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Phillip Closius, dean of the University of Baltimore School of Law, resigned abruptly on July 29 at the request of university President Robert Bogomolny, according to a letter Closius e-mailed to the law school community. His dismissal was prompted by a long-running dispute with university administrators over the amount of law school-generated money demanded by the larger university, the letter said. According to Closius, the university retained 45% of the revenue generated by the law school during the 2010-11 academic year — well more than the industry standard, he said. “For the most recent academic year (AY 10-11), our tuition increase generated $1,455,650 in additional revenue,” Closius wrote. “Of that amount, the School of Law budget increased by only $80,774. I do not know of any law school in the country receiving such a small percentage of its generated tuition revenue.” The university issued a formal statement saying it was not legally permitted to discuss personal matters. “As the community is aware, the UB School of Law and the University of Baltimore have made remarkable progress during the past decade. This forward momentum will continue,” the statement read. The practice of the “tax” — the amount of money law schools are expected to turn over to their larger universities for non-law school purposes — has been a source of controversy in the past. The Baltimore flap was reminiscent of a 2009 dispute at the DePaul University College of Law. Former Dean Glen Weissenberger was ousted by University Provost Helmutt Epp after battling over the amount of money the law school would retain. Weissenberger had brought the matter, and the alleged lack of accuracy in the reported figures, to the attention of the American Bar Association’s law school accreditation committee. Weissenberger’s dismissal proved unpopular with students and faculty. Closius’ removal came as a shock to the students, said Rachel Severance, a member of the Student Bar Association at Baltimore. “Everyone is really worked up right now,” she said. “[Closius] has been aggressive in fighting for us. If everything he wrote in that e-mail is true, it’s a very big concern.” Student Bar Association leaders planned to meet with administrators next week to discuss their next move, and to try to obtain more detailed information about the law school’s finances. “We want to get to the bottom of what’s going on,” Severance said. “We have to figure out, as the SBA, how we’re going to approach the [university] president.” As it did at DePaul, it appears that the ABA played a role in the funding fight at Baltimore. The law faculty studied the school’s finances as part of the standard ABA accreditation process that occurs every seven years. According to Closius’ letter, university administrators had been reluctant to provide the full details of where the law school-generated revenue was going and what its costs were, and the faculty study highlighted concerns over the percentage of revenue going to the larger university. “In the past year, I distributed the financial data I had to the faculty and the Dean’s Advisory Board in order to inform them about the increasing scope of the problem,” Closius wrote. “Both bodies were concerned about the continued ability of the law school to reach its potential without sufficient funding and the inequity of charging law students increasingly high tuition and fees if a significant percentage of those funds were not directly benefiting the law school.” Closius noted that in-state tuition had increased by 70% during the past seven years, and out-of-state tuition by 48%. After visiting the Baltimore law campus, the ABA’s accreditation committee requested a full report by March 2012 explaining the amount of law school-generated money spent for non-law-school activities, according to the letter. Closius wrote that he was asked to resign the day after that ABA issued its request. Closius and university administrators also apparently clashed over fundraising for the law school’s new building, now under construction. Closius wrote that he worked for nearly a year to secure a donor gift of $10 million — an amount requested by Bogomolny — only to see the university president reject the donation and set a higher, $20 million figure. The donor declined to pay the difference, Closius wrote. The new building will be named for the parents of a different donor, Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, an alumnus of the law school who ended up giving $10 million — the amount previously requested, according to Closius. Closuis became dean in 2007. At the time, he wrote, he was aware that a large percentage of law school revenue was turned over to the university, but had been “assured by the President at that time that he was aware of the problem and would work with me to remedy it,” he wrote. Before taking the deanship at Baltimore, Closius taught at the University of Toledo College of Law, where he was dean from 1999 to 2007. During his time at Baltimore, the school’s ranking by U.S. News & World Report has risen and its bar passage rate has increased. “He wasn’t just a great leader for the law school, as evidenced by his many achievements over the past four years,” Severance said. “He was involved with the students as well — from dinners with student leaders, to acting as a faculty advisor for journal articles, to mooting moot court teams, and even playing basketball with students on a regular basis. We will all miss him.” Karen Sloan can be contacted at [email protected].

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