The Daily Gamecock

Law school struggles: Administration seeks solutions

School wants to increase building funding, find new dean, improve internal regulations, rules

Editor's note: This story is the final installment of a three-day look into USC’s Law School. Monday’s story focused on internal issues within the school. Yesterday’s story looked at the deteriorating building and the stalled effort to construct a new one.

University leaders say they’re committed to fixing the beleaguered institution.

But can they do it?

A new building would cost about $85 million, and the school currently has about $25 million ready, said Student Bar Association President Philip Land. Provost Michael Amiridis and President Harris Pastides have promised a facilities decision within months. Either the school will completely overhaul the current building or begin work on a new one.

In the Blue Ribbon Panel report, USC was urged to “either paint or get off the ladder.” But how it will paint is unclear. In an interview with The Daily Gamecock, Law School Dean Walter “Jack” Pratt said it’s the responsibility of the school to convince alumni that the Legislature won’t pay for the project. Land disagrees.

“We don’t need to ask our alumni for more money,” Land said.

Currently, the school is one of the worst funded law schools in the country. A look at its budget shows it essentially operates as a private institution, receiving almost 90 percent of its funding from tuition and fees. Its total spending for the past year was between $13 and $14 million. Almost $12 million came from the pockets of students.

“To be a top-100 law school, we need top-100 funding,” Land said. “If we want to be a top-50 law school, we need top-50 funding.”

But there’s little money to be had, and an uptick in state funding isn’t expected.

Amiridis said the University will give the school’s new dean a “start-up package” to begin new initiatives, make crucial hires and develop a plan for the school. He’s also working with the school to change the internal regulations and rules for faculty and administrators.

“We have to be more flexible, more modern, if you wish,” Amiridis said. “In today’s environment, that’s just the way it works.”

The dean search is going well — extremely well, actually, Land said. That was confirmed by Amiridis. Both Land and Amiridis want a visionary leader with experience, and they’re confident the school will find one.

Land is convinced the University’s central administration is committed to fixing the problems of the Law School. His interactions with Amiridis have been overwhelmingly positive, he said.

“I encourage student activism,” Amiridis said. “When I worry is when students aren’t talking to me and I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t fix a problem if I don’t know about it.”

Land said he remains committed to the school.

“It still has a great reputation in our state, and I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” he said. “Even though we have problems currently, I have all confidence we’re going to excel in time. It’s simply the students’ responsibility as well to play a part in seeing that happens.”

Part II: Damaged building hurts credibility