Machen ends law school dean search, recommends interim instead


Published: Friday, March 14, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.

The search for a new dean for the University of Florida Levin College of Law has failed.

UF President Bernie Machen said in a letter to law faculty and staff Friday afternoon that he has decided to end the search for outgoing Dean Robert Jerry’s successor for this academic year.

“The final slate forwarded to the Provost and to me included accomplished candidates, but we did not find one ideally suited to lead the College through a decade that will be simultaneously challenging for the profession and replete with opportunities for growth and advancement,” Machen said.

After paying $90,000 for an executive search company out of Southern California to conduct a nationwide search for suitable candidates, the search committee narrowed a list of 24 recommended candidates to four finalists.

Those four were Alex Acosta, dean of the Florida International University College of Law; David Brennen, dean of the University of Kentucky College of Law; David Huebner, former ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa; and Sam Donaldson, a law professor at Georgia State University and former associate dean at the University of Washington School of Law.

Those four were interviewed and vetted on campus by an 11-member search committee headed by College of Education Dean Glenn Good. The faculty and staff of the College of Law also got to meet with the candidates, and filled out a survey listing their preferences and commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of each.

The committee debated whether to send all four candidates forward, considering that the law faculty had overwhelmingly rejected Acosta, the law dean at FIU.

Even after being told that not sending all four names forward could result in a failed search, the committee voted 9-2 to reject Acosta and send the other three names to Machen and Provost Joe Glover for consideration.

Brennen and Huebner had received high scores from faculty, while many felt Donaldson lacked gravitas.

In the meantime, Machen is recommending that George Dawson, a former associate law dean who served on the search committee, serve as interim dean until a new search can be conducted next year.

Dawson, who announced his retirement 10 months ago, has agreed to stay an extra year “to perform this service for his colleagues and for the College if called upon to do so,” Machen said. “His leadership and experience will help ensure a smooth transition during the next year and allow the College to address various issues and reinitiate a search for a permanent dean.”

Machen has invited all faculty and staff to discuss the development with Glover and himself on Tuesday.

“At that meeting, you will also have the opportunity to provide feedback about my nomination of George Dawson,” Machen said.

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