Ave Maria Will Move to Ave Maria:

It is now official that the Ave Maria School of Law will move from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Ave Maria, Florida. Paul Caron rounds up some coverage and commentary of the school's controversial decision.

My prior posts on Ave Maria's potential move, as JNoV, are here.

uh clem (mail):
Goodbye from Ann Arbor.

Don't let the door hit you in the ass.
2.21.2007 4:04pm
Falafalafocus (mail):
Well um.. More power to you, Ave Maria. I just wonder pragmatically speaking if Florida can handle the load. FIU and FAMU have just received accreditation and St. Thomas (which is located on the east coast in Broward County/Fort Lauderdale) already claims to be the (private) Florida Catholic law school.
2.21.2007 4:25pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
"It is now official that the Ave Maria School of Law will move from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Ave Maria, Florida."

Is the Ave Maria/Ave Maria thing coincidental or did they re-name the school in anticipation of the move?
2.21.2007 4:51pm
Ron Mexico:
Ave Maria law school was in Ann Arbor b/c that's where Domino's is headquartered. It was founded and is funded by their founder (Tom Monaghan). He wanted to build his ideal Catholic community in Ann Arbor, but the town balked. So he picked up everything and moved it down to Florida, building Ave Maria (the town) down there. The law school didn't seem to want to move---there were some threats about Monaghan pulling funding if they stayed in Ann Arbor. The whole thing is rather fascinating, along with Regent and Liberty. Not my cup of tea personally, but its interesting to watch schools trying to aggressively become elite universities while holding onto strict religious beliefs. I don't think it will ever happen in large part because I don't think there are enough top students who are interested in that type of education and environment. But interesting nonetheless.

(the only reason I know anything about Ave Maria is because of an excellent article in this week's New Yorker which I happened to read last night). I thought the complaints from the faculty were interesting---they tend to be treated like employees, tenure concerns, even trying to institute a dress code. Sounds like you'll have trouble attracting top talent.
2.21.2007 5:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
Monaghan thought that because he 'owns' the town of Ave Maria, FL, he could ban the sale of condoms and porno magazines within town limits. He learned really fast that in the US, you can not set up a theocracy on public land.

At least not yet. I hear that's part of the core curriculum.
2.21.2007 5:10pm
Cornellian (mail):
Monaghan thought that because he 'owns' the town of Ave Maria, FL, he could ban the sale of condoms and porno magazines within town limits.

Such prohibitions will undoubtedly make the place a smashing success with the college age crowd.....
2.21.2007 5:35pm
Ken Kukec (mail):
Should prove convenient for the chief judge of the Southern District; a high proportion of his law clerks are Ave Maria grads.
2.21.2007 6:22pm
The very fact that Monaghan thought that he would be able to build his perfect Catholic community in Ann Arbor, of all places, shows just how brain-dead he really is at this point. What was the second choice, Berkeley? Kent, OH?

And a majority of faculty and students were against the move to Florida from what I remember. However, their votes don't count.
2.21.2007 7:19pm
Charles Croninger (mail):
The New Yorker 2/19&26/07 p. 88 Has all you will want to read on Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria.
2.21.2007 8:21pm
dick thompson (mail):
Ron Mexico,

You forgot to mention Brigham Young in your rant about religious schools. Also forgot Earlham and Wheaton.

When Liberty beat Harvard at the debating competition, I guess that was just a fluke, even though they went on to finish as one of the top in the country.
2.21.2007 8:51pm
Loki13 (mail):
Mr. Thompson,

Was that a rant from Michael Vick... er... Ron Mexico? I think everyone is aware of a few schools (BYU for Mormons, Notre Dame for Catholics etc.) that have a religious component. But the question is whether a strong religious component precludes a school from reaching the stratosphere of elite Universities. I think this is an interesting (and arguable) question, and I fail to see a rant involved there. For example, can a fundamentalist Christian University that will not allow the teaching of evolution consistently be able to attract a top-notch biology staff? Can a school teaching strict creationism attract a world-class physics staff? Some people have complained (about Notre Dame, and, to a lesser extent BYU) that as a religious school's academic scope and grasp have increased, the religious mission of the school has decreased. This reason (re: Notre Dame) is what caused the erstwhile Domino's founder to start Ave Maria. If your school is teaching a religious orthodoxy, and forces that upon the instructors and upon what they teach, you are decreasing the talent pool of instructors. If they are enforcing the orthodoxy upon the students, you are decreasing the talent pool of the student body. It has been the history of schools that started with a religious mission that they have either relaxed the orthodoxy, or they have decided not to compete in the realm of the truly elite Universities. Not saying it cannot be done.

