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April, alleged to be the cruelest month, was exceedingly good for Michelle J. Anderson. “All in one fell swoop,” as she characterized the last two hectic weeks, Ms. Anderson was married in a small outdoor ceremony held in the Mendocino redwoods of northern California and appointed dean of the City University of New York School of Law after a year-long national search. “In addition to being ridiculously happy with one another,” Ms. Anderson said in a phone interview, speaking as well for Gavin McCormick, the bridegroom, “we’re both thrilled to be coming to live in New York.” Professor Anderson will leave Villanova University School of Law, outside Philadelphia, to take over at CUNY Law on July 1. Mr. McCormick, a journalism professor at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey, will likewise join the faculty of Queens College, immediately adjacent to his wife’s campus in Flushing. “And get this,” said Ms. Anderson, 39, “my job comes with a house in Douglaston.” The CUNY-owned, pre-war stucco and woodframe house off Douglaston Parkway had been used for many years as residence for the presidents of York College, a liberal arts school within the university system. Since the current York president, Marcia V. Keizs, lives in a private home, the Douglaston residence was available for Ms. Anderson, who will earn a $200,000 salary as the fourth dean of CUNY Law, founded in 1983. While Ms. Anderson may be honeymooning now � in the professional sense, as well as marital � the job of running CUNY Law comes with politics as prickly as any available in what is surely America’s most contentious city. The school’s mission to train poverty lawyers, its distinctly left-of-center faculty and its frequent place at the bottom rank of bar examination pass-rates among the 15 law campuses of New York state have all drawn fierce review at one time or another. In an editorial in February 2004, for instance, the New York Post excoriated CUNY Law for its erratic record of student bar exam passage scores, which have ranged from a low of 50 percent in 2002 to a high of 74 percent in 2000. With reference to a deceased civil rights and criminal defense attorney who represented a host of controversial clients, the Post called for the closure of the law school, labeling it a “significant drag on the university’s otherwise remarkable academic turnaround” with tendencies that would foster “a new generation of William Kunstlers.” Since 1998, when she joined the faculty of Villanova Law, Ms. Anderson has taught criminal law and procedure, children’s law and feminist legal theory. She co-chaired the school’s Inclusiveness Commission, which developed programs to recruit and retain minority students, and led a series of faculty workshops on diversity issues. She describes her personal politics as “progressive.” Ms. Anderson was one of three finalists for the deanship. The other two were politically connected New Yorkers � Margarita Rosa, executive director of Grand Street Settlement who served in the administrations of former Governor Mario M. Cuomo and former Mayor David N. Dinkins, and former State Senator Catherine Abate, D-Manhattan. Bar Pass Rates As for CUNY Law’s bar pass statistics, Ms. Anderson noted substantial changes put into place three years ago by the CUNY Board of Trustees, headed by Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. Beginning in 2004, the school stopped accepting applicants with mediocre LSAT scores and imposed a minimum grade-C average � on penalty of academic recess. At the time, such changes were resisted by some faculty members on grounds that CUNY Law should be open to foreign-born and low-income applicants whose scholarly credentials might be weak by mainstream standards but whose prospects as committed public service lawyers seemed bright. “The bar pass-rate has to improve, and it has to be more consistent over time,” said Ms. Anderson, who acknowledged discussions about the problem during talks with faculty. “I’m coming in with the hope that some of the recent changes produce some good results.” She added, “Right now, I don’t have an ‘Anderson regime’ plan. But one of my roles is going to be getting the word out that there are ways CUNY Law School is ranked at the very top in the nation.” Ms. Anderson cited last year’s U.S. News & World Report magazine’s category rankings of America’s 100 top law schools, in which CUNY Law was rated fifth in clinical law programs � ahead of prestigious Yale Law School, Ms. Anderson’s alma mater. She termed CUNY Law an “extraordinary success story for a school so resource-strapped, so young, so committed to public interest, one of the most diverse schools in the country, and absolutely at the top of its game in the teaching of practical clinical courses.” Thomas Adcock can be reached at [email protected]

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