This little item tucked at the end of a column in Sunday's Herald certainly has people talking,
The University of Miami is considering moving its School of Law — from the Coral Gables campus to downtown Miami.
Law school Dean Dennis O. Lynch says developers approached UM. “It's at the earliest stage of conversation,” Lynch says. But, he acknowledges, “we are crammed.” The law school, founded in 1928, has 1,333 students and 173 faculty and employees — 69 full time, 104 part time. UM has plans for a five-story building adjacent to the law school, with the law school taking four floors, but no groundbreaking is set.
It's possible to imagine how a big modern building downtown near the courthouse might be fancy enough to justify moving off our beautiful campus in Coral Gables, but I think it would be prohibitively expensive.
The problem is not just that it would have be enough bigger than what we have to justify the move, plus have enormous parking, but that since this sort of a location would be cut off from both the Coral Gables campus and the med school, we'd need even more space to replicate many of the campus amenities we'd be losing (like the courtyard which is our social and faculty/student center, access to the gym, the campus dining area, on-campus child care). And I wonder what it would do to student and even faculty recruiting. This student has a pretty negative reaction, and as things stand I can't blame him.
The faculty only heard about this on Thursday, and it was presented much as reported in the Herald — an idea to study. It's good that people are thinking outside of the box about how to improve the law school. And it's good to think big. My first impression, though, is that unless there's a ton more money out there to pay for this than I suspect, then this isn't the right side of the box. And even then, I bet you could do a lot more for the school, for half the price, in other ways.
I especially admire whatever developer first floated the idea — it's always smart to try to create a client. I wonder if instead of moving the school, maybe a downtown annex would make some sense — although, again, big issues would be parking and night time security. I certainly expect, though, that before we even decide if we want to move anywhere we will do some zero-based planning about what we would want to gain from a new facility.
It would be tragic to do this wrong, and very hard and, I expect, real expensive to do it right, which is why I have to suspect UM President Donna Shalala will be too smart to try to make it happen once the numbers are toted up.