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200 protesters rally against
Duquesne law dean's ouster
Thursday, January 22, 2009
By Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 

Bill Wade/Post-Gazette
About 200 Duquesne University students, including Vince Thompson, left, and Jeff Bannek, center, both third-year law students, demonstrate on campus yesterday afternoon against university President Charles Dougherty and the university's decision to remove Don Guter as law school dean.

A crowd approaching 200 at Duquesne University, most of them law students unhappy over the removal of their dean, marched and rallied yesterday on campus, with some calling for the firing of university President Charles Dougherty.

The noisy mid-afternoon protest that included shouts of "Charlie Dough has got to go!" further escalated a dispute that has roiled the Catholic university since early December, when Don Guter, law dean since 2005, was told to resign within 24 hours or be removed.

His supporters, among them some donors who have withheld support, cite accomplishments under Mr. Guter, including a 97 percent student pass rate among first-time bar exam takers this year. They contend Dr. Dougherty held a personal grudge against the dean over matters including disputes about law school funding and Mr. Guter's support of a faculty member whose tenure bid initially was opposed by the president.

Yesterday, in his first statement on the matter, Dr. Dougherty told law faculty in an e-mail that the removal followed repeated warnings.

"A dean has two fundamental jobs. One is to advocate for his or her school. The other is to perform as a part of the university's administrative team and to effectively manage the school," Dr. Dougherty wrote. "Dean Guter could not and would not accept the second responsibility of his role as dean."

Mr. Guter has said the only hint of job expectations not being met came from Provost Ralph Pearson and involved the need for loyalty to the administration on the order of "absolute obedience." Protesters claim it's consistent with how other deans have been treated.

Former business school Dean James C. Stalder said in an interview this week that the president and provost told him in 2004 his contract would not be renewed, 16 weeks after a favorable job evaluation concluded the dean's decision-making and execution of duties "substantially exceeds expectations."

Mr. Stalder said the reason he was given was lack of faculty support, though a review committee concluded a clear majority of faculty supported his retention.

"He is an insecure guy," Mr. Stalder said of the president, whom he said rebuffed his offers of help meeting donors and did not like his attempt to inform school directors of future financial and recruiting challenges facing the university.

Duquesne spokeswoman Bridget Fare did not address Mr. Stalder's job evaluation or his comments about the president, but she said gains under the new business dean are "evidence that changing leadership of the school was the right decision."

A leaflet distributed by protest organizers that, among other things, described the president as "an academic tyrant" drew a sharp rebuke from the provost, who characterized the claims as "nonsensical" and at odds with the school's core principles. Some protesters countered that it was the school's principles they were trying to defend.