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Law faculty’s future unclear

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David Gonzalez
Editorial Director

Diane Klein, professor of law, gave an impromptu faculty lecture Tuesday in which she detailed the implications of the possible closure of the University of La Verne College of Law and the related faculty governance and tenure issues.

Her lecture was inspired by the University’s announcement Monday that trustees are considering shuttering the College of Law.

Klein said that the College of Law has had problems with sustainability because American Bar Association accreditation was difficult to maintain.

“It has been a long term challenge about whether the law school can make itself a viable, sustainable part of the University,” Klein said.

Klein, who sits on Faculty Senate, said that she chose to run for Senate and joined the policies committee, and has dealt with policies dealing with the termination of people with tenure.

“It was really that that drove me to look into our documents that, at that time, they would have given the board the power to close the law school and give terminated faculty nothing but the individual right of appeal to the board,” Klein said. “Imagine the likelihood of success of individual faculty members’ appeal to the board to get their job doing what exactly after the law school is closed.”

Klein said the majority of classes at ULV are taught by adjunct faculty including at the College of Law, which has 10 tenured faculty members, three tenure-eligible faculty members, and the rest are either full time or part time non-tenure eligible people, she said.

Klein said that she and others have asked themselves how closing the college would work if the Board of Trustees decides to do so.

The College of Law did not always have ABA accreditation, but was previously a California Bar accredited school, it could continue that way, Klein said.

“The project of being a Cal Bar school is potentially a more sustainable one,” Klein said. “That requires a lot of analysis. An ABA accredited school can charge more, it can appeal more broadly. It may be able to attract more donation dollars.”

Continuing with ABA accreditation comes with more operating and personnel costs.

The timeline for the decision is compressed, Klein said adding that the outcome is “more or less a foregone conclusion.” The ad hoc committee will likely discuss what will happen after the decision, she said.

“Our policies also provided that in any situation in which a program is being discontinued that will result in the termination of people with tenure, that ad hoc committee will work with the affected faculty and administration (to determine) who stays, who goes, who is entitled, as our policies provide, to be reappointed elsewhere in the institution,” Klein said.

Klein said that reappointment means looking for classes faculty members would be competent to teach, and it does not mean maintenance of their prior salary.

Klein said that senior faculty members might be encouraged to retire and junior faculty members might seek employment elsewhere. This is a tenured-faculty-centric process, she said. Those without tenure would lose their jobs, she said.

Klein said that the real work of the ad hoc committee will be determining the academic and professional fate of the 10 tenured faculty members. Even if the decision is to close the College of Law, it cannot be shut down the next day, or even the next year, Klein said.

“In order for the students to graduate from an ABA accredited law school that will enable them to take the bar anywhere, we are required to undertake … a teach out, which is to take everyone in the building through to degree,” Klein said.

Some students will also seek to transfer to another institution.

Carolyn Bekhor, professor of legal studies, said that losing the law school would be a great loss to the region and to the students who have depended on the financial access of this University.

“It would be a very disappointing impact on students who rely on the locality of this law school … It’s a shame,” Bekhor said.

Bekhor and Thomas Allison, assistant professor of legal studies who graduated from the College of Law in 2010, said that transferring out of a law school is not the norm.

Allison said another issue is the impact on the legacy of the College of Law.

“When you go into a space and you’re talking to other lawyers who are from different law schools, you don’t want to be the law school that shut down,” Allison said.

In order to thrive in the profession, it is important to have an institution backing someone’s degree, Allison said.

“If that institution doesn’t exist, that institutional backing doesn’t exist,” Allison said. “You’re kind of like a lone ranger out there doing the dead law school’s bidding.”

David Gonzalez can be reached at david.gonzalez9@laverne.edu.

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