Dean O’Hara responds to drop in rankings

[Bumped to top. -ed.]

With 54 comments and counting on my previous post about Notre Dame Law School’s precipitous drop in the U.S. News rankings (which became official today), it’s clear there is considerable concern among students and alumni about what’s going on. So perhaps it’s not a huge surprise that Dean Patty O’Hara, in an e-mail to students today, gave a much lengthier and more nuanced response to the news than she did to the rankings drop two years ago.

What is a bit surprising is how Dean O’Hara chose to spin her decision to give such a detailed response. She writes, “I thought a few more words might be in order this year because the direction of the movement is negative” — but the movement was negative in 2005, too, and yet she used the same boilerplate e-mail in both ’05 and ’06 (when the movement was positive). Both the 2005 and 2006 e-mails were just three paragraphs long, and neither contained any of the language about “examin[ing] the data behind the criteria” and “determin[ing] in what ways we may be able to improve” that appears in today’s e-mail.

Whether Dean O’Hara’s departure from her standard annual rankings response is simply a reflection of the magnitude of this year’s drop (six spots, versus four in 2005), or whether it reflects a broader reality of increasing pressure on her from students and faculty, is anyone’s guess. Anyway, the full e-mail, which went out this morning via the law-school listserv, is after the jump.

Dear Students:

Each year it is my practice to send you a message when the U.S. News rankings become available on line. U.S. News released the rankings at midnight last night. You will find that we are ranked in a three-way tie at 28, rather than last year’s four-way tie at 22.

For a number of years now, we have been grouped with about a dozen schools, each with very small differences in overall scores. Over a span of years, members of this group tend to move back and forth and trade places. This type of compression tends to characterize the deciles beyond the schools ranked in the top twenty.

In prior years, when our movement in the rankings was positive, my message to you was quite brief. I announced the rankings while stating that not much could be deduced from a change in any given year, and noting that the rankings do not take into account a number of important factors. I thought a few more words might be in order this year because the direction of the movement is negative.

The U.S. News formula for determining rankings is subject to a certain amount of vagueness and weights only those variables that the magazine deems important in assessing schools. Many legal educators find this approach and the criteria that the magazine uses to be reductionist. At the same time, we live in the real world with market forces. For good or ill, the rankings are a reality with which we live, and of which we are cognizant.

In all that we do here at Notre Dame Law School, we strive to make decisions that are animated by our dual goals of being a premier, Catholic law school. We are mindful of the rankings; at the same time, we are not completely defined by them.

In the coming weeks we will examine the data behind the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings in an effort to better understand our position relative to our peers. Two criteria within the rankings in which you might take immediate interest are our overall reputational score within the legal academy and among the bench and bar. The former remained steady compared to our score last year, and the latter increased. As I mentioned, however, we will be analyzing all the data in an effort to determine in what ways we may be able to improve as a school in a manner consistent with our goals.

In the meantime, I remain grateful to each of you for all that you contribute to make Notre Dame Law School the great and distinctive community that it is. All of us are committed to working hard to build on that greatness and to move forward.

Dean O’Hara

As I mentioned above, the length and detail of the Dean’s e-mail isn’t merely in contrast to her messages in “prior years, when our movement in the rankings was positive,” as she wrote. It’s also in contrast to the e-mail she sent out on April 1, 2005, after the drop from #20 to #24. In fact, that e-mail and the one on March 31, 2006 — after a positive jump, from #24 to #22 — were identical except for the ranking numbers and related details. So she has not previously altered her e-mail template based on whether the movement was positive or negative.

The 2005 and 2006 e-mails are reproduced below.

[April 1, 2005]

U.S. News and World Report will release its rankings of law schools to the media today.

You will see that we are ranked in a two-way tie at 24 with Washington University – St. Louis, rather than last year’s three-way tie at 20 with Washington University – St. Louis and GW. The vagaries of the process by which the rankings are produced are such that little, if anything, of significance can be deduced from this change. There continues to be a good deal of compression beyond schools ranked in the top 20.

I write to share this information with you because I know that many students await these rankings with interest. At the same time I remind you that virtually all the deans of the more than 180 ABA-approved law schools, myself included, believe that such rankings are flawed and fail to consider a number of important factors. You might be interested in our thoughts in this regard which can be found at:

Dean O’Hara

[March 31, 2006]

U.S. News and World Report will release its rankings of law schools to the media today.

You will see that we are ranked in a four-way tie at 22 with Boston University, University of Iowa and Washington & Lee, rather than last year’s two-way tie at 24 with Washington University – St. Louis. The vagaries of the process by which the rankings are produced are such that little, if anything, of significance can be deduced from this change. There continues to be a good deal of compression beyond schools ranked in the top 20.

