Annette Clark, the dean of St. Louis University’s law school has resigned after only a year on the job in a very public spat with the University president Father Lawrence Biondi. Clark released a letter stating “From the beginning of my deanship, you have evinced hostility toward the law school and its faculty and have treated me dismissively and with disrespect.”
It is not uncommon for law deans to have tense relations with university presidents. Law schools are often cash cows for universities and presidents do not always understand the unique rules and necessities for running a competitive law school. It is uncommon for such a disagreement to be so public and for the tenure of a dean to be so short.
Clark chastises Biondi for “issuing orders and edicts that allowed me virtually no opportunity to exercise the very discretion, judgment and experience for which you and the faculty enthusiastically hired me.”
This apparently include a lack of conferral with the dean and the faculty on the decision to move the law school to a downtown building.
Clark noted “You acquired the building downtown and deemed it to be the new law school building without adequate investigation of its suitability and without any notice or consultation with the law school leadership.” She also cited financial decision made without conferral.
The lack of conferral on the building is particularly egregious if true. There are few more important decisions to the life and functioning of a law school. Presidents usually leave such decisions to the law faculty, though they can exert considerable pressure in the decision-making process. With such major shifts in location often come intense negotiations between the Dean and the President over debt and tuition issues.
Clark will remain on the faculty.
The law school is expected to be relocated by the summer of 2013 in the new 11-story building.
Here is the resignation letter.