Just saying it hasn't.

As for the Liberty win in a debate competition- many things can be said here. The first, and most obvious, is that debate (both forensic and parliamentary) is a specialized skill that hass little to do with the overall academic quality of the institution- Bates College of Maine regularly competes, and in many years can beat both Oxford and Harvard.... does that mean Bates is a superior academic institution to Harvard and Oxford?

I will leave you with this for your thoughts... if Army wins a bowl game, does that mean that the service academies are well-suited to becoming D1 football powerhouses, or is there something intrinsic about their modern mission, and the nature of D1 football, that precludes the service academies from doing that?
2.21.2007 9:09pm
Michael B (mail):
Scandalous, this failing to toe the line business, good thing there's an adequate supply of overseers in this country. If this continues, next thing that'll occur is Ward Churchill types will be hired and tenured by universities, or Chomsky/Herman types will serve as apologists for Pol Pot styled regimes. Then again, I'm sure that would never occur, silly to even consider such malignancies among the high and holy of academe. Someone notify Michael Bérubé or others among the elect, get this under control, pronto.

File under "freedom for me, not for thee."
2.21.2007 10:56pm
M (mail):
With a few small exceptions (language training, for example, but not foreign lit) BYU is also, by no ones estimation, an elite university. The fact that there are massive accademic freedom concerns there is one reason, and the fact that very few non mormon faculty members would put up with the rules is another. (Same for the students.) Many faculty members there are smart. But when you have the serious accademic freedom issues and put a huge artificial cap on the talent pool you draw from there's no way you'll be a top school, and BYU isn't.
2.21.2007 11:00pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
If your school is teaching a religious orthodoxy, and forces that upon the instructors and upon what they teach, you are decreasing the talent pool of instructors.

Save that AM is a Catholic school not a fundie school. Big difference. They have done pretty well so far. Accredidation in the 5-year minimum and good Bar pass rates. Note that orthodox Catholic students are likely to be self selected a bit "higher" than average Catholics or godless atheistic communists because Catholic Orthodoxy represents an active intellectual choice in ModCult whereas "general drift" or "secular humanism" are easy.

We know that Catholics are the Brains of the Religious Right so even though UUs and Jews have higher SAT scores and academic street cred than Catholics, AM is drawing from a much larger population with many more people on the upper tail of the curve. Underserved markets and all.

Ideological and social differentiation is proceeding apace and AM may well benefit from this market segmentation.
2.21.2007 11:02pm
Ian (www):
Liberty's debate team "beat" Harvard by gaming the system. Their victory has nothing to do with superior debate skills.

The national debate circuit features dozens of competitions--some of them quite competitive, others very poorly attended and easy to win. Most colleges and universities only enter a tiny fraction of these competitions, and the elite schools, such as Harvard, tend to be fairly selective in which competitions they enter. At the same time, however, every competition, no matter how small, is worth a certain number of points which contribute to a school's national ranking. The less competitive competitions are worth less points, and the sorts of competitions which Harvard attends are worth substantially more than a competition among three little-known schools in western Idaho. When you do the math, it works out that an average to above-average team can rack up obnoxiously high scores by entering tons of small-time competitions and doing fairly well in them.

Enter Liberty University.

Someone in Liberty's press department figured out that it would be a great marketing strategy if they could convince a few gullible reporters to write that Liberty's debate team defeated Harvard, so Liberty coughed up a fairly substantial budget for travel, lodging and entrance fees, and instructed its debate team to enter every competition they could manage to field a team in. The Liberty debaters were, by most accounts, hard working and well-coached, so they performed fairly well in backwoods debates against lackluster colleges, and they quickly racked up a score which placed them at the top of the national debate rankings. To my knowledge, Liberty's team has never actually debated Harvard--Liberty rarely encounters elite universities at the competitions they frequent--but no one thinks that Harvard would lose such a match up if it were to occur.

In other words, Liberty University has three things: 1) a decent, but not outstanding debate team; 2) a skilled and manipulative communications department; and 3) a willingness to fight for "victories" which don't really interest the truly elite debate teams. They deserve some credit for successfully gaming the system, but the only reason why they "beat" Harvard is because Harvard has no interest in flying out to every hole and rathole in the union that cares to host a debate in order to rack up points on some meaningless national ranking.
2.21.2007 11:46pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Save that AM is a Catholic school not a fundie school. Big difference.

