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

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Alumni Board Letter to Board of Governors Re: Naples Move

This letter was approved at the May 6, 2008 Alumni Board meeting and is posted at Ave Law Alumni Info.
Dear Board of Governors,

We write seeking information about grave matters affecting the future financial stability and accreditation of Ave Maria School of Law, based on significant recent changes in its plans to move to Florida, and on our school's apparent decline in U.S. News law school rankings even among the lowest tier of schools. We respectfully request that you respond as a Board by letter, and that your members be available for town hall meetings with alumni and students, which have been helpful in the past.

The school recently announced that you or your executive committee voted to move the school to the Vineyards property in Naples, Florida, instead of to Ave Maria Town, because of a shortfall of funds for the school's building in Ave Maria Town. In early 2007, when you voted to move the school to Florida, the announcement and related town hall meetings indicated that the decision to move would secure future funding for the school from the Ave Maria Foundation and real estate proceeds in Ave Maria Town, and publicity indicated that the school would move into a beautiful new building at Ave Maria Town.

The recent decision to move to Vineyards raises several questions that are vitally important to alumni and students, who sacrificially subjected their reputations and careers to the law school's future achievements. Was the 2007 decision to move to Florida based on promised funding for moving directly into a building at Ave Maria Town? If so, why is that promise not being fulfilled? If not, why did you decide to move without a secure promise for facilities, and did you receive any financial promises at all to recommend the move?

Why have you decided to move the school twice, rather than keeping it in its present location until the building at Ave Maria Town, and any other instability at Ave Maria Town and University, are secured? Would you have decided in early 2007 to move the school to Florida if the proposal was to move to Vineyards and only later to move to Ave Maria Town? Is there even now a promised date for moving to Ave Maria Town, or could the school be moving to Vineyards for the foreseeable future?

Mr. Monaghan recently testified in a deposition that there is a provision in the contract with the Barron Collier Co., stating that the law school must be located in Ave Maria Town to be a beneficiary of the projected profits from real estate sales in Ave Maria Town. Is there an exception to this rule for the Vineyards campus? If not, does this prevent the very source of funding that justified the decision to move to Florida? Does the law school's Vineyards location have any adverse effect on its ability to access funding?

How will accreditation and acquiescence be affected by deciding to move to Vineyards? What communications has the school had with the ABA about the move? When you decided that moving would likely receive acquiescence, did you rely on the proposed Ave Maria Town facilities, and if so, how does a double move alter that calculus? Will moving twice cause accreditation to be downgraded, or add years to the time before full accreditation can be restored, or require the accreditation process to begin again altogether? What effect will moving twice have on housing for faculty, staff, and students in between Vineyards and Ave Maria Town, and will that adversely impact faculty recruiting?

What impact will all these developments have on the vital statistics that inform law school rankings (faculty recruiting, student scores, peer review)? Have you explored or received from the Dean a specific plan to reverse the school's decline deeper into the rankings' fourth tier?

For the good of the school we ask you to open communications with alumni and students on these vital questions, by responding in a letter and scheduling regional meetings between Board of Governors members and alumni over the next few weeks. Finally, we would like to reiterate our long-standing request for an alumni seat on the Board of Governors to facilitate open communication. Thank you for your concern.

Yours truly,

Alumni Association Board of Directors of Ave Maria School of Law

cc: Alumni of AMSL