Shining Light on the Dean Selection Process

USD Law Dean Kevin Cole, speaking at 2010 Orientation

The procedure for appointing a new Law School Dean is set forth in the Law School’s Rules on Rank and Tenure. Section IV-L provides that the Dean of the law school shall be appointed by the President of the law school pursuant to the recommendations of the law school faculty. The text of the provision requires that the full-time law school faculty hold a majority vote and to then inform the President which candidates are acceptable and which the faculty prefers. To oversee and implement the search, a committee has been formed and is chaired by Associate Dean Wiggins. Professors Miranda McGowan, Frank Partnoy, Larry Alexander, Donald Dripps, and Lesley McAllister are also on the committee, along with student and alumni representatives.

The search for a new Dean is currently in the initial stages—gathering information and assessing the overall field of candidates. During the initial consulting phase, the search committee reaches out to faculty, alumni, and the student body to determine what the USD Law community considers important in a new Dean. At a recent student outreach event, the search committee invited students to share their views on characteristics important to consider in selecting a new Dean. Students suggested the following characteristics: improving job prospects; raising the law school’s ranking; increasing funding for extra-curricular activities, moot court and mock-trial opportunities, clinics, and journals; supporting diversity; and being generally open and receptive to new ideas.

Once the committee has an idea of what to look for, the public outreach phase begins. The law school will advertise for the position as well as contact potential candidates based on recommendations made by law school students and alumni. At the end of this stage, the committee will create a formal list of about a dozen candidates that are being seriously considered for the position and begin the evaluation process. Associate Dean Wiggins has mentioned that if students know of any likeable Deans with four years or more experience to contact her so they may be considered for the position.

Evaluating candidates for the office of the Dean will first consist in a series of “airport interviews” where interested candidates are flown in from around the country and interviewed briefly. Then, once the field has been narrowed to 4-6 finalists, the candidates will be revealed to the public, and they will come to campus to participate in a more intensive two-day interview process. USD Law students will have a chance to personally meet all the finalists and participate in the selection process.

The selection committee will then conclude its task and make its final recommendation to the Provost. Subsequently, the faculty will be tasked with voting on all the candidates in two aspects: First, the faculty votes on which candidates they would find acceptable. Second, the faculty votes in order of preference if more than one candidate is deemed acceptable.

The University and the School of Law hope to extend an offer to a Dean candidate and begin salary negotiations by February of next year. The new Dean would ideally start work in the summer of 2011. Until then, stay tuned to find out how you can next participate in the selection process.

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