Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Friday, November 16, 2018

WCL students circulate online petition to oust dean following drop in rankings

Washington College of Law students and alumni have started a petition on Change.org for the removal of Dean Claudio Grossman and a complete overhaul of the Office of Career and Professional Development after WCL recently fell out of the top 50 law schools in the nation in US News & World Report.

WCL fell from No. 49 in 2013 to No. 56 in the 2014 US News & World Report’s Best Law Schools rankings.

WCL’s employment at graduation rate was 36.4 percent, according to US News. In comparison, George Washington Law School’s employment at graduation rate was 81.7 percent and Georgetown University Law Center’s rate was 63.7 percent.

“Aside from the likely unemployment and crippling debt they face, they [students] now will also be graduating with a degree from a ‘second-tier’ school,” read the petition.

Students and alumni are asking for the removal of Grossman because they claim he has refused to take the necessary measures to maintain the school’s rankings amongst the nation’s law schools, firms and other employers, according to the petition.

The Office of Career and Professional Development is struggling to help students find careers in the field of law, which is evident in the school’s employment statistics, Colten Hall, the AU Student Bar Association student services committee chairperson, said in an email.

“The rankings impact the decision by prospective students to attend WCL, our ability to get jobs after school and our prestige amongst the legal community,” Hall said.

Students understand that a portion of the ranking criterion used by US News is subjective, but employment statistics are an important factor that US News takes into consideration, Hall said.

WCL tells students to examine rating techniques

US News places significant weight on the percentage of law school graduates who get jobs that require law degrees, which has also hurt WCL’s rankings, Anthony Varona, associate dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs at WCL, said in an email. However, students should look at the methods that US News uses, he said.

“It is important to note that the manner in which US News incorporates employment data into its overall rankings does not accurately and fully account for our recent graduates’ endeavors,” Varona said in an email. Many WCL alums have successful careers that are not traditional legal jobs, Varona said. This means that they do not count in the calculation of overall rankings, he said.

Additionally, many WCL graduates go on to pursue additional degrees, but for the purpose of computing the overall ranking by US News, these graduates are counted as “unemployed,” Varona said.

WCL was second in clinical education, fifth in international law, eighth in intellectual property and 10th in the nation for their part-time program. The law school also ranked 28th in the nation in the “Law School Diversity Index,” which is not factored into rankings, Varona said.

The school has hired a consultant to help them evaluate and implement improvements in the career development programs and services, according to Varona. WCL is also formalizing a new career program which is aimed at preparing all first-year students for obtaining internships and summer jobs as well as opportunities for permanent employment after graduation.

tdalcourt@theeagleonline.com


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