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Opinion

UMB was right to try to retain dean

I write to you as chairman of the University of Maryland School of Law Board of Visitors. I have served in this position for the last eight years. The Board of Visitors is an advisory Board similar to the many Boards of Visitors around the country which act in an advisory capacity to a particular institution and provides leadership, advice and support for the furtherance of the mission of the institution. It represents a cross section of the bar in this state, as well as around the country. It is composed of lawyers, judges, business leaders, and public servants, all of whom have a direct connection with the University of Maryland School of Law, as graduates and/or as strong supporters of the law school. This letter is endorsed by the Board of Visitors.

Karen Rothenberg served as a dean of the law school for 10 years and brought the University of Maryland School of Law to national prominence. Her accomplishments are many and changed the direction of the law school. She became dean at a time when the law school was in transition. The law school was about to embark on a new law school building, with tremendous challenges regarding funding and financing, as well as raising the level of recognition and ranking of the law school in national circles.

I think it is important to point out some of these outstanding achievements. The reason the University of Maryland School of Law has achieved national recognition and has moved up substantially in the national rankings is due in no small part to Dean Rothenberg's leadership. In particular, Dean Rothenberg:

1. Doubled the resources for faculty research, resulting in a tripling of faculty scholarly output of books and articles.

2. Recruited 27 outstanding faculty members in a wide range of fields, from international law to business and intellectual property law, to health care law and constitutional law.

3. Has retained leading nationally and internationally recognized scholars through increased support for research and scholarship.

4. Launched the program for distinguished visitors and has built support for a wide array of national and international conferences, bringing leading legal scholars, judges and practitioners from across the world to the School of Law to teach our students and work with our faculty.

5. Created new centers and programs in business law, intellectual property law, international law, tobacco control and women's leadership, while sustaining the nationally recognized excellence of the law school's programs in health law, environmental law and clinical education. The last three programs all were ranked in the top 10 nationally by U.S. News and World report.

6. Launched a national model program, LEAD, on Leadership, Ethics and Democracy building to expand professionalism, education and leadership training for law students and members of the bench and bar.

7. Developed an innovative program linking together law and the arts along with collaborating with art organizations in Maryland and nationally to host programs that use the arts to address important issues in law and public policy.

8. Built partnerships with academic institutions, government organizations and the judiciary in South Africa, Chile, England, Germany, Australia, China and Costa Rica, creating opportunities for students to study abroad and faculty exchange.

9. Expanded financial support for clinical and public service programs and built partnerships with a host of organizations in Baltimore and beyond so that faculty and students now provide annually more than 110,000 hours of free legal service to the residents of Maryland.

10. Launched the Leadership Scholars Program for incoming students and the Dean's Award Program for returning students, together awarding more than $1 million annually to support student scholarships. The law school has expanded financial support for public interest grants for summer work and loan repayment for graduates who are working in public interest careers.

11. Expanded the diversity of the student body (35 percent of students are people of color) and increased the academic credentials of the student body, such that the median LSAT score is now in the 90th percentile of test takers nationally.

12. Increased the number of students taking judicial clerkships upon graduation to more than 25 percent of the graduating class (one of the highest rates in the country).

13. Expanded on-campus recruiting so that now more than 50 percent of the AM 100 law firms recruit our students and the law school hosts interview days in major cities around the country. Last year more than 90 percent of students were employed within nine months of graduation.

14. Successfully completed the law school's first significant capital campaign raising the funds to build its new building and launched the law school's current "Making An Impact Campaign" with more than 58 percent of the $50 million raised to date.

These are just some of the accomplishments that Dean Rothenberg has been responsible for during the 10 years that she was dean. These achievements alone are quite stunning. Those of us who have worked with Dean Rothenberg on the Board of Visitors were impressed with her boundless energy, her continuing positive attitude and her dedication to the University of Maryland School of Law.

Based upon these tremendous achievements, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, David Ramsay, was keen on retaining Ms. Rothenberg in the position of dean. One of President Ramsay's great attributes was his ability to identify future leaders of the professional schools at the University of Maryland at Baltimore. President Ramsay determined that Dean Rothenberg needed to be retained at the law school and that she was entitled to a retention bonus. No one wanted to lose Dean Rothenberg at the height of her productivity, as Professor Larry Gibson has noted in his letter to The Baltimore Sun. To President Ramsay the issue was, as it was to many of us who are closely connected to the law school: "How can we keep her longer?" For Maryland to move ahead in all facets of the law school, we need great leadership. Great leadership is hard to find. It may even be harder to retain. That is why President Ramsay exercised his discretion in doing all he could to retain Dean Rothenberg at the law school.

No one is disputing that there are rules and procedures that have to be followed in the hiring and retention of outstanding faculty and deans. The board endorses those procedures. The board further emphasizes that at all times during her tenure as dean of the law school, Karen Rothenberg has acted with the highest degree of integrity in all matters affecting the law school and has been an excellent role model for students, faculty and alumni. Dean Rothenberg built a strong, vibrant institution of national stature.

Because of that great foundation, the law school has been able to attract immensely talented young faculty and an outstanding new Dean, Phoebe Haddon. We know that Dean Haddon deeply values Dean Rothenberg's legacy and, in only a few short months, has continued to take the law school forward on its path of excellence.

As members of the Board of Visitors, we are very proud of our past, and very excited about our future. We are grateful for the dedicated work and the wonderful deans who serve this great law school.

Paul D. Bekman, Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the University of Maryland School of Law Board of Visitors, which endorsed his letter.

Send letters to the editor to talkback@baltimoresun.com.


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