DePaul University President The Reverend Fr. Dennis H. Holtschneider (right) has announced his selection of Illinois Appellate Judge Warren Wolfson, 76, as the new interim dean at the DePaul University College of Law for a two-year appointment. The announcement led to the resignation of the associate dean and only further angered the faculty and students.
Holtschneider and Provost Helmut Epp appear intent on shattering any semblance of faculty participation or privileges in the administration of the law school. While he is within his rights to take such actions, he has gone out of his way to show little interest in the concerns or contribution of the faculty. The actions will likely damage the standing of the school in the eyes of academics around the country — at the very time that the school was making steady and impressive progress in its reputation and scholarship.
As noted in an earlier blog, interim deans are generally selected from within the school. Moreover, the selection of a non-academic to the position is equally problematic since this controversy has undermined the academic mission of the school. This is not to diminish Judge Wolfson’s credentials, but one would have expected the administration to take the minimal step of using an interim dean as a way to regaining some stability and sensitivity in the faculty. Judge Wolfson is a former criminal defense attorney with the following record:
Warren D. Wolfson was born in Chicago on Feb. 14, 1933. He graduated from Gregory Grammar School and John Marshall High School. He received a B.S. degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1955 and his bachelor of law degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1957. He was admitted to practice law before the Supreme Court of Illinois in 1957, the United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois, in 1963, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 1965 and the United States Supreme Court in 1970. He was appointed as a Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1975, elected to a full term in 1976 and retained in 1982, 1988 and 1994. Judge Wolfson was assigned to the Appellate Court, First District, in December 1994. He is married to Lauretta Wolfson.
It will be more difficult to attract highly qualified candidates in light of this controversy. Few dean candidates relish the idea of working for such an authoritarian and seemingly hostile administration.
This is not the first national controversy for Holtschneider and Epp. They were involved in the denial of tenure for DePaul University professor Norman Finkelstein, who was attacked by Jewish groups and activists for his writings on the Holocaust.
Associate Dean Stephen Siegel notified the University that he would resign upon learning that the school had selected an outsider as interim dean. Here is the email that was sent to all faculty:
Late last night I informed Provost Epp, President Holtschneider, several trustees, and my fellow Associate Deans, that I will resign my 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.”
It was a difficult decision to reach given that my associate deanship, in part, involved working with you – as individuals and as a collective – on our mutual academic development. You should notice that, although I strongly disagree with the decision to remove Glen, my resignation is tied into the mode of his replacement.
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. The three mid-term replacements before Glen were removed because they had become incompetent or ineffective. I whole-heartedly welcomed those replacements 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.
Again, I disagree with removing Glen, but the decision could have been implemented with far less collateral damage to our standing. For example, a simple announcement that Glen had decided to resign effective a year from now – and that a normal seach for a successor to continue our advancement would begin immediately. Our future has been made far more difficult – the collective work of a generation of faculty and deans, which had finally reached sustained takeoff, was decisively set back.
My associate deanship consisted of two parts. One part was working with you – giving and participating in workshops, reading drafts, discussing ideas. I did that before becoming a dean, that is what colleagues do for each other. I look forward to continuing that as a colleague.
The other part was doing work that Glen would otherwise have to do – taking notes at T&P meetings, writing reports and recommendations for the T&P process etc. I was an enabler – I enabled Glen to do other things. I do not want to enable this transition.
With a heavy heart,
The termination of Dean Glen Weissenberger was a direct attack on faculty governance and independence. It was also a reckless and petty act. The law school is one of the most respected schools at DePaul — its flagship on the national stage. Holtschneider and Epp could not have worked harder to undermine the school’s standing and sense of community. They have succeeded in not only causing a scandal over school funds but now a scandal over school administration. That is quite an accomplishment and both the students and the school will suffer for it.
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