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

Friday, April 18, 2008

Transcript of Student Town Hall Meeting with Milhizer

Fumare has obtained a rough transcript of yesterday's AMSL student Town Hall Meeting with Dean Milhizer. The main body of the text is Dean Milhizer speaking, with questions posed by students. Note that this is not a word-for-word transcript but rather a rough paraphrase.

Milhizer: Lots of information today. I think it's good news, or at least the vast majority, is good news. Some is neutral.

Would have liked to meet earlier this week but was in D.C. for the Pope's visit.

1. I can confirm that the Law School will move to Florida as promised for the 2009-10 academic year.
It's important that we keep our commitments and build on our relocation momentum. Under the leadership of people like Dean Roboski, etc., I think it's important that we move on schedule and we're able to do that.
One thing that I've worried about is the building has not been begun. Over time a number of issues have surfaced, which put moving on time in jeopardy. Everybody knows about the economy and housing market, construction costs, and the whole permitting process in Florida. When issues became apparent, I started and the BoG started looking at a contingency plan. Someplace else to stay on schedule? Providentially, an option came up. "Vineyards Campus." Where the University was for a while before moving to AMT. We will move there temporarily, probably not move again in back-to-back years but we will move again to AMU campus.
It will be an absolutely fine facility for the law school. 5 major buildings and 8 "villas" (duplex housing units). More classrooms and seats than we have in A2. Footprint for each facility (bookstore, chapel, library) comparable to here. Housing will be available in East and West halls. Some will be available to students. And villa/duplexes also available for housing. (An advantage to the housing situation in AMT). Not sure if it will be a mix of faculty, staff, students yet.
Another advantage of the Vineyards campus is proximity to Naples and the legal community. Fine facility. We can be there while the university expands and builds.
Slideshow - 12 acres 5 major structures - artistic renderings - etc etc
Question: What's the ABA say about this?
A: We couldn't seek acquiescence until the facility issue was settled. Now that it's settled we can move forward. I think it's a fine facility in some ways superior to what we have now, and also the ABA can see a hard building rather than a conceptual building. Just needs to be retrofitted (as this A2 facility was retrofitted). Again I would vote not to move again within a year.
Question: But do you have a vote?
A: I was speaking in the vernacular.
Q: So you don't have a say?
A: No I think I have a say. I definitely think I have a say.
Q: Will we move ahead on the building in AMT?
A: I think once we get down there this will enhance our ability to build the law school we really want to have.
Q: Was this considered in the feasibility study? If not, how would that affect this?
A: I don't think Vineyards was discussed in the feasibility study. Can't speculate any more about that.
Q: Has there been a Board resolution on this? I believe the Board originally resolved to move to AMT. How can we know that Mr. Monaghan isn't simply directing this change in plans by fiat?
A: Can't get into specifics on that but I can tell you the Board is completely supportive of this.
Q: Is there adequate space for the library and will the campus be wireless?
A: Hard-wired for exam security, maybe wireless also, I'm not sure. The library will have almost the same lineal foot space for stacks as we have here and the rest will be converted to electronic. Seating will be less than we have here.
Q: Who owns the property, and will it be leased, who pays for retrofitting?
A: We will lease it from the University. Payment for retrofitting: I'm not at liberty to talk about this.
Q: As a 2010 class member, we always understood we'd be moving to the University campus. Why the push to move us when we're not ready to do just that? Why not stay here?
A: When I hosted Dean's coffees, many 1L students expressed desire to stay on schedule. Important to move as the commitment was made. There may be some disagreement about that. All the relationships and momentum we're developing in Collier county, we don't want to lose. It would be different if we were moving to an inferior facility but we're not.
--more slides of photos and artists renderings--
Q: Lots of promises have been made. Part of the promise was being the first class in the new facility. We now won't have anything permanent and 2010 will be a forgotten class.
A: How do you answer that? I mean certainly the law school experience and your law school identity is more than the facility you're in. I think this facility can serve the needs of the students for the educational purposes we're committed to.
Followup: But it's not Ave Maria Town, Catholic community, and that's what we were promised.
A: I don't want to quarrel with you. It isn't like we're in a situation where we could keep that new building promise if we wanted. It's not a matter of choosing between Vineyards and the new building.
Q: I don't know why we're behind schedule but...
A: National economy, housing market, construction costs...
Q: Why not spend all this money for retrofitting on a new campus?
A: Retrofitting is not nearly as expensive as new construction. Just need a moot courtroom, etc. I don't have figures.
Q: Will our graduation be at Vineyards or at AM campus?
A: I don't know, but the students should have input.
Q: How long have you known that this is Plan A, as an administration?
A: I was aware of the possibility for at least a few weeks. Question reiterated. When decided? Within the past couple weeks. Maybe less. I had hoped to announce this earlier this week but I was in D.C. with the Pope and the President.
Q: Why not wait until 1L oral arguments were done to announce this?
A: I can candidly tell you that 1L oral arguments did not even cross my mind. I wanted to provide interest to the community.
Q: Has the ABA given us anything at all? We students want to know whether we should transfer. How long is the process - that's a fair question to ask them for our benefit. So we can make plans, this is our future.
A: Part of any discussion with the ABA would be about a timeline for a decision.
Q: How is rent in comparison to AMT?
A: There wasn't a lot available in AMT. Rent is probably across the board in the Vineyards area.
Q: Demographics - right now we're in A2 which is perfect for a law school - what about the Vineyards area?
A: Naples/FortMyers area has restaurants, symphony, sports, etc. It's rated as one of the most livable areas in the country. It has a coast which we don't have here. Restaurants. [Yes, he said it twice.] Movie theaters, etc. Growing Catholic population. Younger growth. Some is seasonal population, many midwestern transplants...
---more slides and photos---

