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

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Will a Temporary Location in Florida Affect AMSL Accreditation?

Dean Milhizer announced today that Ave Maria School of Law remains on track to move to Florida during Summer 2009. He also announced that because ground has not yet been broken on the new Florida law school building, the law school will be using the "Vineyards Campus" in Naples as a temporary facility. (This campus was earlier used by the AMU undergrads for several years before the main AMU campus was built.)

Wait a second. A law school's facilities are seriously considered by the ABA when it comes to issues of accreditation.

Check out the ABA Standards:
Standard 701: A law school shall have physical facilities that are adequate both for its current program of legal education and for growth anticipated in the immediate future.

Interpretation 701-1
Inadequate physical facilities are those that have a negative and material effect on the education students receive or fail to provide reasonable access for persons with disabilities. If equal access for persons with disabilities is not readily achievable, the law school shall provide reasonable accommodation to such persons.

Interpretation 701-2
Adequate physical facilities shall include:
(1) suitable class and seminar rooms in sufficient number and size to permit reasonable scheduling of all classes and seminars;
(2) suitable space for conducting its professional skills courses and programs, including clinical, pretrial, trial, and appellate programs;
(3) an office for each full-time faculty member adequate for faculty study and for faculty-student conferences, and sufficient office space for part-time faculty members adequate for faculty-student conferences;
(4) space for co-curricular, as opposed to extra-curricular, activities as defined by the law school;
(5) suitable space for all staff; and
(6) suitable space for equipment and records in proximity to the individuals and offices served.

Interpretation 701-3
To obtain full approval, a law school's facilities shall be completed and occupied by the law school; plans or construction in progress are insufficient.

Interpretation 701-4
A law school must demonstrate that it is and will be housed in facilities that are adequate to carry out its program of legal education. If facilities are leased or financed, factors relevant to whether the law school is or will be housed in facilities that are adequate include overall lease or financing terms and duration, lease renewal terms, termination or foreclosure provisions, and the security of the school's interest.

Interpretation 701-5
A law school's physical facilities should be under the exclusive control and reserved for the exclusive use of the law school. If the facilities are not under the exclusive control of the law school or are not reserved for its exclusive use, the arrangements shall permit proper scheduling of all law classes and other law school activities.
So many questions arise:

1. Does a move with AMSL's facilities unfinished and in construction violate Intepretation 701-3? (Obviously, the permanent campus is not complete, and I don't think that Vineyards is ready right now to hold a law school. They'll have to renovate Vineyards.) Will AMSL's full accreditation status be affected?

2. Does a move to the Vineyards Naples campus constitute one major change, and then a future move from Vineyards to the unfinished AMU campus constitute a second major change? Will AMSL have to obtain ABA acquiescence twice, once for each move?

3. In AMSL's application for acquiescence to the ABA, is the request for approval for a move to Vineyards or a move to Ave Maria, Florida?

4. Is there a problem if the Vineyards Naples campus is not "under the exclusive control and reserved for the exclusive use of the law school"? (See Interpretation 701-5)

5. Vineyards wasn't considered in the Florida feasibility study. When was the Vineyards option brought to the table?

6. How long will the school be at Vineyards? Current 1Ls and incoming students for next year were told that they would be living and going to school in the Ave Maria Town and University community, not in Naples an hour away. What about the broken promises made to them?

This is a perfect example of Monaghan's haste creating significant problems, which is a flaw Monaghan has succumbed to many times before. The reasonable thing to do would be to first ensure that there are adequate physical facilities in Florida before moving; delay the move and remain in Michigan if you have to, but don't move if there are no adequate physical facilities. Why did the Board of Governors approve such a hare-brained idea, or did Monaghan make this decision on his own?

UPDATE: AveWatch has commentary.