I write to share this information with you because I know that many students await these rankings with interest. At the same time I remind you that virtually all the deans of the 180 plus ABA-approved law schools, myself included, believe that such rankings are flawed and fail to consider a number of important factors. You might be interested in our thoughts in this regard which can be found at:

Dean O’Hara

52 Responses to “Dean O’Hara responds to drop in rankings”

  1. Sean says:

    Thing is, rankings are pretty much BS, based on things that have pretty much nothing to do with education. It also ignores the fact that different universities will be better or worse for different people. Consider Harvard: consistently ranked highly, but when you survey alumni and ask them how the institution actually helped them learn, it’s the fifth worst in the country. (Harvard School of Education also has the most myopic vision of education you can find; it’s all numbers, curiosity and drive play no part.) There’s a great section on the uselessness of rankings in the book Overachievers.

  2. Brendan Loy says:

    If you look at the comments on the previous thread (and I can’t blame you if you don’t want to, as they’d probably be rather boring for someone not connected with NDLS), it’s clear that most people acknowledge the rankings are relatively meaningless… except that they’re not. Because let’s be honest, law school isn’t really about “education,” it’s about getting a job. At least, that’s how a lot of people look at it, which is not all that surprising given that it’s professional school. And rankings, whether they’re “B.S.” or not, absolutely do affect your ability to get a job.

    Also, the rankings are self-perpetuating to a certain degree: prospective students see that Notre Dame isn’t as highly ranked, so they don’t apply here, so Notre Dame isn’t as selective, so its ranking goes down. Employers don’t hire as many NDLS grads because the ranking went down, so there isn’t as much opportunity for newly minted Notre Dame attorneys to make a positive impression on new employers, so the school’s “reputation” score declines, so the ranking goes down. This is the sort of thing that people here are concerned about (along with more general concerns about the administration, for which the rankings just provide a convenient “hook” to start the conversation), and the concerns can’t be dismissed with a wave of the hand and an idealistic comment on the nature of education. There are hard realities of the marketplace to consider here, and they do matter.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Paraphrasing Sean Connery from the Rock: Losers whine about the system’s inefficiencies. Winners go home and f— the prom queen!

    This place is a sinking ship. The Dean needs to go.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Fire Dean O’Hara!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Is she suggesting that the fact ND’s goal is to be Catholic is an excuse for, or the reason for, the drop in rankings? ND’s Catholic identity might be relevant to the reputational numbers, but it’s got nothing to do with screw-ups in admissions and CSO, or with bad administration generally.

  6. alexmcandy says:

    Channel your frustrations in a positive direction. What about communicating your concerns to the Alumni Association:

  7. Anonymous says:

    What a bunch of crap. “In the coming weeks we will examine the data behind the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings in an effort to better understand our position relative to our peers.” It took everyone two seconds to see why we dropped. This inpersonable, lazy and insulting e-mail is a perfect of example as to why we need a new dean. Maybe the class of ’09 can pass around a petition or something.

  8. anon says:

    Anyone know who’s running for SBA president?

  9. cheechee rodriguez says:

    this is the end of innocence.

  10. Landon Boy says:

    i disagree with cheechee. rankings and innocence are, at best, only marginally correlated to innocence.

  11. Tinman67 says:

    I agree with Boy and Loy and disagree with Rodriguez. Rankings are very important. How else are we to know where the best burger in town is? Or which local muffler shop is the greatest value?

  12. Tinman67 says:

    haha–we know. but don’t steal my website.

    seriously, this is a goofy comment system.

  13. Anon 3L says:

    The Dean’s comment about “better understanding” in recent weeks is absurd. It makes no more sense than if Charile Weis has stood up after we got killed by USC and LSU and said “we will be reviewing the tape to see why we lost so badly” when the whole world could see that ND lost because its defensive backfield could not cover receivers in a Pee Wee football league. The only person who cannot see why ND’s rankings drop is Dean O’Hara. Except that when the football team did badly, or now when the defense did badly, there were consequences.

    Oh, and what a coincidence that today, for the first, time, she managed a “hello” when she walked past me.

  14. Melissa says:

    Her email seems to me to just be a way to attempt to placate us with a vague promise to look into things. It doesn’t mean anything is going to change. She is going to keep saying “when we get the new building …” I don’t understand why they don’t try to fix things now rather than wait for a new building to solve the problems.

    IMO, one of the reasons this school ranks poorly is its lack of class options (thanks to the creators of “Dean or No Dean” pointing out the cancellation of corporate classes;). Beside corporate classes, this school has relatively few classes that go further than an introductory level. Human rights and employment law aside, this school just doesn’t have many options. Instead of saying that we don’t have room for more classes and more profs until we get the new building, why can’t they just schedule some classes in buildings outside the law school for the time being? This campus is huge – I am sure we can solve the space problem temporarily. It’s not like we don’t walk across campus to get to the parking lot already, we can certainly go to another building if it means getting a better education. This is just one example of the kind of thing that the dean could do to try to improve the rankings, but I doubt she will employ such radical thinking when “investigating” the rankings. I am sure many of the problems this school faces have solutions that just require a slight stretch (look at what a simple thing like lamps accomplished!).

