Interim Dean: Law School Needs Faculty Unity, New External Dean

 

She hesitates to call it a crisis but concedes it is a word one might use when a university president forces a dean’s resignation mid-semester.

Stefanie Lindquist has been serving as interim dean of the UT Law School since UT president Bill Powers asked former dean Larry Sager to step down last week. Concerns raised about Sager’s leadership centered on compensation issues—from gender pay equity to a $500,000 “forgivable loan” from the Law School Foundation to Sager himself.

Previously an associate dean, Lindquist is pleasant, hyper-articulate, and by all accounts well respected. On Friday, she described the efforts she’ll take during the next semester to promote faculty consensus, reach out to alumni and students, protect the school’s reputation, and search for a new dean.

“The ship has been righted,” she said. “We just need to address administrative and management concerns before we move full steam ahead.”

The faculty had been “fractured,” Lindquist acknowledged. And while a budget subcommitee on gender pay equity will continue the work it started in September, making salaries more equitable “could very well be a multi-year process,” she said.

But in the nearer term, more meetings, talk, and interaction among faculty will be forthcoming, she added, and a new management team will be announced quickly. “Once we resolve some of the immediate concerns, we’ll reunite behind our common mission [of educating], I think,” she said.

No law school would seek the kind of press UT Law has received in the wake of Sager’s resignation, but Lindquist has reached out to key alumni individually and sought to reassure students that she will work to protect the school’s reputation.

In an email to students this week, the interim dean expressed commitment to delivering an excellent education at the law school, which rose from 15th to 14th in the national rankings during Sager’s tenure.

“Although the law school will thus be transitioning to new leadership, our central mission remains the same: to provide you with the highest quality legal education possible,” she wrote. “The change in leadership will not affect that mission; the faculty, staff and administration are committed to ensuring that these unfortunate events do not adversely impact your educational experience at the University of Texas. Dean Sager brought many positive changes to this law school. We hope to build on those accomplishments in the future.”

Meanwhile, Lindquist’s position as part of the search committee “absolutely” takes her out of the running to be named permanent dean, she said—and she wants it that way. The committee’s work began in the fall—Sager had already planned to step down at the end of the academic year—but has picked up speed.

“An external dean will bring in new, fresh ideas, which I think we could use,” she said. “We didn’t hire any new faculty last year. Law schools thrive on visitors and speakers and things like that. We’re committed to this.”

Photo courtesy the UT School of Law

 

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