University of Baltimore president responds to ousted law dean

The University of Baltimore's president issued a sharp response Monday to allegations aired by the university's former law dean after he was forced to resign last week.

In an e-mail to faculty and staff, President Robert L. Bogomolny disputed financial arguments used by former dean Phillip Closius to portray a university taking advantage of its law school to support other programs. Bogomolny said he had met with key alumni and faculty members and that "the overwhelming conclusion was that a change in leadership was in the best interests of the School of Law and the University of Baltimore."

That message ran counter to an outpouring of criticism last week from students and alumni who praised Closius as a dynamic and caring leader. Students have planned an all-day rally on Tuesday to protest the dean's removal.

The president's e-mail continued an unusual bout of public sparring that has laid bare internal disputes at a university known for producing some of Baltimore's top attorneys. The debate touches on a broader issue in legal education, with law deans around the country claiming that their schools are exploited to support less popular programs.

In his e-mail, Bogomolny rejected the notion that that is occurring at UB and argued that Closius, whom he hired, was off base in saying the law school was not a funding priority.

"This stands in stark contrast to the facts of the School of Law's recent growth and development," Bogomolny wrote. "During my presidency, faculty has grown by more than 30 percent, while scholarships for law students have increased by more than 325 percent in the last five years alone."

He defended recent tuition increases, saying they were necessary to support "transformative growth."

The president disputed Closius' claim that the university seized 45 percent of law school revenues in 2010-2011. Instead, Bogomolny used figures from 2009-2010 to show that of the 42 percent of law school revenues taken by the university, all but 13.7 percent was used to pay for law school operations. The president said the figure represented the "lowest percentage among UB's schools and colleges."

Bogomolny said he held an open meeting with law faculty during the spring semester to dispute Closius' interpretation of the numbers.

"After this presentation, Mr. Closius continued to assert that there has been no rationale or explanation of internal allocations," the president wrote.

He said Closius' complaints led an accreditation panel from the American Bar Association to request a report on the university's budget rationale. "I look forward to submitting that report, as I am confident that it will address this issue definitively and satisfactorily," Bogomolny wrote.

Closius said Monday afternoon that he did not want to continue the back-and-forth with Bogomolny, but he defended his presentation of the numbers as consistent with the way the figures are discussed nationally. "I disagree," he said of Bogomolny's interpretation, "and I'm pretty sure I'm right."

Bogomolny's words did not allay the concerns of law professor Garrett Epps, who said he was "gob smacked" by Closius' forced resignation.

"We all know that every law school is something of a cash cow," Epps said. "As near as we can tell, the University of Baltimore is the biggest cash cow in the country."

Epps credited Closius with improving the quality of the school's students and junior faculty members during his four years as dean. "He had very deep support in the faculty," Epps said. "I am completely mystified by the abruptness of his resignation."

Asked about Bogomolny's statement that he had vetted the leadership change with select faculty leaders, Epps said, "He certainly didn't talk to me."

In his e-mail, Bogomolny also disputed Closius' version of a blow-up regarding naming rights for the law school. Closius said he had negotiated a deal for $10 million with local litigator and alumnus Stephen L. Snyder, only for Bogomolny to reject the deal and raise the price to $20 million. Snyder then declined to meet that price.

The president said he decided $10 million was "substantially inadequate" after reviewing the market for naming rights with university system officials and an outside consultant. He said his judgment was recently validated when the University of Maryland received $30 million from the W.P. Carey Foundation for naming rights at its law school.

Bogomolny concluded that the law school "continues to make considerable progress in terms of faculty quality and student success. … As we strengthen our leadership moving forward, I am confident that this momentum will continue."

According to the university and Closius, the former dean will be part of that future; he said Monday that he still plans to return as a regular faculty member after a yearlong sabbatical.

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