    I share the sentiment of anon 10:47 re: ND’s Catholic mission. I think it is great that this school has something special about it (being Catholic) that can draw people to it. However, it is a catholic UNIVERSITY law school, and as such, has a responsibility to keep a good academic reputation as well. It is great to try to recruit catholic faculty and students, but taking that too far (i.e., simply not hiring faculty because you can’t find someone who is catholic) is just ridiculous. NDLS can only make a significant impact on the legal world as a catholic institution if it commands academic respect as well. Being a Catholic (or any other religion) school is not an excuse for a ranking drop and should never be used as such. If anything, Notre Dame’s reputation as a catholic school and the association with the undergraduate program should only enhance NDLS’s ranking and distinguish it from public schools.

  15. anaonymous says:

    Brendan, it is nice that your provide this forum but it seems like too much of an escape – too “safe” of a forum. Why doesn’t someone actually do something? It seems to be the almost unanimous opinion of ND law students that the Dean is without a clue. Has anyone ever once stood up to her?

  16. Melissa says:

    Also, I love Brian’s suggestions for improvement posted earlier on the previous related post. I totally agree with trying to use ND’s assets to get employers here for OCI. Frankly, I would take it a step further and have ND work out some sort of special deal with local hotels and possibly airlines to get better rates and/or comp rooms at the Morris just to add a bit more incentive. Doing even small things like having someone bring the interviewers lunch from the Morris when they are stuck in a conference room all day will give the interviewer a positive experience and encourage them to come back.

    Also, and I know this is controversial, but one HUGE problem my firm has with interviewing here is the CSO’s policy regarding bidding for spots. My firm was PISSED that only 2-3 people actually met the requirements that they set for the interview. CSO has to explain that firms must change their criteria to a certain GPA (rather than rank, because we have no idea) and they have to actually enforce what employers want. What good is it to get an interview with a firm if you don’t meet the criteria anyway? All it does is waste both people’s time and discourage the firm from coming back. I know that my firm would actually prefer a system where they bid on the interviewees, but enforcing certain criteria would at least be a step forward. One benefit of allowing firms to bid would be that they would be able to make the judgment calls about people who don’t quite have the grades but have other stuff that’s good, like being from a particular area. It would be a more efficient way to match up firms with people who actually have a chance of getting hired and hopefully lead to more jobs through OCI.

    Also, I totally agree with Brian’s comments re: raising the average GPA. It is insane that they still have this 3.1 policy. It doesn’t take anything away from someone who is in the top of the class to have a higher GPA for everyone else, so I think everyone would win from such a change.

  17. anon 10:47 says:

    Melissa is right about “Catholic” not being an *excuse* for a rankings drop. It is also not even the *reason* for it. Being “Catholic” gives ND an advantage in attracting students and faculty who could be elsewhere than South Bend. But it sounds like O’Hara is shifting blame, and wanting students to think it might be a rankings-handicap.

  18. NDLS2006 says:

    “Special deals with hotels”? You’ve got to be kidding me.

    Employers don’t come to ND because they choose not to — not because the Morris Inn is prohibitively expensive.

    And the GPA argument is, similarly, horseshit. OCS provides all employers with a detailed statement on the mean and median GPAs at NDLS and the same statement is available to people who want to include it with materials they send to employers of their own volition.

  19. Brian Foster says:

    NDLS2006, you’re losing credibility fast.

    1. OCS? Seriously?

    2. No charitable reading of Brian’s* suggestions and Melissa’s embellishments supports the idea that they think employers choose not to come to ND because it is too expensive. Rather, it is clear that they think employers choose not to come to ND because the employers don’t think it is worth their time and effort to come.

    The suggestions — not at all limited to just “special deals with hotels” — are to increase the incentives of a visit to ND, well off the beaten path of major cities and airports, so that more employers might be willing to invest in the time and effort such a visit would involve. One way among many to do so is to offer special, uber-competitive travel deals.

    But no one is suggesting that this is any more of a one-shot panacea than, say, a new building. (As Melissa said: “just to add a bit more incentive” (emphasis added).)

    3. The “detailed statement” from CSO about mean and median GPAs is worthless if the partner/recruiter reviewing resumes and comparing across schools never bothers to read it. In the seven or ten seconds it takes to compare the NDLS applicant’s GPA to the WUSTL or BC or USC or Vandy applicant’s GPA and toss the NDLS resume aside, there is little chance that s/he is going to happen to stumble upon that attachment buried somewhere between the transcript and writing sample, kick back and read all about how NDLS thinks grade inflation sucks and therefore s/he should too.

