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Monday, September 26, 2022

Machen holds private meeting to discuss UF law dean appointment

Behind closed doors, UF president Bernie Machen held a meeting for Levin College of Law faculty and staff to address the postponed law dean search.

At the meeting, which the public and press were not allowed to attend, Machen solicited input from faculty and staff on the search and his proposal for interim dean.

Lyrissa Lidsky, a member of the dean search committee and UF associate dean for international studies at the law college, was one of the more than 60 faculty and staff members present at the meeting.

Lidsky said it’s a pivotal time in the legal profession to be selecting a new dean.

“It was helpful to have the president come and explain the reasons for declaring a failed search,” she said. “As president, he has the broad view of the entire university’s needs at heart.”

Machen proposed that professor George Dawson fill in as interim dean once current dean Bob Jerry vacates his position in June.

Dawson, who has worked at the College of Law for about 33 years, plans to delay his retirement to take on the position.

Dawson said there is a need to fulfill the role, and he is willing to do it.

“There is an awful lot of work to be done,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a fairly challenging job for the next year.”

Jeffrey Harrison, law professor and Stephen C. O’Connell chairman, said Dawson is the best choice for interim dean. But he said his job is a difficult one.

“That position is very challenging because you really don’t have time to carry out any kind of long-term plan, and people know you will be gone in a few months,” he said.

Machen said the official decision for interim dean will be made within the next few days.

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UF originally paid a Los Angeles firm $90,000 to narrow the pool of candidates.

Out of the 24 candidates the firm suggested, three were reviewed by Machen and Provost Joe Glover. Final candidates included University of Kentucky College of Law dean David Brennen, Georgia State University College of Law professor Samuel Donaldson and former U.S. ambassador David Huebner.

During a press conference before the meeting, Machen said he is looking for someone who can help the faculty work through future issues with the changes in the legal profession.

“We want a leader who is going to help the college maintain its position of leadership in Florida and hopefully in this country,” he said.

Kevin Baker, a 23-year-old first-year UF law student, said he feels like all the money spent searching for a new dean has been useless.

“To me it just comes as one big waste,” he said. “We didn’t take the opportunity to move forward and bring in fresh ideas.”

The search failure has students concerned about the reputation of the law college, especially after its ranking recently fell. UF’s law college ranked 49th, compared to FSU at 45th, in the U.S. News & World Report ranking of 2015’s best law schools.

Anthony Kakoyannis, a 22-year-old first-year UF law student, said the search failure and the drop in ranking portrays a negative image of the college.

“It doesn’t make us look so good,” he said. “New students are going to think the school can’t get it together.”

With Machen’s retirement in the near future, the next president may have to take on the task of finding the new law dean.

But Machen said postponing the search may save the college from making the wrong decision now.

“In my experience in administration, the most important cost to consider is the cost of making the right choice for the college at the right time,” he said.

[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 3/19/2014 under the headline "Machen holds private meeting to discuss law dean appointment"]

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