Going Places?

This little item tucked at the end of a column in Sunday's Herald certainly has people talking,

LEGAL MOVE?

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.

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8 Responses to Going Places?

  1. Peter D. Lederer says:

    The “This student” link doesn’t seem to work, but my hunch is that the proposal is likely to evoke a lot of “thoughtful” comment. If so, you may want to consider a website for discussion similar to the one during last year’s strike.

  2. anon says:

    I agree that it would be very hard to pull off, but you never know – this type of comprehensive change could be the vehicle that the new dean can use to really put her or his mark on the school.

  3. Michael says:

    Fixed the link (it had an extra space). Sorry about that.

  4. Jesse says:

    Don’t forget to consider that the city of coral gables is being a pain. They won’t allow the university to build the addition for the law school on the main campus unless we agree to build a city street through the center of campus. (They’re upset by how much Ponce and the surrounding streets get tied up because of UM students.)

    If we can’t expand or build anything on the main campus due to the city, then perhaps a little preliminary toying with something off campus might not be a bad idea. If for no other reason then trying to show the city that we do have other options then just bending to their ever demand.

  5. Lou says:

    It’s an interesting idea to contemplate moving the UM Law School downtown. There are a number of law schools across the country that either are or at least used to be in pretty seedy urban areas.

    I wonder if a major investment or move by UM — something like moving its law school downtown into a sparkling new facility — could help bring about some commerce down there or spark a resurgence. As the moderator points out, if the project proceeded with the correct funding and planning, it could be good.

    Also, there are a lot of schools across the country that have survived and prospered despite their location in runned down, urban neighborhoods. Having survived decades amid the decline of their respective neighborhoods, places like Columbia and UChicago are now riding high in redeveloped, up and coming neighborhoods. Given the corruption and incompetence of Miami’s local goverment, however, I fear that the law school could simply be one prominent citizen in an otherwise terrible neighborhood that never re-develops or prospers. In that regard, UMiami could end up like Hastings — a major institution in an awful neighborhood that just never seems to improve.

    Much thinking must be done about this….It’s certainly worth the study, though….

  6. Annonomous says:

    Another situation where the Dean of the law school exhibits his inability to properly handle volitile situations. This is the kind of information that should have been first communicated to the law school community by th e Dean and not by the Miami Herald

  7. Annonomous says:

    Another situation where the Dean of the law school exhibits his inability to properly handle volitile situations. This is the kind of information that should have been first communicated to the law school community by th e Dean and not by the Miami Herald

  8. someguy says:

    One interesting thing to contemplate when considering a move downtown is that downtown Miami is on the verge of major change over the next 5-10 years. There are at least five high-rise condos under construction. I would think with 10-20,000 new residents moving in, the dirty, seedy character will change. Of course, this being Miami, there are no plans to deal with the exponential increase in traffic downtown – which of course is already at gridlock during rush hours – but the point is that downtown is changing. I still don’t think it’s a good idea to move the law school there.

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