    Not that I’m in favor of grade inflation, but the competitive disadvantage NDLS students experience as a result is non-trivial, and cannot by any serious means be dismissed with a single word. Even if it is a relatively underused word like “horseshit.”

    * For the record, the Brian who made thos suggestions in the other thread was not me. I always use my full name when commenting here.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Everyone has a good point – please put together letters and send them to the Provost and the law school board. It really is the only way what you say has any chance of effecting some change. I will be mailing one Monday morning. The points I plan on discussing are:
    1. Disengagement with the students
    2. Excuse of fundraising (and how her disengagement actually hurts her ability to raise funds)
    3. Feeling in the law school that we’re on a sinking ship.
    4. Fear of our best professors leaving
    5. Mismanagement regarding course offerings (using this year’s propery class as the primary example, in addition to the corporate classes that we’re cancelled)
    6. Mismanagement of admissions – regardless of why Robowski left, losing the head of admissions in mid-cycle is idiotic
    7. Mismanagement of CSO – what are the complaints here? I only dealt with them once, was disgusted, and never came back…
    8. The truth about rankings – that they do matter
    9. Lack of leadership in the law school – there is no tone at the top, the person supposedly leading the charge to educate a different kind of lawyer is MIA

    Any thoughts on what else should be included?

  21. Melissa says:

    NDLS 2006, actually, getting a room at the Morris the friday before a football game is a pretty big deal. Even at other times, making the experience that much easier and cheaper might be a good thing and provide a “bit more” incentive to come.

    Additionally, I doubt many attorneys conducting call back interviews receive a copy of the pamphlet regarding the GPA at ND, so I don’t think that the suggestion is “horseshit.” I would be curious to know if you actually think there is something good about having a much lower average gpa than other law schools that makes it justifiable to have a system in place that requires a pamphlet.

    Brian, you crack me up with your emphasis added in paren :)

    Good suggestions Anonymous 5:27, do you have a contact address to post here to make it easy for everyone to follow your lead?

  22. anon says:

    10. Failure to highlight the outstanding achievements of younger faculty, resulting in sliding peer evaluations over her tenure.
    11. Allowing numerous faculty and staff to leave without any real plan to replace any of them. Over the last couple of years, off the top of my head: Barbara Szweda, Tim Gritten, Erika Harriford-McLaren, Chuck Roboski, Jack Pratt, Theresa Phelps, Roger Jacobs, and Patti Ogden.

  23. anon says:

    I’ll take that back: they did conduct an extensive search to replace Jacobs.

  24. NDLS2006 says:

    Melissa —

    The vast bulk of OCI is completed before football season starts. Moreover, the Morris Inn is categorically unavailable on football weekends — and the law school has no control over that. Rooms are available only to members of various boards at the University (the Board of Trustees, the NDLA Board, etc.).

    Even in spite of the fact that OCS couldn’t “work out a deal” if they wanted to, I think the idea is sort of preposterous.

  25. NDLS2006 says:

    And I would add that if you send letters, you should stick to shit you actually know about instead of making general accusations based on rumors or assumptions — things like your interactions (or lack thereof) with the dean, and how you believe your experience at the law school has been deficient. Honestly, the provost isn’t going to take a student all that seriously who purports to know something about, for instance, the adequacy of the search for a replacement for Dean Jacobs.

    Moreover, you have no idea why any of those faculty members left or what the circumstances were. The process was under way to replace Erika throughout my third year. Barb Szweda didn’t inform the university that she was leaving until April 2006, which made it categorically impossible to replace her for fall 2006 (and a replacement for Barb has been selected; I don’t know if it’s been announced to the general student body yet). As to Terry Phelps, I believe Ventner was promoted to fill her role as head of the legal writing program. The admissions consultant fuck-up was an interim solution to the Chuck issue; they started interviewing people quickly and made an offer that was turned down, which delayed the process.

    So, yeah. I’d recommend staying with things you *actually* know instead of things you *think* you know. Because, by and large, you clearly have no idea.

  26. NDLS2006 says:

    And, also — “allowing faculty to leave”? Were they supposed to demand that they stay? Have you ever had a job?

  27. Justin says:

    In Texas, the GPA kills ND students (recruiters may have access to the information, but surely aren’t using it).

    The hiring partner from the firm I worked for this summer was dying to go to a ND game. I contacted OCI upon returning to campus in the fall — in an attempt to get this firm on campus — with no avail. They didn’t even attempt to facilitate communication with the firm. What was even more comical is OCI’s presentation this week about “Breaking into the Texas and Atlanta job markets.” You’d think the best people to contact w/r/t this meeting would be students that have jobs in Texas (or Atlanta). Of no surprise, I, nor others who have jobs in those markets, were contacted to help out (which I would have eagerly done). And yes, I did submit my employment information to OCI. (in other words, OCI knows that I’ll be working in Texas).

