The Saint Louis University School of Law is caught up in administrative turmoil for the second time in eight months.
Interim dean Tom Keefe resigned abruptly on March 4, citing his habit of making inappropriate comments and a fraught relationship with the school’s faculty.
Keefe — a local plaintiffs attorney with no previous experience in academia — was appointed in August when former dean Annette Clark resigned after clashing with University President Lawrence Biondi over law school funding and autonomy.
Keefe immediately ruffled feathers when he told a reporter that he was not Biondi’s "butt boy" and announced that he would maintain his private law practice while serving as dean. Keefe is a longtime supporter of the law school and a friend of Biondi.
Keefe’s departure was met by conflicting reports within the St. Louis news media. St. Louis Public Radio initially reported that he had been fired, although Keefe denied that in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and a university spokesman also said he was not asked to leave.
One faculty member who spoke to The National Law Journal said that Keefe had been planning his exit for some time and had not been forced out. However, Keefe had not informed Biondi or the faculty before telling reporters that he was stepping down, said the faculty member, who asked not to be named.
"Our tears are not deep," said the faculty member, noting that Keefe never really grasped how a law faculty functions, but did a better job at relating to students.
Keefe acknowledged that he was not a good fit for the job, telling the Post-Dispatch that he and the tenured faculty members were "like oil and water." He also acknowledged making comments that others found inappropriate or that could be seen as sexual harassment.
"I have chosen to step down because obviously there have been statements made about things I have done, and in all likelihood I’ve done them all," Keefe told the Post-Dispatch. "The problem is, I’m just too politically incorrect to be a dean."
The university has said it would not name a new interim dean as it is in the final stages of naming a new permanent dean. The two finalists are faculty member and former Missouri Supreme Court Judge Michael Wolff and Armstrong Teasdale partner Anthony "A.J." Chivetta.
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