On Wednesday, Annette Clark, the dean of St. Louis University School of Law has resigned after being just a year on the job and has expressed plans to return to teaching as a tenured faculty member. In her resignation letter, Annette Clark brought up multiple issues she had with the president of SLU, Father Lawrence Biondi.
Clark’s letter to Father Biondi mentions, “From the beginning of my deanship, you have evinced hostility toward the law school and its faculty and have treated me dismissively and with disrespect, issuing orders and edicts that allowed me virtually no opportunity to exercise the very discretion, judgment and experience for which you and the faculty enthusiastically hired me.”
While it seems to be an apparent conflict over providing authority and discretionary space to each other, Father Biondi has often been criticized as high-handed, but a person who got things done. On the other hand, Annette Clark has her own host of admirers and supporters.
The news posted on the ABA journal drew comments from former colleagues of Annette Clark who extended their support and criticized authoritarian attitudes of Catholic leaders.
A commenter on the ABA journal had this to say about Annette: “While a member of the faculty and the administration at Seattle University School of Law, a Jesuit institution, Annette Clark’s performance was nothing short of brilliant. Legions of students, alumni, and professional colleagues can attest to this fact; and they no doubt are as shocked and saddened as I by the treatment Dean Clark received while at St. Louis University. (I had the privilege of serving as associate dean for advancement for a number of years when Annette was associate dean for academic affairs, so I speak with considerable knowledge of her exceptional capabilities.)
Apparently, the conflict escalated over the acquisition of a building for law students, which according to the dean was totally unsuitable for the purpose. In her letter to Biondi, Clark accuses, “You acquired the building downtown and deemed it to be the new law school building without adequate investigation of its suitability and without any notice or consultation with the law school leadership.”