Massachusetts, one of six states without a public law school, edged a step closer to getting one as UMass officials revived a plan to acquire the private Southern New England School of Law, four years after the state Board of Higher Education rejected a similar, controversial move.
UMass President Jack Wilson received a letter last week from trustees chairwoman at the 235-student school offering to enter into discussions that could lead to the donation of its assets to UMass Dartmouth, higher education officials said today. Under the terms of the possible donation, UMass would receive cash assets and the campus that now houses the 235-student law school. The offer is valued at approximately $22.6 million.
ďItís a reasonable thing that Massachusetts will one day want to consider having a public law school," Wilson said. "But is this the time and is this the place and the way? Thatís not determined yet.Ē
Wilson has asked UMass Dartmouth officials to review the relevant academic, financial and legal issues and come up with a proposal by mid-November.
The step to acquire the private law school in Dartmouth, which is not accredited by the American Bar Association, threatens to rekindle the bitter dispute of 2005. The most vocal opponents of the plan were two private Boston schools, Suffolk University Law School and New England School of Law. Both said at the time that the new school would cost taxpayers millions while burdening the state with more law schools than it needs.
UMass leaders say the schools are afraid of competition.
In her letter to Wilson, Margaret Xifaras, chairwoman of the Board of Trustees at Southern New England School of Law, said: "We agreed to take this unusual step as we are persuaded that the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth ... has the leadership commitment and management experience, particularly in the area of accreditation, to responsibly shepherd the establishment of a public law school program."
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