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Plans for law school tabled by BU officials

Plans to open a law school at Binghamton University in 2017 appear to be shelved indefinitely, though administrators have emphasized that plans have not been entirely canceled.

At a Hinman College Council meeting held last Tuesday, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose told attendees that opening a law school is not a viable option for the University at this time.

“There are law schools right now who are not filling up their seats, there are graduates from law schools who aren’t getting jobs, and so the environment right now to found a new law school isn’t a particularly favorable one,” Rose said.

In order to create an accredited law school, the University took steps to gain approval from the New York State Division of the Budget, the SUNY Board of Trustees, the Board of Regents and the governor, as well as the American Bar Association. The University secured $3 million in state funding for the initial design and planning stages of the law school.

Rose indicated that even if all the proper approvals were acquired it would be unlikely that the University would move forward.

“So, whether we get approval or not from the process, that will only begin to move again now to create a law school, or not, and we don’t know the answer to that yet. It’s sort of out of our control,” Rose said at the meeting. “The reality of it is even if we got that approval, we wouldn’t act on it in the predictable future because the environment to found a law school is just not a favorable one.”

Rose said a law school would not currently be a sound investment for the University.

“There’s no timetable for it, but there’s also no urgency for it because if they said ‘yes’ tomorrow, both from a financial point of view and the investment we have to make and the reality of the demand for law school seats, we wouldn’t do anything,” Rose said.

Following the retirement of former President Lois DeFleur and the appointment of Interim President Peter Magrath, the review of proposed plans “just sat,” according to Rose.

In an email to Pipe Dream, University spokeswoman Gail Glover said that the law school plans are not “finished,” however.

Rose, when emailed for comment after the meeting, emphasized that his remarks referred only to the University’s current situation.

“For the sake of reiterating my own comments at the Hinman meeting, I think what I explained was that the environment to create a law school was not currently favorable and that if we secured approval to establish a law school ‘tomorrow,’ we would be unlikely to act on that right now,” Rose wrote in the email.

President Harvey Stenger said in a prepared statement that he will take time to consider whether to move forward with the creation of a law school.

“In my two months as president, I have learned much from our faculty, staff, students, alumni and community leaders about many aspects of our great University, but not enough to make decisions at the scale of a Juris Doctor degree,” Stenger said. “I believe it will take me several more months of collaborative discussions before I have enough information to endorse the creation of programs that will have the transformational impact equivalent to a J.D. program.”

The “Our Plans for a Law School” page on the University’s website is currently down, but the website still includes several posts about the possibility of a law school, including one from Feb. 7, 2008.

“Binghamton University is moving forward with its proposal to establish a law school as the next logical step for the University as it expands educational opportunities for students,” the post began.

Correction: Jan. 27, 2012

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Brian Rose as Binghamton University’s vice president for academic affairs. He is actually the vice president for student affairs.