Reorganization threatens law school authority - News

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Reorganization threatens law school authority

Law chancellor wants leaders to be specific about changes

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Posted: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 10:00 pm

As University leaders discuss the reorganization of the LSU System, LSU Paul M. Hebert Law Center Chancellor Jack M. Weiss said the critical concept he wants decision-makers to keep in mind is that the law school must retain its authority.

Although Weiss said he supports reorganization changes that would unify the System’s voice, he worries the law school won’t remain in charge of its affairs amid changes that could affect every part of the LSU System, not just the undergraduate universities.

“I support the notion of one leader. LSU needs to speak with one voice,” Weiss said. “The key question in all of this is if we can reallocate authority in a way that will enable us to make better decisions faster in order to be more competitive.”

Additionally, because the jobs of system president and University chancellor are now combined, reorganization could result in less authority for chancellors of other institutions like the law center.

“The law school’s operations will not change, cannot change,” said Interim LSU System President and Chancellor William “Bill” Jenkins. “Leaders will be in place, but who they answer to is yet to be determined.”

Weiss said one of the reorganization’s main downfalls is its lack of specific discussion regarding the changes that will be made.

“I don’t know if there’s time to get into specific issues before the Board must make a decision,” Weiss said. “A specific detailed review is what’s necessary, and I look forward to the day we’ll get down to that.”

Weiss said he is open-minded about adjustments but because the process hasn’t reached the point of specifics yet, he hasn’t seen any evidence that changes should be made.

“I can’t speculate, but I’m confident there won’t be changes in the intrinsic function and organization of the constituent campuses,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins said the Transition Advisory Team would have a better idea about specifics in a month or two.

The sub-committee process will determine what the final authority and organization will look like, said Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications Herb Vincent.

“My view is that the law school is a very successful organization,” Weiss said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Any change in the law school’s authority will result in a reevaluation by the American Bar Association.

Although Weiss said he is not seriously concerned about major changes in accreditation, if reorganization changes the law school’s authority, the school “will be reevaluated.”

Jenkins said he has kept the law school’s accreditation in mind throughout the reorganization process and that, although he can’t speak with certainty about what the final structure will look like, “there will be a title change at most.”

This isn’t the first time the law school has been challenged to undergo changes in authority.

Before 1975, the law school was part of the University’s main campus, but former Dean Paul M. Hebert, the school’s namesake, became convinced it would never achieve maximum financial potential unless it could enjoy more authority over its affairs.

Hebert thought financial resources would be diverted to other aspects of the University as long as the law school was connected to the main campus, Weiss said.

Hebert began advocating for the law school’s autonomy, which was granted shortly after his death in 1977.

In this way, financial resource management and authority are tied closely together.

“We’re heavily integrated already, even though some people think we’re on another planet,” Weiss said.

Weiss said he would like to do more, but the law school faculty is stretched thin following state appropriations cuts that have left the school without excess teaching capacity.

“In theory, there’s nothing we want to see more than a thriving LSU A&M,” Weiss said. “But I’m afraid that until we improve teaching capacity, we can’t lend help.”

Weiss said leaders are concerned with efficiency, but that is only half the story – the other part is effectiveness.

At the end of the day, what’s most important is that the changes we make are in the interest of students, Weiss said.

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