1. A major difference for college students is that a fundie school discourages drinking, whereas at a Roman Catholic institution it is a duty.

2. The RC institution does not ban sex while standing up, out of fear it will lead to mixed dancing.
2.22.2007 1:23am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
1. I dunno what this is about debate -- in my undergrad days, debate teams weren't rated on some subjective criteria. There were the state competitions and then the national. You won or you lost.

2. As far as "elite" law schools go, from a fellow in the trenches -- all that matter is whether my opponent can beat me, and where they got their degree from is is no consequence. In my time at Interior, I knew a guy with a degree from Yale. Good, bright, but I could have cut inside him.
There was also a guy with a degree from Cumberland (no idea how it ranks, but not "top ten")... he was one of perhaps two people that in 30 years of practice I would have worried about opposing in an appellate argument. Bright, learned, fast-reacting, inventive, this would have been a guy to worry about. As I told my father, this was the lawyer you'd have if Robert E, Lee had gone to law school. I don't care where his degree came from, in a legal dogfight you'd better be alert every second or he'd clean your clock. Politely, logically, ethically, I don't mean nasty -- but he'd clean your clock,

In a fight between him and the folks I saw at Solicitor General's Office, most with prestigious degrees, I'd put my money on him and give odds. I once heard an SG lawyer in the Supreme Court actually utter "I'll be coming to that point in a minute, Justice," and be lucky enough not to be slapped down.
2.22.2007 1:41am
just me:
Of course you can have an "elite" school and still have the most rigid orthodoxy imaginable - it just has to be lefty multi-culti orthodoxy. Simple stuff, once you get the hang of it. No thought needed. Spitting on vets gets you extra credit. (Just a bit of cross-thread cross-pollination there.)
2.22.2007 1:47am
Michael B (mail):

An inspired sermon, inspired by contempt, and revelatory, but pontifications are not facts.

"They're tough. [But] we're not afraid to debate Liberty," says Harvard coach Dallas Perkins Jr., whose varsity team was beaten by Falwell's last month.

Google much?
2.22.2007 2:16am
Randy R. (mail):
Harvard Law School's Mock Trial team regularly loses to much lesser ranked schools (at least it did when I was a student). Ergo, lesser ranked law schools are better than Harvard.

That seems to be the strange logic here.
2.22.2007 2:23am
Randy R. (mail):
The point is that Ave Maria was built and developed to specifically reform the legal system, and later the entire US, towards a conservative catholic society. This is Tom Monaghan's stated goal. Therefore, any free inquiry which contradicts that goal is not welcome at the University or law school. Say what you will about Harvard, Yale, or Yahoo U., but there is simply no comparison about what students are allowed to study or question.
2.22.2007 2:26am
Cornellian (mail):
That reminds of a news story I saw on TV once about Falwell's law school. They showed a clip of a civil procedure class and the prof was talking about Erie RR v. Tompkins. The prof said he thought the Court got it wrong in Erie, going with 50 state laws instead of one federal law, because that result failed to recognize the existence of a higher authority, or some such thing.

I had a good laugh over that, and wondered if any of the students there realized what a joke their degree was going to be out in the real world.
2.22.2007 3:22am
Loki13 (mail):
I'd like to comment on the Liberty Debate (again). What was not quoted from the article....

The Liberty squad, which can spend 40 hours on debate prep the week of a tournament, is by far the most successful of the evangelical debaters. And among their secular opposition, they're widely respected—notwithstanding the times they've quoted dubious sources, such as But part of the reason Liberty is at the top is that it hits as many tournaments as it can, racking up the points that determine national rankings. While the powerhouses like Harvard and Northwestern concentrate on nabbing the prestigious varsity titles, Liberty is competitive at all three levels—varsity, JV and novice.

That directly preceded the quote by Michael B. Selective quoting is fun, iddn't? What have I learned... oh.... a school that allows students to spend 40 hours a week prepping for a single extracuricular can both game the system and gain a single victory in a single tournament against the 14th-ranked varsity team in the country that year. And that's in forensic debate... they'd get clocked in parliamentary (how's Liberty doing at the Oxford debates?).

