June 22, 2009
Honesty Not the Best Policy at DePaul: Law Dean Fired for Disclosing Required Information to ABA Accreditation Committee; Associate Dean Resigns in Protest
|DePaul Law's Associate Dean for Research, Scholarship & Faculty Development Resigns|
Last Friday, Stephen Siegel, Distinguished Research Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research, Scholarship & Faculty Development at DePaul resigned his associate deanship, "effective when the expected announcement is made that an interim dean has been appointed from outside the law school community without any faculty input or consultation," In an email to the DePaul Law community, Professor Siegel wrote "although I strongly disagree with the decision to remove Glen [Weissenberger], my resignation is tied into the mode of his replacement."
Professor Siegel explained:
"In my 37 years of service to DePaul I have served under 5 deans. (I'm not counting interim and acting deans). Four of them were replaced mid-term. ... I whole-heartedly welcomed [the three mid-term replacements before Glen] and only wished the University had acted sooner. But every previous time, the University turned to the faculty with expectation and trust that we would step into the breech - and we did, superbly, working cooperatively to bring the best out of the situation. This time, although we have the most talented and prestigous collection of faculty we ever have had - we have effectively been put into a two year receivership - with no consultation, dialogue, trust."
As associate dean, Professor Siegel noted his role in the administration of DePaul Law was "doing work that Glen would otherwise have to do ... I was an enabler - I enabled Glen to do other things. I do not want to enable this transition."
Glen Weissenberger, the dean of the DePaul University College of Law since 2002, was fired effective immediately by University Provost Helmut Epp Thurday. Epp emailed the law school's faculty and staff saying "the working relationship between the dean and the administration had deteriorated to the point where it had become difficult to accomplish the college's work."
Weissenberger was fired apparently because of a recent letter he sent to the Consultant on Legal Education for the American Bar Association, disclosing that certain information about tuition revenue sharing given to the ABA Accreditation Committee was no longer accurate. [Text of Letter] According to published reports, he sent the letter last week because the ABA Accreditation Committee is meeting this week. Should be an interesting meeting.
About the dispute between the University administration and the law school, Brian Leiter (Chicago) reports "the College of Law at DePaul was entitled to 75% of its tuition revenues under an ABA-enforced agreement between the College and the University Administration; the University has repeatedly breached this agreement. Professor Weissenberger challenged the University's failure to honor the agreement. Now he's been fired."
Mark Wojcik (John Marshall, Chicago) writes:
None of us can be happy about this. This is a dean, standing up for the rightful finances of his law school, who gets fired because he truthfully reports to the ABA Consultant on Legal Education that information before the Accreditation Committee was incorrect. Dean Weissenberger correctly noted that he had a duty to report that the information was false and that's what he did.
An open letter by several junior DePaul law faculty members expresses the sentiments of many members of the DePaul Law community and the legal academy generally who are shocked by the University's action. Here's the text of their letter to DePaul University's President Holtschneider and Provost Epp (dated Friday, June 19, 2009)
Dear President Holtschneider and Provost Epp:
We, the undersigned junior faculty of the College of Law, were surprised and saddened by the abruptly announced decision to remove Glen Weissenberger as our Dean. In light of the fact that some of us will be out of the country and unable to attend the meeting next week [The University has proposed holding a meeting with the law faculty this week], we are taking this opportunity to share our perspective on the tremendous and important work Glen has done for the College of Law, for us as junior faculty, and for the University.
Glen has worked tirelessly and successfully in the past few years to improve the College of Law’s academic reputation and to foster an environment in which we are able to thrive in our teaching, scholarship, and service. He has improved DePaul’s national profile, reputation, and rank. As a direct result, the University has been able to attract and hire a talented group of diverse law faculty, a goal of critical and ongoing importance to it. The attraction and retention of a diverse law faculty inures to the University’s benefit—not just to the College of Law’s benefit—in every way and was not achieved (indeed, not even attempted) by any dean before Glen. His commitment to public service in the Vincentian tradition has been exemplary. Many of us were persuaded to come to DePaul over offers from higher ranked institutions because of Glen; not just because of his effect on the College of Law, but because of his vision, enthusiasm and integrity.
