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LOS ANGELES-Students at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law are protesting an apparent about-face in university policy that prohibits students from having a representative on the search committee for a new dean. The dean search committee is the second to be convened since Matthew L. Spitzer announced that he would resign on July 1 after six years as dean of USC’s law school. After the first committee failed to come up with a replacement, USC officials appointed law professor Edward McCaffery as interim dean and formed a new search committee. But this time, the students noticed a big difference. “We had a student on the committee last year and there isn’t one this year,” said Marc Berman, vice president of the Student Bar Association at USC and a second-year student at the law school. “That hasn’t been explained to us by the administration. We’ve just been told its administration policy.” 450 signatures The new committee held its first meeting in August, said Jack Knott, dean of the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, and chairman of the new dean search committee. Committee members expect to have a new dean in place by the time the 2007 fall semester begins, Knott said. To gain input during the search process, they met in recent weeks with USC faculty, staff, alumni and students.On Sept. 27, students gave committee members a petition seeking to have a representative on the committee. The petition had 450 signatures, or about 65% of the law school’s student body, Berman said. Committee members told students that having a student representative on the committee would violate university policy, he said. “Having a student on the committee serves the student body as a whole and shows the administration really cares and will take into consideration the concerns of the study body,” Berman said. “It was frustrating to us that it turned out this year there wasn’t one.” Scott Altman, associate dean at USC and a member of the committee, responded to questions about the apparent change in university policy by saying, “Like most universities, the dean search is conducted by the president and provost of the university, and they set the rules.” Further calls to Altman and Knott were referred to Susan Heitman, associate vice president of university public relations for USC, whose calls were referred to James Grant, executive director of media relations at USC. In an e-mail, Grant said that students are invited to attend forums with the finalists. He declined to explain the apparent change in university policy. About 80% of law schools looking for a new dean in the past five years had a student on the dean search committee, said Jeff Lawson, vice chair for student bar associations for the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division. Of those, about 75% are from top-tier law schools, he said. USC ranked No. 17 in America’s Best Graduate Schools 2007 in U.S. News & World Report. “Law schools understand that students should be able to partake in the process,” said Lawson.

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