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Archive for Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Dean qualifications

It will be easier to find the right dean for the Kansas University School of Law if those conducting the search know exactly what they are looking for.

March 22, 2005

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One of these days, Kansas University administrators and law school faculty, students and alumni need to decide what kind of dean they want.

Unfortunately, for various reasons, there has been a revolving door in the dean's office. Some might say the average tenure of a law school dean is "X" number of years and that KU isn't far off that mark. However, various reasons have been offered for the KU turnover, including the inability of different law school parties to agree on what the dean should be doing, his or her major assignments and what role the dean should be playing.

Do those involved in the law school one way or another want a scholarly dean, known for his or her superior academic knowledge of the law? Do they want more of a "people person," a teacher, a glad-hander, a money-raiser, a public relations whiz or what? Maybe a combination of all of the above.

The school, as well as the university, is fortunate to have secured the services of Mike Davis, a former KU law school dean, as the interim dean. He is highly successful in private law practice and has a deep affection for the school and the university. He will do a good job.

Hopefully, the selection committee members expected to be named this summer will give sufficient thought to what kind of individual they are looking for to take over as dean. Whether a similar exercise was part of previous dean searches is not known, but, based on mixed appraisals of the past dean and what appears to be a relatively rapid turnover in the dean's office, it might be a good idea to know just what qualities and strengths are important for the next dean.

Hopefully a superior candidate will be located and the faculty can be united, helpful and supportive of the new dean. Hopefully the university, as well as law school alumni, will provide resources to help the School of Law become one of the nation's finest among state-aided universities. However, a strong, highly respected dean is essential if the school is to reach its potential. Davis also needs the support, enthusiastic support, of current faculty members during the search and selection process.

The law school has had a number of good deans, men who were highly respected by a broad range of attorneys and judges and by faculty and students. However, some of these deans apparently stepped on some toes within the school or didn't measure up in the eyes of some.

How can this kind of situation be avoided in the future, thereby giving KU students and faculty member the opportunity to have a superior dean in office for a number of years rather than being forced out of the job for one reason or another?

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