    Lack of class options, building being crappy, low median GPA aside, what is most disconcerting is the lack of 3L’s w/ jobs. When law school started — although a bit naïve — I expected to have a kick ass job upon graduation. Based on the number of 3L’s w/o jobs, now I just feel blessed (and/or lucky). I can’t imagine paying $100k+, putting my career on hold for 3 years, and not having a job. It should be unacceptable.

  28. anon says:

    Yeah, “allowing them to leave,” as in, failing to make adequate COL raises, failing to match offers from other law schools, failing to make life bearable by micromanaging, and so on.

    And apparently, no one on this blog knows a thing about the law school’s internal workings except you, NDLS2006, so maybe you should just write our letters for us, and perhaps we can appoint you dean.

  29. Melissa says:

    NDLS 2006, The story with Swzeda was much more complicated that you let on or perhaps know. I won’t get into details, but Patty knew/hoped Barb was not going to be around well before she “quit.”

    I didn’t know that information re: the Morris, but you are missing the point completely. The law school has resources and should use them in any way possible to get employers here to interview students. Every small incentive they can offer would be better than they are doing now. They could have a standing reservation at other local hotels for those days too. You see the point. I am simply trying to make the point that this school has the ability to try new things to see if it helps, whether or not each particular idea is “preposterous” is beside the point.

    Also, did you seriously suggest that people send a copy of the pamphlet with their resumes? I don’t know about anyone else, but to me that says, “Here are my grades, they don’t seem that good, but look, I have a fancy pamphlet giving me an excuse for not having good grades.” That’s crap. Additionally, there’s a reason resumes are only supposed to be one page – no one likes to spend time reading that stuff. The last thing a busy attorney wants is a resume with an addendum. Come on.

  30. Anon says:

    OCI = CSO (Justin ???)

  31. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone know what happened to Carol Jambor-Smith?

  32. NDLS2006 says:

    I have received resumes from Notre Dame students that include an explanation of the grading system. So, yeah.

    Justin — then you should have picked a school that has 100% employment. You had full access to employment statistics that suggested that for the last five years or so, more than 10% of NDLS grads don’t have a job at graduation.

  33. NDLS2006 says:

    anon 6:53: what i’m suggesting is that if any of you just asked a secretary/professor/margaret in admissions about any of these matters, you’d actually know the answers instead of making shit up to post in a comments box on a message board.

  34. Anon says:

    ND law sucks ass

  35. Watcher of Rankings says:

    The fact that some students do in fact send CSO’s goofy little pamphlet with their resume does not mean that it’s actually a good idea, as Melissa aptly points out.

    And the fact that NDLS2006 actually read it does not prove that any other employer does, especially hiring partners/recruiters at large law firms.

    NDLS2006, what you seem to be missing is the fact that at least some of us contributing to this discussion have talked, at minimum, to secretaries/profs/Margaret, just as you suggest, and are relating the details we have gleaned from those conversations. In some cases, we have discussed these issues with the actual departed faculty/staff members in question , thereby getting the story straight from the source.

    Your insistence that we are clueless, ignorant and wrong simply demonstrates the appropriateness of applying those adjectives to you.

    That said, of course it is preferable to stick to relatively verifiable fact, and personally held opinion, in any letters to the provost, rather than unsubstantiated rumor, innuendo or insult. That’s just common sense.

  36. Justin says:

    NDLS 2006: Whether I should have been aware of the statistics or not (I was, and do believe that the statistics have gotten worse, which, for all intents and purposes is beside the point), does not justify the fact that NDLS does a dreadful job finding a good % of its students jobs. Your response is something I would expect from the current administration.

  37. Anonymous says:

    NDLS2006 – The general tone of your posts is that we’re whiny law students and the administration of the law school really is ok. Even if we grant you that we know nothing about how or why professors, Erika, or Chuck left, the effect of such happenings is something we directly experience. The Dean’s job is to make sure the law school runs smoothly. It does not. She should be able to recruit, hire, and keep employees. She does not. She should be the face of the law school. She is not. Her complete lack of interaction and communication with the students adds to our “making shit up to post.” If we grant you everything you claim about our lack of knowledge, she is still an ineffective Dean.

    Another thing you miss, the majority of people who look at our resumes are not NDLS grads – so they do not give a shit about the nice little blue pamphlet.

  38. Anonymous says:

    If anyone cares to actually make their complaints heard:

  39. 3L No. 27 says:

    NDLS2006: Even if some of the people posting here don’t know all the details of why various facutly/staff members have left, it’s still pretty obvious that the Dean was a factor in it. Did you attend the Father Mike Show last year? Faculty News was basically the not-so-friendly roast of Patty O. I have had conversations with numerous tenured faculty members who can’t stand the Dean. I have no doubt those feelings were shared by others.

