Cincinnati law dean settles suit against university and resigns, reportedly with full salary

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Jennifer Bard, the dean of University of Cincinnati College of Law who was placed on administrative level after faculty members discussed a vote of no confidence, has settled her lawsuit with the school and resigned as its dean, according to a press release (PDF) issued by Bard lawyers Krantz & Berman.

According to the federal complaint (PDF) filed April 21 in Southern District of Ohio, a specific job responsibility as dean of the law school was to reduce its deficit. Bard alleged that a group of law professors, most of whom held endowed chairs, threatened to take a no confidence vote about her to the press. The alleged threat reportedly followed a November 2016 meeting, where Bard disclosed that the law school’s operating funds were being used to pay salary supplements for the endowed professorships. Endowments are supposed to fully cover the additional pay, according to Bard’s court filing.

Under the settlement, Bard agreed to withdraw her constitutional rights and breach of contract claims against the school in exchange for two years of academic leave, a tenured professor spot at the law school and a secondary appointment at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, according to the press release. It also states that Bard will retain her full salary as dean—which is reportedly $300,000 a year—while she holds the professor positions. She joined the law school in July 2015 and has a five-year contract for the dean position.

The university was not available for comment at press time.

On May 1, Verna Williams, a professor at the law school, was named as its interim leader and special assistant to the provost, the News Record reported at the time.

“This is an exciting time to be engaged in health law, and I look forward to the opportunities that this academic leave provides for me to contribute to the national conversation” Bard stated in the release. “I wish much success to all our students, alumni, faculty and staff and to Verna Williams as she takes over the reins of the College of Law. It is an honor to be on the faculty of this historic law and medical school.”

Other proposed law school cost-cutting measures from Bard reportedly included integrating the law library with the university system, as well as written pre-travel approval and receipts for law school faculty. According to Bard, there was an agreement to bring in a mediator to address the work she was hired to do along with with faculty members’ concerns.

Neither Bard nor the law school have disclosed how much the law school is in debt, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported in March. Bard reportedly described it as “multimillion-dollar” in a March 15 letter to faculty.

Much of a March 19 article by the Courier came from an open records request to the university, according to Bard’s complaint. After that piece was published, Bard provided the publication with additional information about “underlying tensions” at the law school, including the March 15 letter. The paper wrote a follow-up piece, with Bard’s response, on March 21. The next day, she was placed on administrative leave.

According to an affidavit (PDF) from Christo Lassiter, a professor at the university’s law and graduate criminal justice schools, law school faculty were told by the university’s interim provost that Bard had “no skeletons,” had done “nothing illegal” and there were no “ethical or moral issues” regarding the situation.

Bard, a Yale Law School graduate who also has a master’s degree in public health and a Ph.D. in higher education, is the first woman to serve as the law school’s dean. Under her leadership, the law school rose 22 places on the 2017 U.S. News & World Report law school rankings list, to No. 60, an earlier Courier article reported.




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