Dear Students and Alumni,

All of you should have received an email from me on Thursday of last week announcing the historic gift of $30,000,000 for our great law school.  I am writing to share with you some additional details about the use of funds committed to the law school in conjunction with the renaming of the school as The Antonin Scalia Law School. 

The Gifts: 

There are two contingent gifts:

1. A Challenge Grant from Charles Koch Foundation of $10,000,000 contingent upon raising an additional $20,000,000;

2. A Naming Gift from an anonymous donor of $20,000,000 contingent upon renaming the law school The Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.

I am humbled by these gifts and consider it an awesome responsibility to use the funds wisely.  It is the largest gift ever received by the University.

The Name:

Under the terms of the anonymous gift, we are authorized to use a variety of different names. The name initially announced – The Antonin Scalia School of Law – has caused some acronym controversy on social media. The Antonin Scalia Law School is a logical substitute. We anticipate the naming will be effective on July 1, 2016 pending final approval by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

Use of Gifts:

The gifts will be made to George Mason University Foundation over the next five years.  The school plans to allocate the entire $30,000,000 to increasing the quantity and quality of students at the law school for the next five entering classes.  Each entering class from Fall 2016 to Fall 2020 will receive approximately $2,000,000 in scholarships (guaranteed for all three years of law school). 

We hope to increase the size of each entering class by approximately 55 students per year while simultaneously improving diversity and increasing standard quality metrics of LSAT and GPA.

The scholarships will result in additional resources being available to the law school.  With the additional resources, the law school plans to hire new faculty over the next few years to fill slots created by recent departures and retirements and to continue our steady quest to increase diversity of our faculty.  The law school also will increase support for faculty research through the Center for the Study of the Administrative State and a new Center for Liberty and Law.  The law school also anticipates increasing support for experiential learning (clinics and externships).  Finally, there is a Dean’s Discretionary Fund that can be used for various purposes to assist the overall mission of the law school.

The law school has complete independence from the donors regarding the use of funds within the delineated categories of scholarships, faculty, and research.  Donors have no influence on who receives scholarships or who is hired as faculty.  Period.

Confidentiality Surrounding the Negotiations:

Wednesday involved a great deal of discussion between the parties in an effort to come to terms regarding the gifts.  I have heard complaints from some students, faculty, and alumni that they were not consulted prior to the gifts being announced.  Unfortunately, contingent gifts are not typically subject to widespread discussion – they are treated as confidential until the donor(s) and potential recipient(s) can come to terms.  This is standard procedure at George Mason and at other universities.

Timing of the Announcement:

I apologize that many of you were blindsided by the announcement. 

Nina Totenberg, NPR’s Legal Affairs Correspondent, got wind of the negotiations and tweeted news of the name change (and not the corresponding $30,000,000 gift) shortly after noon on Thursday. The University’s Board of Visitors (BoV) had an executive committee meeting that day to consider, among other things, the conditional gifts and the corresponding law school name change.  We were unable to respond to Ms. Totenberg’s 12:30 tweet or to subsequent press inquiries until the BoV had a chance to vote.

The BoV meeting started at 1:45 and quickly moved to a closed session to discuss the naming.  The law school announcements were embargoed until negotiations and important discussions with the BoV were concluded and the University released its press release.

Comments from Students and Alums

I have received a great many comments in response to the gift announcement and corresponding name change.  I’ve made an effort to read all of them – most are simple congratulations, some congratulatory messages say they don’t like the name but understand the realities and how the gift is great for the law school, many are very positive, many are very negative (almost all respectful).  I regret that I am unable to respond to each message.

Diplomas and other questions

In addition to providing feedback, some students and alumni have asked questions about the logistics of the name change.  We are still working through some of the specifics, but the most frequently raised question is about what law school name will appear on students’ diploma. 

As background, the diplomas are issued by George Mason University which is the only school name that appears – and will continue to appear – on the top of the diploma.  At the bottom of the diploma are four signatures (the Rector’s, the University Registrar’s, the University President’s, and the Dean’s). Under the Dean’s signature is the notation “Dean, School of Law.”  This is where the Antonin Scalia Law School would be mentioned. 

The name change will occur on July 1, 2016, so nothing will change with this year’s diplomas.  In terms of future diplomas, some students have asked that they be allowed to choose which law school name to have listed in the signature block.  Associate Dean Annamaria Nields is exploring our options in this regard so that hopefully we can accommodate student requests.  We will make an announcement to the student body once we have the details confirmed.

As Dean of the law school, it is my job to faithfully pursue a course of action that I believe to be in the best interest of the school.  I am steadfast in my belief that the combination of the gift and naming is a tremendous step forward for our great law school. 

 

That’s all for now.

 

Onward and Upward!

Henry N. Butler

Dean, George Mason University School of Law


                       

                      

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