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When David E. Shipley stepped down as dean of the University of Georgia School of Law a week ago, he deliberately closed his door on a rancorous faculty divided by ideological disputes. During the past year, those academics refused to approve two qualified candidates for the school’s faculty. They also criticized and, in the case of some faculty members, protested the graduation speaker law students had chosen: conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Shipley acknowledged that the hiring and graduation speaker controversies were administrative headaches that weren’t unusual in an academic setting — especially for someone like him, who’s spent 13 years as dean at three law schools. Also, over the past two years, belt-tightening in the state budget has forced Shipley to slash 10 percent from the school’s annual budget of about $7 million, he said, and continuing constraints will present problems for his successor. Shipley, who earned $226,000 as dean, said he’d been thinking about resigning since December and decided to do so on short notice to avoid being a “lame duck dean.” He left plans to conduct a comprehensive curriculum review of upper-level courses to his successor. No such review has been done for 15 years, he said. Giving just one month’s notice, he resigned abruptly in June — a year earlier than he’d planned. “There have been plenty of administrative headaches this year,” he said. But he also said that the hiring and Thomas controversies made him want to catch his breath and take a break. Those disputes, he said, didn’t just affect him: They made the faculty appear unprofessional to alumni, students and the outside community. He also said the faculty’s actions upset the provost and others. Indeed, because of the faculty’s discord, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Arnett C. Mace Jr. hasn’t established a dean search committee. Nor has he set a timeline for creating one. He said he won’t move forward in seeking Shipley’s permanent replacement until the law faculty has become “more cohesive in support of the law school than what they are at the current time.” Though Shipley agreed that UGA’s law faculty hasn’t been cohesive, he’ll be joining them when he takes up a teaching post in the fall. Rebecca H. White, a UGA law professor who has been serving as associate provost, became interim dean July 1. SECRET BALLOT NOT SO SECRET The hiring controversy started last year when the faculty couldn’t achieve a two-thirds consensus, as required, to approve two candidates for teaching positions. Both candidates were well-qualified and received majority, but not super-majority, votes from the faculty, according to Mace, Shipley and Thomas A. Eaton, the law school’s chairman of faculty recruitment. “Personnel decisions are supposed to be confidential,” Shipley said. “But what went into people’s voting got out and caused dissension on the faculty and in the student body.” According to Eaton, some teachers leaked word that they objected to the candidates’ perceived conservative bent; both applicants had clerked for conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices. The candidates later were hired by well-ranked law schools, Eaton said. Eaton, who’s been recruitment chairman for three years, acknowledged that faculty disagreements about candidates are not unusual. It’s a fact of life with the “supermajority” requirement, he said. Still, seeing good candidates lose out was difficult. Eaton emphasized that faculty members, who vote by secret ballot, may have been influenced as much by the school’s budget crunch and by their desire to see more candidates presented, as by the candidates’ working for conservative justices. But Eaton added, “A lot of us took it kind of hard. I took it kind of hard. I thought they were both very strong candidates who were going to be very productive and good in the classroom. I was excited about it.” FACULTY DISAPPOINTS DEAN Then came the next controversy. On May 17, Supreme Court Justice Thomas addressed the Class of 2003 at graduation. During commencement, UGA law professor Donald E. Wilkes Jr. led a protest criticizing Thomas’ decisions on criminal procedure, civil rights, civil liberties, the rights of prisoners and the writ of habeas corpus. Shipley voiced disappointment in the faculty for how it handled the issue. The dispute began after three student representatives — who’d been asked to suggest a graduation speaker — chose Thomas. In February, after the students made their selection, some faculty members notified Shipley that they disapproved of that choice, Shipley said. So he sent an e-mail to students and faculty explaining that this was the first time student-body leaders had been involved in the process, that Thomas was their selection and that he’d approved their choice. But months later, in April, Shipley said he received a petition objecting to Thomas’ proposed visit. In a later interview, Wilkes read from the student-written petition: “The process was underinclusive, clandestine and divisive. The result, too, is divisive and is disrespectful of a substantial number of graduating students and their families.” Wilkes said 50 of the law school’s 640 students and 11 professors signed the petition between April 22 and 25. That timing was bad, Shipley said, because classes had ended and exams and the graduation ceremony were only a month away. Shipley said he felt the faculty criticism of the students’ choice was unfair and misdirected, especially when he had made the ultimate decision. What’s more, the graduation-day protest, which Wilkes led at one campus location while Thomas spoke at another, garnered national media attention. “Believe me,” Shipley said, “alumni reaction was very negative” to the criticism of the Supreme Court justice. MORE ‘COHESIVE SUPPORT’ NEEDED The Thomas controversy and the hiring dispute, according to Mace, led him to conclude that the