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UB president responds to Closius resignation

Robert L. Bogomolny

The decision to remove Phillip J. Closius as dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law was not about “financial matters” but a desire for new leadership, the university’s president wrote Monday.

Robert L. Bogomolny, in an email to law school faculty and staff, said he and Provost Joseph S. Wood came to “the overwhelming conclusion … that change in leadership was in the best interests of the School of Law and the University of Baltimore” after conversations with a dozen senior faculty members, “select alumni” and UB Foundation officials.

The change in leadership begins Tuesday, when the university is expected to name law school professor F. Michael Higginbotham interim dean, according to multiple sources.

Higginbotham, the Wilson H. Elkins Professor of Law, has been a faculty member since 1988 and serves as chairman of the Maryland Attorney General’s Task Force on Electronic Weapons.

Higginbotham could not be reached for comment Monday night. Sources described him as well liked by faculty and students.

He will replace acting dean John A. Lynch, a professor and associate dean. A search committee will be formed to find Closius’ replacement.

President responds

Bogomolny’s email, sent Monday morning, responded to several points Closius raised on Friday in an email announcing his resignation after four years as dean. Closius’ email cited longstanding differences with Bogomolny over the amount of law school revenue the university keeps for itself.

Closius wrote Friday the university keeps about 45 percent of the revenue generated by the law school’s tuition, fees and state subsidies. The issue of revenue distribution was brought up in a final report of the law school by the American Bar Association Accreditation Committee issued last week, and Closius said he was asked to resign the next day.

Bogomolny’s emailed response acknowledged that 42 percent of the law school’s revenue was retained by the university in Fiscal Year 2010, as the ABA report states. But Bogomolny said the university ultimately kept only 13.7 percent after “allocating costs related to the law school’s regular operation.”

Those costs — including human resources, lighting and technology – are routinely absorbed centrally, he wrote. The law school’s operating costs for Fiscal Year 2010 were slightly under $10 million, according to Bogomolny, while the law school’s budget was closer to $19 million, according to the ABA report.

(In a second email sent to the UB law community Monday night, Closius said his 45 percent figure, like the 25-30 percent comparison he cited from a recent New York Times article, includes “direct and indirect university costs and any law funds used for non-law purposes.”)

The ABA committee found there was “no clear rationale expressed” for how much money the university took and asked Bogomolny and Closius to submit a report by March with a more detailed explanation for the law school’s contributions to the university.

Bogomolny wrote he will provide the ABA the information with the help of the interim dean, whom he did not name in the email.

“I look forward to submitting that report, as I am confident that it will address this issue definitively and satisfactorily,” Bogomolny wrote in his email.

At the University of Maryland in Baltimore, the tuition revenue generated by all professional schools jointly funds central activities at the university, including security and technology, according to spokesman Ed Fishel. How much is taken from each school is reviewed annually, he said.

“Each year there is a dialogue between the president and the deans that examines the administrative and program costs of the university as a whole, together with the different revenue sources, to determine how best to fund the university budget, including the activities of the schools,” he said.

Other issues

Bogomolny’s email to faculty and staff addressed other issues raised by Closius.

He called Closius’ characterization of his relationship with donors as “inaccurate and incomplete.” Closius wrote he was prohibited from talking about fundraising with certain donors after a proposed law school naming deal with Baltimore litigator Stephen L. Snyder fell through.

“In no instance was anyone prohibited from contacting donors, but internal coordination and communication was required to assure professional and effective institutional outreach,” Bogomolny wrote. “It is common practice for University presidents to maintain an exclusive donor list, in part to avoid redundant and potentially embarrassing contacts with major donors.”

Bogomolny acknowledged that tuition had risen during the past decade, but said it is now “at a level equivalent to regional public law schools.”

Tuition at UB Law for the upcoming school year is $11,964 per semester for a full-time, in-state student, compared to $11,872 per semester at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Tuition for a full-time, non-Maryland resident is $18,015 per semester at UB Law and $17,511 at UM Law.

Bogomolny said scholarships at UB Law also had risen, more than tripling in the last five years as close to $2.5 million was added.

Law school students and alumni continued to express outrage at Closius’ resignation Monday. A Facebook group launched Friday, “Concerned UB Law Alumni,” had drawn 201 members as of Monday evening. Also, current law students have planned an all-day protest Tuesday on the UB campus.

Meanwhile, Ronald V. Miller Jr. of Miller & Zois LLC in Glen Burnie has announced the firm will donate $10,000 to the law school if Closius returns as dean. Miller is an alumnus of the law school and serves as an adjunct faculty member.

Click here to read an opinion by the Editorial Advisory Board on this matter.

Click here to see the ABA Accreditation Committee’s full report.