    One great example of the Dean’s incompetence is the Legal Writing program. During my 1L year, only 40 students (less than 25% of the class) were being taught Legal Writing by a full-time, tenured faculty member. Some students were being taught by a creative writing teacher. I’m not saying that every single Legal Writing teacher needs to have tenure and 30 years of experience, but why in the HELL was a creative writing instructor teaching legal writing? That’s utterly ridiculous. And the way the Dean ran off Terry Phelps was absurd. Phelps used to run the Legal Writing program. She was a hard-ass to the 1Ls, but she was good. But then the program was “revamped” into shambles. It should be highly disturbing to everyone that a professor as accomplished and experienced as Phelps – and who, at one point, fought like hell to stay at NDLS – decided to take a position that is ranked #47 by USNWR. It’s one thing if we lose faculty to better institutions, but we simply should not be losing faculty to inferior* institutions.

    The faculty’s disdain for the Dean should be disheartening to those of us who think the faculty are one of NDLS’s biggest asset. I know that a number of our young, talented faculty love Notre Dame and would probably love to stay here forever. But if more prestigious, better-paying opportunities in more appealing locales become available (as is likely for at least a few faculty members), what is going to keep them here? The Notre Dame community. But if they hate their boss, why bother?

    Finally, NDLS2006, I have a question for you: Since you seem to brush off other students’ complaints about the Dean, would you like to offer some defense of her virtues? Can you provide me some concrete examples of good things she’s done? Can you provide some compelling, substantive reasons why she should not be replaced? It seems to me that even if some students’ complaints are overblown, the Dean is generally disliked by students, faculty, and alumni. Since creating goodwill in order to raise funds and better the image of the law school is one of the main jobs of the Dean, I think some compelling reasons would be needed to NOT fire her.

    *I use the term “inferior” in reference to the USNWR rankings and mean no disrespect to American University. In light of all our discussion of the relevance of the rankings, I don’t want to be the pot calling the kettle black.

  40. Anonymous says:

    i want a hug

  41. Brendan Loy says:

    Is that you, Dean O’Hara?

  42. Anon 3L says:

    If it is, all I have is an extended middle finger and a promise to the school that from the day I walk out of these doors, ND will never get a dime of my money until O’Hara is fired and stops screwing up my beloved Notre Dame.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Something worth remembering, as we vent about the administration’s problems: Faculty, alums, and others I know (including critics) have told me that O’Hara is a really good and decent person, who cares very much about Notre Dame. FWIW.

  44. Melissa says:

    I am sure she is, since she got the job in the first place, but being a good and decent person who cares about ND does not in itself qualify her for such an important job as the dean. Saying some one does not properly do their job does not mean they are a bad person, it just means that they are bad at their job. From what I have heard, Ohara was an amazing prof. She would have served ND better if she had continued teaching and utilized her strenghts rather than take, and more importantly, keep, a job for which she is clearly (at least now) not that great at.

  45. Watcher of Rankings says:

    I think one of the Dean’s biggest problems is that even if it is true that she was an “amazing prof,” no student in the past several years would know that, because she hasn’t taught a class — even though her area is securities and corporate law, where there has been a noticeable faculty deficit for at least the past three years.

    And even if she is “a really good and decent person,” no student in the past several years would know that, because she has made next to no effort to interact with students — again, not having taught a class in at least three years and probably many more, even though it’s fairly standard for law school deans to teach at least occasionally; an “open door” policy that is useless when she’s gone so often, and unwilling to make or keep appointments when she’s here; dean’s award receptions where the top-performing students in the school have to wear nametags so she’ll know who’s who, even though she engages less in conversation and more in delivering the same platitudes she presumably serves up to alumni and donors before moving on to the next group in the room; and so on.

    I don’t doubt for a moment that she is a good person whose heart is in the right place. I doubt very much that she has made any effort to convey that to anyone. Or if she has made the effort, I am quite certain it has failed.

    And given the “goodwill ambassador” function of the job, this is perhaps her biggest shortcoming.

  46. NDLS2006 says:

    I actually think the tone of my posts is that the law school administration is really fucked up but most of you haven’t the first clue about any of it. Faculty hiring is pretty much the least of the problems. I have no comment on her virtues and I think she blows. My problem is that if a student writes a letter to the Provost with essentially made-up “details” about her failures in areas you know shit about, he’s not going to take your letter very seriously.

    And, Watcher of Rankings, I was fairly close to three of the employees who left over the 2005-2006 school year. One of them (Patti Ogden) was very good friends with the Dean and left on fine terms. Patti and Matt Barrett were the only faculty members I ever knew of sticking up for her. In addition, did it ever occur to you that Erika might have had other considerations (like, I don’t know, her husband) in addition to POH that affected her decision to leave? And do you really think you have any authority to comment on the law school administration’s search process for a replacement for the dean of the library? Yeah, you’re right. The fucking *Provost* probably had nothing to do with that, so it’s important that you write him a letter full of your speculation on the matter.

