Not poverty law focused: Tony Varona and the University of Miami

This is not poverty law focused but is instead about the University of Miami President’s decision to fire Dean Varona as the dean of the law school.

A blog reader has asked that I share the idea that there should be a virtual picket line to educate anyone who receives (or has already received) an invitation to apply for Miami Law’s (interim) deanship, that solidarity demands declining to succeed Dean Varona in these circumstances.

The firing has been condemned by the AALS’s Minority Group Section’s Executive Committee. And others have noted the absurdity of firing Varona.

Personally, I don’t have a lot to say on this, in part because I consider Tony a friend. From when I first met him, when we were both “junior” (or as we say at American, “pre-tenured”) faculty, it was clear to me that Tony would be a natural dean. He is both thoughtful and charming. He also cares: about students, about colleagues, and about institutions. So his firing was a surprise to those of us who respect him deeply, which is I think why so many faculty members are upset about it.

My own view on a picket line or bar on anyone but Tony serving as Dean is, however, complicated. A law school as an institution needs a dean; more importantly, Miami students need a dean. And the dean ideally should have at least a working relationship with the major players at the university level. I don’t see a way for Miami or an successor dean to move forward with clean hands and heart, but I also suspect the Miami President won’t back down. Rather than a win-win, this looks like a lose-lose all around: for Tony, for the faculty, for faculty governance, for students, for alumni, and for whoever eventually is convinced to come in to replace Tony. So the most I can do is repeat what the blog reader is pointing out, that replacing Tony is and should be a fraught activity, and virtually send a big hug to Tony.

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