War Over Mass. Public Law School Waged on the Pages of The B

by Vault Education Editors | November 02, 2009

  • My Vault

As the University of Massachusetts reviews the donation proposal of the Southern New England School of Law, the pros and cons are being argued in The Boston Globe.

In an op-ed last week, two UMass trustees argued against the addition of a Mass. public law school. They argue that, if accepted, the proposal would put a significant financial burden on taxpayers. Moreover, they express concern about the motivation pushing the review forward--is it just "raw political pork." Though their tone is accusatory, pointing fingers at the governor and SESL trustees, they do pose some valuable questions, in particular: "If the plan made little sense when the economy was humming along [Ed. Note: the law school made an earlier proposal in 2005], how can it possibly make sense now? ... Is this the right time for the university to enter the legal market? If so, is Southern New England Law School the best vehicle for doing so?"

In response, the chairwoman of the board trustees at the Southern New England School of Law writes in a letter to the editor: "[The donation] is the right thing to do for our present and future students, offering them greater opportunities than we can as a freestanding private institution." She notes that more than 75 percent of its graduates passed the Massachusetts bar exam and its faculty has been recognized as the school's "strongest asset. Finally, according to the chairwoman, the Southern New England School of Law operates "in the black," but with margins that make it difficult to accumulate the kind of financial reserves required for American Bar Association accreditation."

I doubt that SESL trustees decided to donate the school out of the goodness of their hearts. So why has the law school made a second offer to donate "$22.5 million in assets composed of land and a fully functioning 300,000-square-foot legal education facility including its library" to the university? Is it for accreditation? And if it really would be free for taxpayers, why would the university say no?

Filed Under: Education

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