    My entire point is this: stick to shit you know about — like, the restrictions on the LRAP money are so fucking stupid that barely anyone qualifies, the course selection fucking sucks, Lisa Casey has been allowed to bail on her classes every semester since 2004 with her lame “I got hit by a mail truck” excuse and they end up with some lame-ass visitor teaching BA every semester, the clinics are impossible to get into or don’t exist (though that’s about to change), required tax and BA put a stranglehold on some students’ schedules, etc. *That’s* what the provost needs from students — not rampant inventions about processes to which he knows students aren’t privy.

    And if you’re really convinced I don’t know shit, I guess there’s nothing I can do . . . but, for those interested, NDLS has hired a replacement for Szweda. I don’t know why they haven’t announced it yet or put Immigration Clinic on the schedule, but the decision’s been made for several months now.

  47. Watcher of Rankings says:

    1. Bridgette Carr’s hiring has been common knowledge for many weeks among those of us who have cared to look and learn about it. It has been on the many blogs tracking law faculty hiring for quite some time. It has, not surprisingly, not been officially announced to the student body, but her name and course offerings were included in the Fall 2007 registration packet that became available earlier this week. Either way, the fact of her hiring is not particularly secret or inside information.

    2. NDLS2006, I don’t think we are in as much disagreement on the merits as you seem to think. The primary objection is to your abrasive and know-it-all demeanor. In particular, I have never advocated including in a letter anything about Patti, Erika, or the library dean search. Nor did I suggest including anything based on rumor, innuendo or speculation; in fact I counseled the exact opposite. I do continue to dispute your version of the events surrounding Chuck’s departure, and I remain convinced that my version is much more accurate than yours. But again, I would not include any such details in a letter to the provost.

    3. I might agree slightly on Fed Tax, but I believe required BA to make perfect sense and I would not be in favor of a change to that requirement. I do not feel strongly enough about it to actively work in favor of preserving the status quo, but I do not think required tax/BA are either bad things in general, or bad things to blame the Dean for in particular.

    4. Prior to your most recent post, your tone seems to have been one of nearly reflexive disagreement with every criticism of the administartion levied here, coupled with arrogant assertions that you know the truth and nobody else here does. Combined with your defense of the grading policy and pamphlet (not to mention the laughable assertion that all classes after the class of 06 are “lame”), it understandably gave rise to the perception that you think everything is fine and that we are a bunch of whiny, uppity, complaining kids. I am pleased to hear that you too share the notion that the administration is “really fucked up,” and your most recent highlighting of particular concerns (tax/BA excepted in my view) is especially helpful.

    5. Again, I am no fan of grade inflation, but I do not think it can seriously be disputed that the law school’s continued adherence to a significantly lower curve than other schools, including a great many of its peers and competitors, is a handicap for our students in the job search. Employers comparing resumes across schools are going to glance at GPAs and not much more to make their initial screening decisions. Especially as against Northwestern, Michigan, Chicago, Virginia, Harvard, etc., NDLS is already at a disadvantage based simply on name and reputation. Lower GPAs are often going to be the death knell for students trying to get jobs in major firms or markets, whereas if our grading were more in line with those other schools, our students would stack up more favorably. The grading policy statement might open doors in Durham, but the fellows at Skadden won’t give it a moment’s thought before tossing most NDLS resumes aside.

  48. NDLS2006 says:

    My version of the Chuck story comes from Chuck, Heather, and Margaret. So, there you go. If you really believe the Dean was willing to encourage the director of admissions to leave in the middle of the admissions cycle, then I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. She’s grossly incompetent, but not completely batshit crazy.

    The Bridgette Carr news is only public because Rick Garnett posted it to a “lateral moves” blog. The hiring was communicated to faculty months ago. Why students haven’t been told is beyond me.

    And, Watcher, my responses aren’t to you directly unless I use your name. There were several posts about “things to include” in letters to the provost. Most of them were related to things the posters here have proven they don’t know shit about. And one of the loveliest things about internet anonymity is that it allows for being an asshole, which I kind of enjoy on occassion — so I am completely aware of my tone. I think, though, that it’s warranted in cases of whiny law students.

    And I would like to hear why you think requiring BA “makes perfect sense.” I and countless other NDLS grads have never and will never use anything we learned in BA in practice. I should say, though, that I have at least derived personal benefits from having to take tax. I still don’t understand why I’m required to take it. The only remotely reasonable answer was that “it’s statutory” which I find to be an incredibly stupid answer.

    And as to the “lame” comment, I stand by it. And forgive me for laughing my ass off at the indignant post about how there’s “no way in hell” that Amy Barrett would use the word lame.

  49. Watcher of Rankings says:

    “My version of the Chuck story comes from Chuck, Heather, and Margaret.”

