One law school faculty member is describing Indiana Tech’s decision to close its law school as sudden, abrupt and shocking, and indicated that legal action may be coming.
The faculty member, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation, said the university administration had indicated to the law school faculty and administration as well as to the students and American Bar Association that it had set aside a $20.3 million operating reserve to cover all losses that the law school would incur through the 2019-2020 academic year.
Now the faculty feels it has been defrauded and is preparing to take appropriate action through the legal system.
“The university cares about one thing and one thing only – money,” the faculty member said. Comparing the university to a corporation, the faculty member said Indiana Tech did not care about quality of education or quality of students. It only cares about profit.
The faculty member noted since the law school had received provisional accreditation earlier this year, applications and enrollment had increased. Also, faculty has been published in law journals and the school’s curriculum was receiving some national recognition.
“There was a sense of excitement,” the faculty member said.
According to a statement released Monday, the Indiana Tech board of trustees approved a recommendation by the university administration to close the law school, effective June 30, 2017. Indiana Tech President Arthur Snyder said the law school has already lost nearly $20 million and that for the foreseeable future, the institution will not be able to attract enough students to remain viable.
Calls to Indiana Tech Law School Dean Charles Cercone and a university spokesman were not returned by IL deadline.
The faculty member said the faculty was first informed Monday of the university’s decision and then the students were told. “It did not go over well,” the faculty member said.
The Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released a statement, saying it will now follow Rule 34 of the ABA Rules of Procedure for the Approval of Law Schools which outlines a process for closures.
Indiana Tech Law School will have to submit and get ABA approval for a “teach-out plan.” The primary purpose is to help students find “reasonable opportunities to complete their education without additional charges.”
This is possibly the first time that a law school decided to close without transferring its assets. University of Puget Sound sold its law school to Seattle University in 2003 and Hamline School of Law and William Mitchell College of Law announced their merger in 2015. Also, Western Michigan University Thomas Cooley Law School closed its Ann Arbor operation in 2014 and allowed its students to transfer to one of its other campuses in Michigan.
Indiana Tech Law School has faced scrutiny and criticism since it opened in August 2013, with some questioning the decision to start a new law school at a time when the economy was struggling and jobs for lawyers were shrinking. It graduated its first class in 2016. Of those 20 graduates, only 13 sat for bar exams. Just two passed the July 2016 bar exam in Indiana; one passed an out-of-state exam.
Indiana State Bar Association President Mitchell Heppenheimer said the organization only learned of the closure Monday and has not had any discussions about the matter. In response to criticism that the state bar should have done something to prevent the law school from opening in the first place, Heppenheimer said he did not see the ISBA as having a role to play when a university decides it wants to open a law school.