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Editorial: Storm clouds at UB

These are disturbingly contentious times at the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Phillip J. Closius, the school’s well-regarded dean, has resigned at the request of university President Robert L. Bogomolny after four years in office, citing longstanding differences with Mr. Bogomolny over the amount of law school revenue the university keeps for itself.

For his part, Mr. Bogomolny says he asked Mr. Closius to step down over issues of leadership, not finances.

The timing suggests that differences between the two men over university finances played at least some role in the forced resignation. Mr. Closius says he was asked to step down one day after the Accreditation Committee of the American Bar Association found “no clear rationale expressed” for how much money the university takes from the law school and asked for an explanation by March.

Not only do Mr. Bogomolny and Mr. Closius not agree on the reason for the dean’s dismissal, they also do not agree on the amount of money in question. Mr. Closius says the university keeps about 45 percent of the revenue generated by the law school’s tuition. Although Mr. Bogomolny acknowledges that the university kept about 42 percent of the law school’s revenue in fiscal 2010, he contends the university kept only 13.7 percent after “allocating costs related to the law school’s regular operation.”

“The gap between what the president says and what the former dean says is pretty huge,” Odeana R. Neal, president of the faculty senate and an associate professor at the law school, told The Daily Record’s Danny Jacobs last week. “It would be nice for everyone to sit down and review the numbers.”

More than nice, it’s essential that this happen in a completely candid and transparent manner. And soon.

Faculty, students and alumni are all demanding answers, and they deserve them. Add state taxpayers to the list as well.

Mr. Bogomolny has taken one encouraging step by naming F. Michael Higginbotham as interim law school dean. Mr. Higginbotham, who has credibility and respect within the UB community, will not be a candidate for the position on a permanent basis. We hope his appointment will help calm the immediate storm.

But beyond that, Mr. Bogomolny must move decisively to resolve internal funding issues through forthright, open dialogue with all interested parties and forge a consensus on UB’s financial priorities and style of governance going forward. Anything less will threaten the momentum the university has achieved in recent years.

One comment

  1. Is this a fair summary of what you say: “A says X, B says not-X, nobody else has a clue, and since the issue is one that affects a lot of people, it would be good to figure out (or at least think about) which it is.” It that’s your story, I’m surprised you didn’t add the equally helpful, “and be sure to check the weather before going out at night.”

    I take it your real interest is to to act as a stalking horse for Closius (apparent in the way you sequence the presentation of the various postions, the adjectives you use to characterize the parties, the verbs you used to describe each side’s actions, and the space you devote to presenting each view), but you want to do this without being accused of taking sides (since you don’t have any basis for doing so). You should have the courage of your convictions. Being right is not a necessary part of being forthright.

    Moreover, if you wanted to make the story newsworthy in any but a neighborhood newsletter sense, you could tie it in to the furor in the legal blogosphere over the excessive and unjustified costs of legal education. This past week, for example, ATL, Transparency, the ABA online journal, and many other blogs, have done multiple stories on the fraud lawsuits just filed against Cooley and NYLS raising a related issue. Treating the event as a middle school playground fight is pretty sad, at least for a newspaper.