Law school seeks new dean

Since the 2006 resignation of Alex Johnson, Guy-Uriel Charles and Fred L. Morrison have acted as interim co-deans.

Ahnalese Rushmann

The University’s Law School hasn’t had a permanent dean in more than a year and a half, but the committee heading the national search is rounding the last corner to finding a new one.

Guy-Uriel Charles and Fred L. Morrison have served as interim co-deans since June 2006 following the resignation of Alex Johnson.

Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Carlson School of Management and co-chairwoman of the Dean Search Committee, said the wait isn’t unusual.

The replacement process doesn’t automatically start as soon as the sitting dean resigns, she said.

According to the search committee’s timeline, advertising efforts for the position began last May, leading to a group of candidates in line for interviews this month. Provost Tom Sullivan said he chose when to start the process.

“I wanted the interim deans to have sufficient opportunity to make some changes and have opportunity to really act,” he said, “and empower them to have full discretion to move the school forward.”

Davis-Blake said the committee is scheduled to submit a list of finalists to Sullivan in December.

“That’s quite commonplace for any job, but especially for a dean’s job,” she said. “Just putting an advertisement out there usually is not sufficient.”

An announcement will be made in December, Sullivan said.

Katherine Belzowski, a second-year law student, said the interim co-deans have been doing well but the lack of a permanent dean might lead to problems.

“Some of the changes that may need to happen in the law school may be put on hold,” she said, adding people might stall on making big decisions because they know a new dean will be coming in.

Belzowski said there was controversy recently when a professor was hired for one semester. Students were confused by the situation because they didn’t know who made the decision to make a temporary hire, she said.

It’ll be nice for students to know who’s in charge, Belzowski said.

Robbie Barton, a second-year law student and student representative to the search committee, said he doesn’t think having two temporary law school leaders is problematic.

“There’s a learning curve to any new dean,” he said.

Barton said he’s submitted questions to candidates and discussed qualities the new dean should possess.

“(The law school began) realizing students were key stakeholders and making sure they were involved and felt like they were invested in the process,” he said. “That’s gotten better since I’ve been at the law school.”

“I think they’ll be impressed when the finalists come on campus in November,” Barton said.

The University isn’t alone in the local law school dean hunt. Hamline University and William Mitchell College of Law both have similar vacancies.

Mary Cullen Yeager, chairwoman of William Mitchell’s search committee said the circumstances are not too disconcerting.

“The fact that there are three schools looking won’t negatively affect any of the schools,” she said. “I think it’s just a coincidence.”

Cullen Yeager, a partner at Faegre & Benson LLP, said William Mitchell is not at the point of interviewing external candidates yet and hasn’t set “artificial deadlines.”

Sullivan said he didn’t think the other schools’ searches were relevant to the University’s because the University is at the end of the process and they’re just starting.

He said he wasn’t aware of another top 20 law school looking for a dean.

“I’m confident we’re going to get an outstanding individual,” he said.

The University’s Law School is ranked 20th in the nation’s top law schools, according to U.S. News and World Report.