Bar Association Grants UDC Law School Reprieve; Accreditation Is Withheld, but Some Call Decision "Positive." (American Bar Association; University of the District of Columbia School of Law)

Article excerpt

The troubled University of the District of Columbia (UDC) School of Law failed to win provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA) during its summer meeting held earlier this month in San Francisco. UDC Law School officials, however, will be given another chance to make their case for accreditation when the ABA reconvenes in January 1998.

The decision "was a positive one," says Dean William L. Robinson, who attended the ABA meeting along with UDC President Julius F. Nimmons Jr. "This means that students already enrolled in the law school will be considered as attending an accredited institution."

Students entering in the fall, however, will be attending a non-accredited school.

The law school, formerly known as the District of Columbia School of Law, received provisional accreditation in 1991. According to ABA rules, however, the school had to reapply for accreditation when it merged in 1995 with the University of the District of Columbia. An ABA accreditation committee denied an application from the school in January and decided to remove the independent institution from its list of accredited law schools.

In a surprising and complicated move at its meeting this summer, July 31-Aug. 1, the ABA accreditation committee rescinded the decision to drop the D.C. School of Law from the list of accredited schools -- even though the school no longer exists. An ABA letter said that, "if such a recommendation were acted on by the House of Delegates at this time, it would create confusion and possibly have a negative impact on the impending developments regarding the University of the District of Columbia School of Law."

The decision "means that students [who] enrolled in the D.C. School of Law will remain eligible for federal financial aid and loans," Robinson explains.

Before the bar association reconsiders granting the law school provisional accreditation in January, both the university and the law school must show substantial progress, according to a letter from the bar association. The ABA said it will be taking a close look at one of the thorniest issues confronting both the law school and the university -- "final approval of a budget for the university that could assure a level of financial support for the School of Law."

Law school officials have succeeded in reducing its reliance on public funding from the $4.5 million it received in 1995 to $1.9 million this year, but Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), head of the House subcommittee that oversees District spending, said he will not approve any funding for the law school and maintains it should he closed.

"Congressman Taylor's position hasn't changed," says Roger France, a spokesman for Taylor, who added that the recent ruling by the ABA only bolstered Taylor's position. …