphy, and Professor Myers.

This life developed with the guidance, sacrifice, and hard work of Dean Dobranski and the gracious donation of money from Mr. Tom Monaghan.

With the Grace of God, this union gave birth to Ave Maria School of Law. It is honest to concede that our school would not exist but for the guidance, sacrifice, and hard work of Dean Dobranski and the gracious donation of money from Mr. Monaghan.

What we have failed to remember, most particularly the leaders of our school, is that without the ideas, prayers, sacrifices, hard work, and families of five professors, our school would not exist.

Furthermore, the resulting academic excellence at Ave Maria and the competency of Her graduates were the direct result of the faculty who, from the beginning, taught every class and developed the formation of the law school community.

After several years had past and the unprecedented success of our school was unequivocally evident, Mr. Monaghan received an offer to build another community with a promising future.

Mr. Monaghan then proceeded to make plans to move our school down south. From the outset of this new venture, two very distinguished members of the Board of Governors opposed the plans: Professor Emeritus Charles E. Rice of Notre Dame and the Honorable James L. Ryan of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. These men were removed from the Board.

The founding professors and other professors comprising a majority of our school's faculty also opposed the plans presented by Mr. Monaghan. So began an intimidation campaign resulting in great division, scandal, and controversy. Neither side blameless.

This past summer three of our best professors, one of which is a founding faculty member, were removed from our school preceded and proceeded by an exodus of students, professors, and staff.

Is there perhaps something obviously wrong about this situation?

Our purpose in life is to seek the truth, strive to perfect virtue, and praise God. If we turn a blind eye to injustice, then we are not seeking the truth, striving to perfect virtue, or praising God.

At this point, our community must humbly go before our Lord and ask for forgiveness. We must reunite from division. This includes those who have been demoralized from the scandal, controversy, and betrayal.

An opportunity to reunite is the 2007 Honor Code Ceremony on Oct. 31st at 3:45pm in the Library. You can publicly recommit your life to seeking the truth, striving to perfect virtue, and praising God. This is one of many steps necessary to bring peace to our school. Also, there are open slots to lead the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and Liturgy of the Hours; there are back-ups needed for Adoration.

To begin is for everyone, to persevere is for saints.

Omnes cum Petro ad Jesum per Mariam.

God love you.


Damon Garcia
The Associate and Assistant Deans of AMSL then sent the following letter to the Law School community:
October 18, 2007

Letter to the Law School Community:

The minutes of the October 15, 2007 Student Bar Association meeting included a letter from the chair of the Law School's Honor Board. As the Associate and Assistant Deans of Ave Maria School of Law, we believe this letter should not go unchallenged. The letter contains a series of statements that range from disputed interpretations of events to outright misstatements or omissions of facts. The author attempts to dissociate himself from his role on the Honor Board and purports to speak in his personal capacity as a third-year student, but by his own statement he indicates that he was asked to opine because of his leadership position. And, while he correctly points out that the scope of our Honor Board is limited to academic misconduct, it is reasonable to expect that the members of our Honor Board should conduct themselves in a manner that respects both the substantive and aspirational aspects of the Honor Code, with circumspection and a careful fidelity to the truth.

The letter contains a number of statements that are questionable or factually inaccurate. We will mention only three. First, and contrary to the author's contention, it is indisputably clear that Judge Ryan was not removed from the Board but in fact resigned, and his gracious letter of resignation was published to the Law School community. Further, to be factually accurate, Professor Rice's term as a Board member had expired, as well as the terms of other Board members, and the implementation of term limits led to the appointment of new Board members. In some sense of the word this could amount to "removal" but not as the letter suggests. Second, it is also inaccurate to state that three professors were removed from our school, when in fact one is involved in a pending personnel matter and two did not receive tenure and were provided with a paid leave of absence during their terminal year, as is often the case in academic institutions. Third, the author refers to an "intimidation campaign." As administrators of this Law School, we find this charge to be reckless and baseless, and offensive. We have not intimidated anyone, nor are we aware of any campaign to intimidate.

For a member of our Honor Board to make such statements to the community is disappointing at best. And, while the author expresses a desire to "bring peace to our school," it is difficult to understand how this goal is advanced by his provocative statements, which are self-evidently contentious and are likely to be divisive.

We have been encouraged by the many examples of community building and healing so far this year. We hope that the past can now be finally put in the past and we can all join together to move forward in a productive manner.


Eugene Milhizer
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Kaye Castro
Associate Dean for Student Affairs

Charles Roboski
Associate Dean for Admissions and External Affairs

Aaron Keesler
Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs

Michelle Zyskowski
Assistant Dean for Career Services
The Honor Board Chair then made this reply:
From: Ave Maria Honor Board
Sent: Friday, October 19, 2007 01:11
To: Milhizer, Eugene R; All Law System Distribution
Subject: RE: Letter to the Community

Those good people were effectively removed. I hope to see you at the Honor Code Ceremony.

Matthew 4:10