The benefits of these gains across the board must surely override any temporary difficulty in the working relationship between Glen and University administrators. If University administrators are determined to replace Glen as dean, we have no doubt that they can find a way to work with him for the remainder of his term and ensure an orderly search process and transition, in order to spare everyone the embarrassment of a public rift and the concomitant damage to the College of Law’s morale and the University’s interests.
We are extremely concerned that this precipitous move on the part of University administrators would cause enormous damage to DePaul’s academic reputation and would harm our ability to continue to grow and thrive as junior scholars and teachers. These personal interests are directly tied to the University’s and the College of Law’s interests. We cannot overstate the effect that DePaul’s reputation and rank have on our ability to attract top-level students, publish in highly ranked law reviews, and gain invitations to present our work at national conferences. The momentum that DePaul has gained in moving up the rankings and increasing its academic reputation would be seriously threatened by Glen’s abrupt removal, affecting DePaul’s national stature, its ability to raise funds, and its ability to attract and retain faculty and students. This attempt to address one short-term problem would generate many more problems of much greater magnitude.
During his exceptional tenure as our Dean, Glen has earned our admiration, our support, and most importantly, our trust. Trust is the essential ingredient that binds together the faculty, staff, and students of any successful university. Unfortunately, the administration’s decision with respect to Glen can only undermine that sense of trust that he and we have worked so hard together to foster. We urge the administration to reverse its decision to remove Glen as our Dean.
Before Weissenberger became dean (he was in the middle of his second five-year term that would have ended in June 2012 when he was ousted) DePaul Law was known as a municipal law school whose most high profile grads were past and present local Democratic party insiders. Under his direction, the school jumped from the third tier of the US News Law School Rankings to the Top 100. Although not competitive with nationally known Chicago law schools like the University of Chicago and Northwestern, DePaul joined the ranks of Chicago-based regional law schools under Weissenberger's leadership -- quite an amazing feat since it was accomplished in such a short time span. In the 2009 rankings, DePaul and Loyola-Chicago tied at 87, 10 spots behind Chicago-Kent.
Provost Epp, who was part of the Depaul University administration during the Finkelstein tenure scandal, has hired a new interim dean from outside DePaul but has yet to make the name public. Epp's termination of Weissenberger and appointment of an interim dean were actions taken without consulting the law school faculty. In a widely distributed email, DePaul law prof Stephan Landsman writes about this change of leadership:
When a Dean is appointed the whole of the law school community is consulted. Alumni, faculty, students, friends and donors participate in the discussions that lead to a decision. This is especially important in a law school, where respect for process and the rule of law are expected to govern both as a matter of principle and as an example to the professional students being educated.
In what appears to be an arbitrary exercise of power, as well as a potential breach of the accreditation rules of the ABA, it has been decided, without process or respect for dialogue within the community and without any evaluation of the cost to the institution, to remove the Dean of the DePaul University College of Law. This arbitrary and potentially illegal act will, doubtless, cause great damage to the reputation and future of the College of Law. It is likely to jeopardize the reaccreditation of the College of Law.
I believe that in this crisis it is time to ask the College of Law's friends for help and to respectfully request that they oppose this decision and demand that it be rescinded. I also urge each and every one of my colleagues to decline any invitation to serve as interim dean.
Unfortunately, both family and professional commitments will prevent me from attending the "meeting" proposed by the University's representative. (It should be remarked that the apparent author of the decision will not be appearing to explain his actions.) Dialogue before rash and potentially illegal action rather than after would have been the wiser response. It is my hope that cooler heads will eventually prevail and that the interests of the institution we love will be placed ahead of personal pique.
There is an online petition for Weissenberger supporters at United for Weissenberger.
Help Wanted. Reporting on the resignation of Associate Dean Stephen Siegel (sidebar, above right), Brian Leiter (Chicago) asks "Who will take the job of Dean at DePaul while Provost Epp remains in office?" Leiter adds:
In the midst of a severe economic downturn, including in the legal market, removing a successful Dean who is, by all accounts, well-liked and respected by faculty, staff, students, and alumni all because the Dean stood up for the interests of his College really defies belief. There is, perhaps, someone at DePaul who ought to be summarily removed from office, but it does not appear to be Dean Weissenberger.
Stay turned. [JH]
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