    Interesting. So does mine. *gasp* What now?

    “The Bridgette Carr news is only public because Rick Garnett posted it to a “lateral moves” blog. The hiring was communicated to faculty months ago. Why students haven’t been told is beyond me.”

    Um, ok. My point was that acting like you had inside knowledge because you knew something that Rick Garnett posted to a blog several weeks ago wasn’t very convincing. Even if you knew it before he posted it, that’s irrelevant now, especially when the name of a hired faculty member is hardly a state secret.

    “And, Watcher, my responses aren’t to you directly unless I use your name.”

    Which you did:

    “And, Watcher of Rankings, I was fairly close to three of the employees who left over the 2005-2006 school year. ”

    The rest of that paragraph includes several “do you really think” and “did it ever occur to you” formulations in which the clear antecedent of “you” was, well, me. If you were not directing the “do you really think” and “did it ever occur to you” phrases to me personally, then I apologize for reading your words to hold their most natural and grammatically sound meaning.

    “one of the loveliest things about internet anonymity is that it allows for being an asshole, which I kind of enjoy on occassion ”

    I hear it’s quite the popular pastime in Medford.

    “And I would like to hear why you think requiring BA “makes perfect sense.” ”

    Agency principles alone make it all but indispensable for virtually any practicing lawyer. Beyond that, there are very few areas of practice that truly NEVER have to deal with corporations in some way or another. Whether you’re doing the deal, defending the polluter, or suing the Big Bad Evil Corporation, you need to understand what you’re dealing with. Government regulators (such as DOJ, especially in NYC or Newark), even prosecutors need to have a familiarity with that stuff. I suppose you could say international human rights work is an exception, but even then you have potential liability issues with relief organizations and corporate donors and so on. I think it’s pretty myopic and naive to be so sure that you will never, ever, ever, need to know something about BA in the course of a career you’re barely a year into.

    Similarly for tax: in addition to the practical personal benefit that you concede, there are (as Kirsch, at least, pointed out repeatedly) tax implications lurking just below the surface of almost every legal act or transaction we’re likely to be involved in.

    I don’t doubt that they’re of very small use to a certain number of students. But I think you significantly exaggerate both the level of uselessness and the number of students for whom it is allegedly useless.

    “as to the “lame” comment, I stand by it.”

    Well, of course we can’t all spend our summers in Cameroon or wherever, but honestly — the self-lauding egotism of such a facially ridiculous statement all but ruins whatever thin claim to credibility you have remaining. In any event, I remain confident that you have once again misunderstood and/or misquoted your source. Which seems to be an ongoing issue for you.

    But hey, that shouldn’t matter, right? Don’t we agree on the merits after all? Lame or not, I’m just preaching to the choir here.

  50. NDLS2006 says:

    I think you’re misinterpreting at least some things. The version of the story I’ve heard is that when Chuck met with POH to discuss her office’s involvement in admissions decisions, she told him that if he was dissatisfied, he should look for another job. She did not in any way suggest that he should leave the law school in the middle of the year.

    My mistake on your name. Sorry. I’m not particularly precise about my use of the pronoun “you.”

    I don’t know how this got so far afield on the Bridgette Carr thing, but I was simply using it as an example to illustrate the point (which I’ve reiterated over and over) that most of the posters here are posting speculation as opposed to fact and encouraging others to write about the same to the provost. The suggestion that there was “no plan to replace” faculty and staff who departed is simply untrue, and it undermines the very valid student case against the dean to focus on it. The example of Barb Szweda is simply the best one. Everyone knows that she and POH held mutual distaste for one another, but the immigration clinic situation this year was in large part Barb’s fault. She had offers in hand months before she actually resigned and knew full well that if she didn’t put in sufficient notice, the law school would be unable to replace her. And yet up until days before she actually resigned she was telling people that she was considering staying around another year. When she finally handed in her resignation, it was within a month of the close of the semester. The suggestion posited here that she should have been actively seeking to replace Barb or any other faculty member before they actually resigned is preposterous. By and large, faculty replacement has been prompt. Moreover, very few faculty departures can be attributed solely to the failures of the dean. And so you’ll forgive me for my sarcastic reaction to baseless accusations about faculty replacement. There are simply more important things to fight about.

    None of that explanation on agency principles illuminates why either class should be required, much less for a total of 8 credits. By your logic, administrative law should be required above all those things. I (like the vast majority of ND grads) don’t work in any of the fields or places you mentioned, and no one has yet asked me about agency or corporations law. Or tax, for that matter. But I’m glad to know how to fill out my own 1040. If I had it my way, students should be able to elect to take a 2-credit tax/corporations fundamentals class. Moreover, plenty NDLS professors who attended non-ND schools didn’t take either and turned out just fine.

    As to the “merits,” we agree, it seems, that POH is a miserable fucking failure.