DCL alumni, staff back proposed integration


The State News
March 19, 2004


Geoffrey Fieger


A well-known alumnus from MSU-DCL College of Law said he supports Provost Lou Anna Simon's proposed integration of the school with the university.

Geoffrey Fieger, MSU-DCL alumnus and former defense lawyer for Dr. Jack Kevorkian, said the integration is a great idea and a long time coming.

"I think it's inevitable that Michigan State lay claim on the law school," said Fieger, who graduated from the law school in 1979. "I think it was inevitable, and part of the progression is to make this very good law school into an international one."

As part of Simon's liberal arts reorganization blueprint, MSU-DCL would be renamed Michigan State University College of Law. Under the proposal, MSU-DCL would act as any other college in the university, but would retain its own financial responsibility.

The partnership between the law school and MSU began in 1995 when the college moved onto campus and became the Detroit College of Law at MSU. The college was referred to as the MSU-Detriot College of Law in 2000 and changed names again in 2002 to the MSU-DCL College of Law.

Fieger, who gave a $4 million donation to DCL in 2001 to create the Geoffrey Fieger Trial Practice Institute, said the name of the school is inconsequential as long as the merger strengthens both academic units.

"Keeping the name is meaningless," he said. "The school is in Lansing; it needs to be identified with Michigan State."

The proposed integration is scheduled to be voted on by the MSU Board of Trustees on April 14 and the MSU-DCL Board of Trustees on April 16.

MSU-DCL Board of Trustees President Clifton Haley characterized the integration as a gain for both schools.

Haley, an MSU-DCL alumnus, said he did not think that alumni would felt alienated, but instead would welcome the changes.

"Without exception, all of the alumni that I have talked to in meetings overwhelmingly are supportive of the closer alignment and recognize that if you're going to look like, be like, act like a constituent college, then your name ought to represent what you are to the world," he said.

Faculty are embracing the change as well, said Robert Filiatrault, MSU-DCL professor and alumnus.

"I think everyone is excited about it," he said. "Obviously, becoming affiliated with a Big Ten school gives opportunities to students they wouldn't have otherwise and it gives us national recognition."

A 1969 Detroit College of Law graduate and a professor for more than 30 years, Filiatrault said the proposal is the best for both the university and MSU-DCL.

"The state Legislature is not anxious to take on the funding of another law school," he said.

MSU-DCL student Jacquelin Smith she doesn't have a problem with integrating the school, but she's "not sure how much farther integration could go."

But MSU-DCL student Veronica Valentine said that while some are concerned about a loss of the Detroit College of Law's history through the changes, she believes the integration only would improve what the school could offer.

"The reason I came here was that I wanted to experience the amenities of a Big Ten school," she said. "I welcome the changes."