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

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why No Ground-Breaking or ABA Application Yet? Is Monaghan Preparing to Pull the Plug on AMSL?

The recent news that AMSL would be temporarily moving to the Vineyards campus in Naples instead of the AMU campus in Ave Maria, Florida, prompted me to look back at some history.

February 20, 2007. That was the date on which AMSL made the formal announcement that it was moving to Ave Maria Town, Florida. Here are some excerpts from AMSL's official press release on February 20, 2007:
The Board of Governors of Ave Maria School of Law (AMSOL) has voted to move the law school from its current location in Ann Arbor, Mich., to the town of Ave Maria, Fla., located between Naples and Immokalee. The school will open on a site in the new Collier County town of Ave Maria, in the fall of 2009.

After almost five years of discussions and research about the feasibility of relocating, the Board of Governors determined that moving to Ave Maria, Fla., will give the Law School its best opportunity to thrive and continue fulfilling its unique mission of educating outstanding lawyers in the context of the Catholic intellectual tradition. The Board also noted its first step is to begin the process of securing the acquiescence of the American Bar Association (ABA) for the move.......

[Said Dean Dobranski:] "The Board believes significant future success will be found in Southwest Florida where the Law School will be co-located with a new and vibrant Catholic university in one of the fastest growing regions in the country. This will allow the Law School the unparalleled opportunity to accelerate its efforts to become a premier educational institution, integrating strong legal fundamentals with a deep understanding of the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition."

"I am extremely pleased that the Law School plans to move its campus to Ave Maria, Fla.," said Monaghan. ... Although not affiliated with Ave Maria University, it is anticipated that the law school will enjoy mutually beneficial relationships with the University and the new town of Ave Maria.
Here is what I find curious: On February 20, 2007, AMSL announced it was moving to Ave Maria. (We know that the Board of Governors met and voted on this decision on Saturday, February 17, according to Bradley's email.) Since that time, a full year and 3 months later, ground has not yet been broken on the new law building in Ave Maria even though blueprints have been drawn and land for the building has been set aside. A month ago, on April 17, a year and 2 months after the announcement of the move to Florida, AMSL announced that it was going to move to the temporary Vineyards location in Naples instead of AMU because of the "declining national economy and the high construction costs resulting from the rising prices of raw materials." This excuse, however, doesn't explain why no ground-breaking happened for a year and 2 months up to the April 17 Vineyards annoucement, and doesn't explain why there is still no current plan for ground-breaking in place; even though construction costs are up, that wouldn't change the fact that the BOG/Monaghan should want AMSL to be at AMU as soon as possible. Why is there no plan for ground-breaking, a year and 3 months after the decision to move was made?

Another curiosity: Up until the April 17 Vineyards announcement, AMSL had not yet applied for acquiescence from the ABA. Why the delay for a year and 2 months? Back in February 2007, Dobranski kept saying that ABA approval for the Florida move couldn't happen BEFORE a decision to move by the BOG, but that since the decision had been made, the ABA could now be approached. Why wasn't the ABA approached during the following year and 2 months? Now it seems that that the acquiescence application will be for a move to Vineyards, not to AMU. Was Monaghan anticipating all along that the move wouldn't be to AMU, and so didn't want to submit an acquiescence application? Regardless of the answer to that question, to this date, there is still no word from the administration that it has submitted its application for acquiescence. Why is there still delay? No one knows how long the ABA will take to evaluate an application for acquiescence. If AMSL wants to move next summer, shouldn't the application be given as soon as possible?

So here we are: 452 days and counting since the Board of Governors decision to move to Ave Maria, and there is no sign of breaking ground in Ave Maria Town and no word on an acquiescence application to the ABA. I don't think Monaghan is so incompetent as to not take the important steps such as applying for acquiescence. Is Monaghan 100% committed to moving AMSL to Ave Maria, or is he preparing to pull the plug (perhaps in anticipation of bad results from the faculty lawsuit and/or ABA investigation)? All you entering AMSL 1Ls and rising 2Ls, be warned: know that Monaghan has pulled the plug on a school before. Monaghan closed Ave Maria College in Michigan a year earlier than he originally promised and offered the students buy-out deals to finish their degrees at other schools. He might just do the same with AMSL.