Again, how does this make them a good school? Debate is a specialized skill, not necessarily indicative of the overall academic quality of the institution.
2.22.2007 8:36am
Justin (mail):
Also, most of the real "top" debating schools are in a different "league" - APDA. APDA, which includes teams from Harvard (according to their webpage, a Harvard team is in 3rd, with an MIT team 2nd and a Yale team 1st) - another Harvard team is in 11th, with a 3rd in 27th - is the debating league where most, if not all, of the current "streak" of former-debaters-as-Supreme-Court-clerks have come from, including, I believe, Christopher Paolella (Alito), Matthew Schwartz (Alito), and Brian Fletcher (Ginsburg).
2.22.2007 9:26am

... if Army wins a bowl game, does that mean that the service academies are well-suited to becoming D1 football powerhouses...

More likely it means there are too many bowl games. ;^)

On the more serious question, can we imagine a great lawyer or a great judge who is also a devout Catholic? If we can, then a great Catholic law school is just a matter of multiplication, albeit a multiplication of rarities.
2.22.2007 10:59am
uh clem (mail):
The New Yorker 2/19&26/07 p. 88 Has all you will want to read on Tom Monaghan and Ave Maria.

Unfortunately that article is not on line. I finished it last night, and would recomend it.

One minor quibble is that it failed to distinguish Ann Arbor Township from the City of Ann Arbor - perhaps this is immaterial for those who don't live in flyover country, but Ave Maria's zoning problems were with the Township, not the city. Ann Arbor Township is staunchly anti-development/anti-sprawl - the city is surrounded by four townships and of the four only AAT has resisted the urban sprawl.

There was a very good article on Ave Maria in the Ann Arbor Observer a year or so ago that outlined the disputes and disagreements surrounding the move of the undergraduate school to Florida. It had much more detail and quoted many more people involved in the move. Unfortunately, it's not on-line either, but if anybody wants more detail that would be a good place to start. The short version is that the board of directors and the school's management imploded in a giant squabble-fest.
2.22.2007 11:15am
uh clem (mail):
can we imagine a great lawyer or a great judge who is also a devout Catholic?

Absolutely. What's hard to imagine is someone growing up in a town like Ave Maria, FL, attending schools like Ave Maria & Ave Maria lawschool, never really interacting with anyone who doesn't share his beliefs and then becoming a great lawyer or judge.
2.22.2007 11:20am
JPII admonished us (Catholics), again and again, to live in the world.

Uh clem's point is significant: Living in an Opus Dei-like enclave is not "living in the world." It's cultural ghetto-isation. I can't see how one would gain the experience needed to be a wise jurist in this way. These folks are not seeking to serve on canonical courts and marriage tribunals, after all.
2.22.2007 11:44am
Randy R. (mail):
And I was surprised to learn that these 'debate teams' are really nothing like what us lay people think. For some reason, I thought a debate team was that you pick one side and argue it, listen to the other side, come up with counter arguments and so on. You would get points for being persuasive, use of facts and stats, and get some added points for wit and style.

Silly me. Listening to a tape of the Liberty, I couldn't even hear what they were saying. It's more like an auction house chant -- and the point is to cram as many talking points in a limited amount of time. The more you cram in, the more points you win. So 'speed talking' is a prized skill in winning these debates.

In short, it had very little to do with an actual debate as we know it, and virtually nothing regarding who is persuasive. Actually, it seems a pointless exercise, in my opinion.
2.22.2007 12:29pm
Ron Mexico:
dick thompson,

I by no means meant to "rant" about religious schools---I merely mentioned that it was interesting to me. If you want to be extremely defensive about the quality of education that these schools provide and read into others' comments, so be it. But I simply stated that I found watching strict religious schools and their attempts at becoming elite universities interesting. I don't know that they will succeed, but I don't really care either way. It's not somewhere I would have considered going for an education, but I think it poses interesting questions about how one creates an elite university environment and attracts the funding, professors, and students that are integral to attaining such status. No judgments about the merits of these schools, simply stating that the proposition itself is intriguing. Defensive much?

Lokie13's reply was extremely similar to my thoughts. And you cannot seriously argue that Liberty, Ave Maria, BYU, Regent, or any other strict religious school has already achieved elite status. Whether they will succeed in their goals in the future remains to be seen---but I think that even they would admit that positing such in the present is laughable at best.
2.22.2007 2:43pm
BobNSF (mail):
Is monoversity a word???
2.22.2007 2:51pm
Michael B (mail):
"Selective quoting is fun, iddn't?" loki13

Actually it was quoted to directly contradict what had been previously stated and as far as being "selective," it was the single quote I found from Harvard's own debate coach, thus lending a particular credence. I'm not an LU or even an AM enthusiast and personally wouldn't care to move from Michigan to Florida, but I do support ideas such as tolerance and freedom, so you might refrain from imagining, and imputing, more than what was actually stated.

