In a move widely criticized, the University of Miami is firing the dean of its law school, allegedly over concerns of insufficient funding. Anthony Varona’s termination is set for July 1.
A message from University President Julio Frank was released on May 25 regarding the decision. Frank explained that as the university approached its centennial, the administration is preparing “to accelerate progress on strategic priorities.” As a result, he decided that “new leadership is vital for the benefit of our institution, our students, and our community.”
“The historic events of the past 16 months have revealed both challenges and opportunities that highlight the need for a dean with the required vision and effectiveness of execution to bring the school to new levels of excellence,” he wrote. “In particular, the current capital campaign — which will culminate in four short years — presents a rapidly narrowing window of opportunity to mobilize significant resources on behalf of Miami Law.”
Frank clarified that Varona will continue to work for the university as M Minnette Massey Professor of Law. He is expected to pursue further professional development in his specialty, media and sexuality law.
Varona’s Termination Met With Protests
This move has been widely criticized, with the Student Bar Association (SBA) and law faculty calling for the administration to reconsider. According to The Miami Herald, Vice Dean of Intellectual Life, Lili Levi, even resigned in protest over Varona’s termination.
“Your SBA had no knowledge that Dean Varona’s role was being discussed, and we did not know that this decision was coming. Like you, we were very surprised to learn of it,” the SBA wrote. “The President’s announcement has given rise to many questions, including why this decision was reached and what it means for the future of Miami Law.”
UM faculty also released a statement, denouncing the administration’s decision to terminate the dean without consulting them.
The UM chapter of the AAUP stands in support of our colleagues in the School of Law & their resolution of protest of the removal of Anthony Varona as Dean. We also strongly endorse the Faculty Senate resolution condemning the President’s unilateral decision to remove Dean Varona.
— UM AAUP-Alliance (@UmAaup) May 27, 2021
“It is disappointing that this spirit of collaboration and shared governance was clearly violated in making such a precipitous unilateral decision with no input from the faculty of the School of Law,” they wrote, pointing out that Varona played a massive role in helping the school maintain financial stability throughout the pandemic and was deeply committed to the success of the school.
Varona Decries ‘Baseless Termination’
According to ABA Journal, Varona himself is struggling to accept the decision.
“I remain stunned by my baseless termination, disturbed by how I have been mistreated, and concerned by how all of this will affect our great law school and university. I am hopeful that clarity and fairness will prevail as we move forward, and that the university’s decision will be rescinded.” he said.
His lawyer, Debra Katz, added that the decision to fire him was an “egregious violation” of Varona’s legal rights.