James Gardner named interim dean of law school

Gardner expected to serve for at least a year and a half, search for new dean yet to begin

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Almost three months after law school Dean Makau Mutua's resignation, UB has yet to begin a search for a new dean. But the school has found someone to serve in the interim: James Gardner.

Provost Charles Zukoski announced Tuesday Gardner, a SUNY Distinguished Professor, has been named interim dean of the law school. Gardner is expected to serve for at least a year and a half. UB has yet to begin search for a new dean, according to UB spokesperson John Della Contrada.

“I am grateful to Professor Gardner for his willingness to serve as interim dean during this transitional period,” Zukoski said in a press release Tuesday. “We are evaluating the appropriate timing for an international search for the next dean and will keep the campus apprised of our plans in this regard.”

Mutua will officially step down Dec. 19, after announcing his resignation on September 22. Mutua’s resignation came amid allegations he lied under oath in federal court and a state administrative proceeding. He served as dean for seven years and will continue to teach at UB as a SUNY distinguished professor; he is a Harvard graduate and a well-known leader in international human rights.

Zukoski appointed Gardner as interim dean of the law school after Gardner was nominated by other faculty members and interviewed for the position.

Gardner has taught at UB since 2001 and served as the school’s vice dean for academic affairs until 2012 – an experience Gardner says best prepared him for the position of interim dean. He worked closely with faculty on curriculum and course assignments and with members of the senior staff on law school operations.

“I really had almost complete exposure to the operations of the law school,” Gardner said.

In October, Gardner was named elected chair of the UB Law School’s ad hoc Strategic Planning Committee, which is tasked with “evaluating the current state of the school and identifying strategies to preserve and enhance its strengths moving forward,” according to Tuesday’s press release.

Gardner said his main objective as interim dean will be implementing a strategic plan for the law school that was developed by the faculty. Gardner called it a “comprehensive plan that addresses nearly every aspect of activity at the law school.” Faculty members will present the plan to Zukoski for his approval on Friday.

The law school announced in March that it would be reduce its incoming class from 200-225 students to fewer than 200 and its faculty from 48 to 40.

Mutua was appointed dean in May 2008 after serving as interim dean for several months. Some law school faculty claim Mutua did not go through a full and regular search process and questioned his appointment to dean. Gardner said it is “too premature” to begin discussion of him staying on as permanent dean.

Gardner said the school will engage in a nationwide search for a permanent dean “when conditions are favorable.”

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