Though selective imaginings are fun, aren't they?

As far as the insularity question, it's not unreasonable, as a question or potential concern, but beyond that there's not much evidence of such in AM's history. For example, from their own site, AM Law School students organized a hurricane relief effort and their externship program "allows students to apply to one of approximately 40 judicial, government, public interest and corporate placements located in southeastern Michigan for both academic-year and summer placements." Hence their own history fails to validate insularity concerns. Though that relies upon empirical/historical information rather than anyone's selective imaginings. (V. here, here, here, here, here.)

Too, in terms of insularity, the ideological/academic insularity afforded Chomsky/Herman as apologists for the Khmer Rouge regime, c. 1975, has already been mentioned as but one particularly prominent example of insularity.

Though selective insularity concerns are fun, aren't they?
2.22.2007 2:54pm
Loki13 (mail):
re: selective insularity....

These concerns about Chomsky (why is it always Chomsky?) seem a little overwrought. When I went to college, I had many Professors on the far left. I also had many on the far right.

They were called the econ dapartment (rim shot, please!).

In my experience, those students that wore Che T-shirts and played hacky-sack on the quad became investment bankers that now reliably vote Republican. The old saw about having a heart when you're young etc.

As for law school faculties, I can assure you that most of the members of the school of which I am currently a member are card-carrying Federalists, and would love nothing more than to deprive those Marxist undergrads of their substantive due process rights.

But when it comes to religious institutions, the insularity concerns become much greater. There is a belief that you can teach the law (for example) from a left- or right- wing perspective. To require the faculty to teach the law from a normatively religious standpoint really lowers the academic freedom that professors feel that they have. Great universities succeed because they can attract diverse viewpoints. If you have a law professor who is a specialist at Natual Law, for example, that's great!

If all of your classes are taught from a Natural Law perspective, that's not so great.
2.22.2007 5:26pm
Michael B (mail):

Please. It isn't "always about Chomsky," in fact I very rarely bring him up. I more simply noted his was a single and particularly prominent example given the scenario he was serving as apologist for, also representing it as another form that insularity can take, i.e. ideological and status quo/academic insularity, rather than religious insularity.

And no, it needs to be taken on a case by case basis, religious insularity, depending upon the specifics, may or may not reflect a greater concern. In fact, this serves to point out another reason still I chose a particularly noteworthy example of ideological and status quo/academic insularity. The idea that religious insularity is, ipso facto, worse than an ideological insularity which served to apologize for genocide is preposterous. Your entire notion, or entire set of underlying assumptions vis-a-vis religion would appear to be pejorative. As such, we disagree, which is not at all to say I'm not highly cautious about aspects of both religion and ideology.

More substantively, we at least broadly agree concerning the natural law idea, on the other hand is any evidence being forwarded to suggest AM's courses are one-sided in a manner that needs to be redressed? I would suspect, without presuming to know, that there would be a greater emphasis upon natural law, in relative terms, compared to other legal theories and compared to some other law schools, but I doubt it's an either/or scenario, i.e. all natural law theory and no other theory being taught.

Look, respectfully, we disagree and there are an entire range of philosophical, legal theory and social policy issues underlying all this. Imo, you're simplifying a great deal, in part via a variety of assumptions which don't hold much water.
2.22.2007 6:32pm
Michael B (mail):
Btw, people like Locke and Montesquieu, a couple of the more prominent ideological founders of classical liberal ideas and institutional forms, were either religious themselves or were profoundly sympathetic to religious conceptions, albeit and certainly tolerant variants of those conceptions.

I'm not interested in any type of narrowness, provincialism, etc., very much to the contrary. Philosophically and from a social/political perspective I'm a theist and make no apology whatsoever for that view.

You're forwarding notions, essentially, that assume a secular university is, by definition, not insular; likewise forwarding notions or assumptions that religion, by definition, is. Some forms of religious expression certainly are and can be and have been, historically; but the same is true of ideological expressions, e.g., the 20th century looming large in this vein.

You (seemingly) see rather simplistically drawn dichotomies, I see a vastly more complex set of philosophical, social/political, public policy, etc. set of issues. That may be an exaggeration of your views, but in general terms that's the way it appears. I'm not attempting to be dismissive of some more valid concerns, for example I'm not attempting to deflect via a tu quoque dismissiveness, but I am emphasizing, via contrasting views, that all this does not so readily reduce to the dichotomies and assumptions you appear to be forwarding.
2.22.2007 6:49pm