faculty needed to overcome its discord. “We respect and I respect very much a diversity of views,” Mace said. “We need that, desire that, because the better the diversity of views, the better the final decision. But once a decision has been made, the faculty needs to support that decision. It is my opinion, and my opinion only, that there needs to be more cohesive support of the law school than at the current time.” Mace added that he’ll rely on the new interim dean, White, to assess when the faculty has achieved more cohesiveness. He wouldn’t define what indicators of cohesion he was looking for, and White couldn’t be reached for comment on this issue. She did indicate, in an earlier interview unrelated to the faculty discord, that she’s undecided on whether she’ll seek a permanent position as dean. Faculty behavior aside, Shipley praised the students’ handling of both disputes. “I think the students handled the two controversies with real professionalism. They were mature and showed a lot of class,” he said. “They also made it clear to the faculty that it’s important to hire the best people possible.” SHIPLEY’S SCHOOL IMPROVEMENT Still, when Shipley looks back over his five years as UGA’s law dean, he remembers more than controversy and faculty discord. When he accepted the UGA job in 1998, after serving as dean at the University of Kentucky’s law school, he said he wanted to focus on raising money and promoting a student body that was diverse and high in quality. He said he’s accomplished both goals. Last August, former Georgia Gov. Carl E. Sanders pledged $1 million to the school to create an endowed professorship. Shipley was present at the first meeting between UGA’s president and Sanders, and said he believes he played a role in securing the former governor’s contribution. The school plans to use the money to recruit workshop, seminar or semester “Sanders Scholars,” from the public sector, Shipley said. Though UGA’s endowment, at $40 million, is smaller than when Shipley became dean, he attributes its decline to the economy. He did, however, increase annual fund raising from about $400,000 per year to $460,000 to $470,000 per year. This money goes into the “unrestricted spending” category and must be spent on the next year’s budget, he said. As for student diversity, Shipley said 10 percent of the Class of 2005 are black and 19 percent are a member of some minority group. He expects the Class of 2006 to be even more diverse. When he arrived at UGA in 1998, the first-year class was roughly 10 percent black. In prior years, however, black students had made up only 4 percent to 5 percent of the class, he said. Shipley said that one way he supported minority groups was financially. He made sure they had money to travel and develop their talents. For example, when the Black Law Students Association mock trial team recently won a regional competition, he made sure they were able to travel to Los Angeles for the national contest. Also, he added, student quality has improved. In the fall of 1998, the average LSAT score for entering first-years was 160, and the average GPA was 3.51. The current first-year class boasts an LSAT average of 163 and an average GPA of 3.65. Shipley said he took a proactive approach to recruiting top students and used financial incentives. For one, he didn’t let scholarship money go unused. If one scholarship recipient declined attending UGA law, he made sure another student was offered the money. “We let admitted students know we really wanted them to come here,” Shipley said. Also, the applicant pool increased, partially because of a slow economy. It rose from 1,600 his first year to 2,700 this year, and the larger number of applicants from which to choose also increased the school’s ability to select high-quality students, he said. Under Shipley’s watch, the school also has renovated its facilities. Five classrooms and the library’s reading room are wired for laptops, and all students have wireless network cards. He also has created a director of advocacy post. Director Kellie R. Casey teaches appellate advocacy and heads the school’s moot court and mock trial programs. And he helped the school establish a land-use clinic managed by attorney Jamie Baker Roskie, who works with clients to protect natural resources and address growth and development matters. QUALITIES OF SUCCESSFUL DEAN Now that Shipley has stepped down, the issue is who will continue to move the school forward. Though Mace hasn’t set a timeline on forming a search committee for Shipley’s permanent successor, he did say the two main qualities the new dean will need are proven fund-raising abilities and a vision of how to work with faculty and law school supporters to make the school even better next year. Both Mace and Atlanta attorney Brenda J. “B.J.” Bernstein, who sits on the law school’s board of visitors, said Shipley was good at building relationships with alumni. “Immediately upon becoming dean of the law school, he went out all over the state to meet directly with alumni,” she said in a voicemail message to the Fulton County Daily Report. His efforts helped him gain acceptance with alumni in Atlanta and elsewhere in Georgia, Bernstein added. Shipley said he already has started introducing White to alumni and plans to continue that throughout the summer. When Shipley joins the UGA faculty full time in the fall, he’ll teach a remedies course. In the spring, he plans to teach administrative law and hopes eventually to instruct first-year students in the required civil procedure class. During his deanship, Shipley has taught a copyright and intellectual property law seminar that he’ll continue offering, he said. After his five years as dean, Shipley said, he’s ready for a breather. He also is looking forward to “going back to what brought me into teaching in the first place: research and teaching. I’ve got to figure out if I can still do both.”

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