2. ABA-related matter.
Will be of comfort to some of you. Some of you have had questions about the State Bar of Virginia and what would happen if we lost accreditation after your matriculation?
I have a letter from Virginia Board of Bar Examiners saying Virginia follows ABA standards and that means anyone who matriculates to an accredited law school is considered to have graduated from an accredited law school and may sit for the bar in every state.
Q: Arizona has the exact same language in their court rules. I did more research and most states (7 of 10 that I looked at) say must be accredited the day you graduate. Should seek letters from all 50 states.
A: We can try. Can't say that every state would respond but I'll look into it. Usually any departure from ABA guidelines would be the
Q: Tennessee will not let you sit for the bar if not accredited day of graduation. I called them and talked to them.
A: This is the problem that VA folks said to me. Several bar-related organziations exist and not all are authoritative. I will check on it.
Q: And check Florida please.
Q: Faculty retention/complaint: when will the ABA decide this issue?
A: I'd like to tell you more than I'm able to tell you. I can read a statement. "We intend to honor the confidentiality..." [The same statement from before.] Annual site visit will take place this fall.
Q: Is that a proceeding which student representation can be present at?
A: I think so.
Q: Would you be open to student representatives participating?
A: I have no objection to students meeting with the ABA if they're open to that.

3. Fall Academic Schedule
Later today the fall schedule will be released for registration next week. Keep in mind this is just a snapshot in time and there are potential faculty members who may come on. I was inclined to wait until all that happens, but I'd rather get registration done.
1L courses are covered. 2 sections of Trial Ad in the fall. We have some new adjuncts - for State & Local Gov't, potentially others. Ted Afield an expert in tax law will join faculty on tenure-track. Mike Kenney an old associate dean will be joining as visiting prof. A prof. DeJesus will teach law/children, family law as a visiting prof. Sonne will teach a compressed course and will be clerking for a federal judge most of the year. O'Callaghan will be visiting elsewhere. Myers still civ pro but not upper level courses. We have a number of candidates in various levels of negotiation so in the fall there will be a more expanded schedule and we'll take care of that in drop-add.
Q: We're losing Sonne?
A: He will send an email and it says he's looking forward to joining us in Florida.
Q: Losing anyone else besides Sonne, O'Callaghan, etc?
A: Adolphe will be compressed somewhat due to Vatican work but not to the extent of Sonne
Q: Commitments to move to Florida from any Faculty members?
A: We're going to be working on package offers. Not fair to ask for commitments when we haven't offered packages yet. Now that Vineyards is settled I'll turn my attention to it.

Thank you all. Also, Dean Dobranski was released from Hospital and is now in rehabilitative facility. We'll make sure he gets your cards. Also, there's been good news - we won Michigan moot court competition for instance. Joe Vanderhulst was here - law review will run a 3rd issue which is unprecedented. Hope this doesn't get lost with the clutter. Lastly, I had the honor of being at the White House when Pope Benedict was welcomed. Inspirational. Want to share that Pope Benedict's remarks were on faith and reason, natural law, dignity of human person, immutable truth, rejection of relativism...they were talking ABOUT US and what we do here. I look at that and see how important this law school is, and the real impact we'll continue to have in the culture. It was inspirational to me to realize how important we are as a school.