Jennifer Bard, the embattled dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, has agreed to resign her deanship in exchange for receiving two years of academic pay at her full dean salary—$300,000.
Bard will retain her position on the law school faculty under a settlement reached May 6 that resolves the lawsuit she filed against the university in April, according to an announcement she issued Monday. Bard’s federal lawsuit alleged that Interim Provost Peter Landgren improperly placed her on administrative leave in March after she clashed with some members of the law faculty over proposed budget cuts. The settlement also ends Bard’s administrative leave, which she claimed hurt her academic reputation because she was never accused of any wrongdoing.
“This settlement demonstrates that Landgren had no basis whatsoever to place Bard on administrative leave and his doing so was wholly unjustified and completely inappropriate,” said Bard’s attorney, Marjorie Berman. “Dean Bard did what the university asked of her in a professional manner with the support of students, alumni, donors, and many faculty and staff.”
University spokesman Greg Vehr said the school would like to “move forward constructively,” but disagreed with Bard’s version of events. “Comments being made by Ms. Bard’s counsel should not be taken at face value, and we dispute their accuracy and truthfulness,” he said.
Bard was hired away from Texas Tech University School of Law and became Cincinnati’s first female law dean in 2015, for what was to be a five-year term. Bard claims that closing a “multimillion” operating budget shortfall was among the mandates she received from central university administrators when hired.
Bard’s efforts to cut costs ruffled some members of the law faculty, according to her suit, filed April 21 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. A cohort of faculty rebelled against her bid to tighten control over faculty travel and merge the law library into the university’s central library system, among other cost-cutting moves, she claimed. She alleged “gross mismanagement of public funds” at the law school, including outdated and inefficient admissions and scholarship allocation practices.
The law school is currently ranked No. 72 by U.S. News & World Report, down 12 spots from the previous year.
Tensions rose after Bard gave a presentation to the faculty in November about her budget proposals, and Landgren asked her to resign in by Dec. 14, according to the suit. She refused, and instead entered into an agreement to improve her relations with the faculty through mediation. Her suit claimed that what was to be mediation turned instead into an investigation aimed at generating evidence to support her firing.
The faculty squabbles went public on March 19, when the Cincinnati Business Courier wrote an article saying a faction of the faculty had threatened to hold a vote of no confidence against Bard. In a follow-up article, Bard defended her leadership, and Landgren placed her on administrative leave the following day, March 22.
“Although I enjoyed the support of the students and many highly talented faculty and staff, the university now seems committed to seeing a small, entitled minority of faculty hijack reform efforts that should be dedicated solely to the welfare of its students,” she wrote in her complaint, which claimed due process and First Amendment violations and breach of contract. She had sought reinstatement as dean.
Bard said Monday that she would use her two-year academic leave to re-engage with her writing and research, and will pursue other administrative opportunities within the legal academy.
“This is an exciting time to be engaged in health law and I look forward to the opportunities that this academic leave provides for me to contribute to the national conversation,” she said. “I wish much success to all our students, alumni, faculty and staff and to [Interim Law Dean] Verna Williams as she takes over the reins of the College of Law.”
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @KarenSloanNLJ