The former dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law says she was improperly removed from that position two weeks ago and placed on administrative leave after clashing with some faculty over proposed budget cuts.
An attorney representing Jennifer Bard said that the university violated its own internal rules when it pushed her out of the dean job on March 22 and placed her on leave while it investigates her leadership of the law school.
“The interim provost placed Dean Bard on administrative leave without the slightest factual basis for doing so,” said Marjorie Berman, an attorney with New York firm Krantz & Berman. “Administrative leave implies conduct requiring an immediate separation, that the university well knows does not exist here. Faculty unwilling to put the needs of the students and the law school ahead of their own does not constitute such conduct.”
University spokesman Greg Vehr did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Interim Provost Peter Landgren offered few public clues as to the reason for Bard’s removal in a short email announcement to the law school community. He wrote that the decision was, “precipitated by a thorough evaluative process that involved in large part the College of Law community.” She was in the second year of a five-year contract.
But emails obtained by the Cincinnati Business Courier through an open records request revealed that a faction of law faculty had been butting heads with Bard for months. The tension was so high that Landgren devised a six-month plan to improve relations on the law faculty, which included mediation.
Bard claims that her cost-cutting efforts spurred the faculty mutiny. She said she was hired in 2015 specifically to mitigate the law school’s “multimillion” operating deficit, and that her ideas of combining the law library with the university’s central library system and bolstering oversight of faculty travel proved unpopular with some professors.
“Not surprisingly, a small group of the law school faculty–who stood to be negatively impacted by the routine financial procedures that Dean Bard supported—pushed back intensely,” Berman said. “They took advantage of the change in leadership to the interim provost who had just taken on the appointment from his prior position as the dean of the College-Conservatory of Music. Unfortunately, the interim provost bowed to the pressure of the small group and shut down the voice of sound financial management.”
The University of Cincinnati’s administrative leave policy states that employees may be placed on leave when they are the targets of misconduct allegations, and when their removal from campus maintains the “health, safety or welfare” of employees and students during an investigation.
Bard claims that her situation does not meet that standard.
Bard’s removal stands in contrast to other law deans who have been abruptly removed in recent years—most of those cases involved allegations of sexual misconduct. Deans at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; and Case Western Reserve University School of Law each departed amid sex scandals during the past four years.
Perhaps the closest parallel to Bard’s situation was Annette Clark’s decision to resign the deanship of Saint Louis University School of Law after a year, following numerous clashes with the university’s president over major law school decisions. Clark, now dean at Seattle University School of Law, said publicly that she learned only three days before it was made public that St. Louis university leaders had agreed to relocate the law school campus.
To be sure, many law deans have battled with central university administrators or their own law faculties over a variety of issues, but they are rarely forced out mid-semester, as Bard was.
Contact Karen Sloan at email@example.com. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