The Legal Beat
Dean Increases Rankings, Drama At Law School
Posted on Wednesday March 22, 2017
You’d think that raising a law school’s U.S. News and World Report ranking by 22 spots would result in some measure of job security for a law dean. At the University of Cincinnati College of Law, that assumption does not seem to be true.
(Update: The language above regarding raising the school’s ranking 22 spots was taken from reports of Provost Landgren’s statement regarding Dean Bard. The law school did increase its ranking 22 spots from 2016 to 2017, however, in the most recent 2018 rankings released earlier this month, Cincinnati Law took a tumble, down 12 spots. Cincinnati Law is currently ranked 72nd in the USNWR rankings, up a net of 10 spots since before Dean Bard took over.)
The Cincinnati Business Courier reports that a group of faculty at Cincinnati Law are quite upset with dean Jennifer Bard. Bard was hired in 2015 and has said she was hired, in part, to shepherd the law school through a financial shortfall. But her efforts were, apparently, not well received. The Courier obtained documents that reflect the desire of a group of faculty to call a no-confidence vote. Though the docs don’t reveal specific allegations against the law school’s first female dean, they do shed light on an environment of discontent:
In a Nov. 22, 2016 email, law professor Emily Houh stated “it will be very important for [interim university provost] Peter (Landgren) to understand we are prepared to take a vote of no confidence so that he understands the gravity of the situation.”
“It has come to my attention that some faculty members have approached the interim provost at the University of Cincinnati to request the removal of Dean Bard,” law professor Betsy Malloy wrote in an email to a group of 29 law faculty. “This news came as a bit of a shock because it appears to have been a request by only a portion of the faculty and a request for an outsider to solve what is clearly an important problem to many of the law faculty.”
In order to regain the trust of the faculty, interim provost Landgren created a six-month plan to improve the situation at the school. The plan is guided by the following principles:
* Coaching, with Bard working with a coach to identify and understand faculty’s concerns and develop effective ways to address them.
* Mediated communication to see if there’s a possibility of finding common ground. The document suggests Bard meet directly with the faculty and other constituencies with the assistance of a mediator.
* Periodic evaluation and objective metrics to assess the effectiveness of the plan and get feedback to make adjustments.
Bard said in a statement that the tension between her and faculty arose because she was making moves to improve the financial future of the school. The law school, under her direction, has moved to integrate the law library with the university library, changed faculty travel procedures, and made other changes to decrease the deficit, and Bard believes these changes are at the heart of the conflict:
“Because UC operated for some time with interim leaders in both the president’s and provost’s office, the disaffected group of tenured law professors worked to exploit this leadership vacuum to preserve the status quo, derail the progress I have achieved and try to push me out of the dean’s position,” Bard wrote.
And Landgren has acknowledged Bard’s accomplishments in increasing the ranking of the school, addressing donor concerns, and working on diversity initiatives. But…
“Dean Bard’s accomplishments may have been achieved at the cost of other ideals (which are at the heart of this conflict).”
Landgren also wrote in December that a change on the part of Bard alone will not be enough. He wrote that success over the next six months requires two-way communication, mutual understanding of all of the perspectives involved and a willingness to work cooperatively with mutual respect and responsibility.
Despite the complaints from both sides, Bard seems to recognize the need for more communication between herself and the faculty, ending her response with a call to dialogue. But it was also revealed, through the media’s public records request, that Bard reads the faculty emails complaining about her… awkward.
University of Cincinnati law dean under fire from faculty [Cincinnati Business Courier]
EXCLUSIVE: UC law dean responds to call for her ouster [Cincinnati Business Courier]
(Gavel Bang: TaxProf Blog)
Kathryn Rubino is an editor at Above the Law. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).