The search for a new Beasley School of Law dean includes three candidates so far to replace former dean, JoAnne Epps, who is now the university’s provost.
The candidates announced so far are University of Virginia professor A. Benjamin Spencer, Vice Dean of Emory University’s School of Law Robert Ahdieh and Beasley’s interim dean Gregory Mandel.
The school’s call for a new dean specifically invited people of “non-traditional backgrounds” to apply for the position, Epps said.
“Temple is a welcoming and inviting place historically,” she added. “We have been very proud of the fact that we are an inclusive campus. It simply makes clear our invitation of applicants who may not think of themselves as traditional.”
Law students and faculty were able to meet Spencer in early March when he visited Main Campus. Spencer told The Temple News he was interested in Temple because of its outward commitment to social justice, accessibility and diversity. Though Spencer said he commends the diversity of Temple’s student body, he thinks the law school needs to further diversify its staff.
“That’s kind of common, unfortunately, across law school faculty,” Spencer said. He added that universities are combatting the issue with a visiting assistant professor program, which is an entry-level program for people interested in teaching law.
Spencer said this would be good way to target potential professors who could bring diversity to the law school.
But deanships across the university are most often filled by white men, making the law school’s call for non-traditional applicants more unique. Of Temple’s 17 schools and colleges, the Tyler School of Art and the College of Public Health are the only schools with a female dean, one of whom is an interim dean. Most of the university’s deans are white.
Richard Deeg was the most recent dean appointment at Temple. He was selected to head the College of Liberal Arts. After taking the position in late September, he sat down with The Temple News and discussed the university’s diversity problem in deanships.
“The most important thing is to have good deans,” Deeg said. “The mostly white men as deans reflects long patterns that existed for decades where underrepresented groups aren’t getting into college at the same rates or graduating at the same rates, obviously it’s a broader social problem.”
“What happens when you say, ‘Let’s do a dean search’ is you have candidates, the pool tends to be heavily weighted toward white men,” Deeg added. “The problem is getting more people into that level where they’re in that candidate pool who are there to be hired as deans. It’s a problem that really has to start at the K-12 level … so at each stage of this career process we need to do more to promote people of color so they move up in the ranks and are in a position to become a dean.”
Third-year law student Miranda Bullard attended the early-March meeting with Spencer. Bullard said although she will graduate this spring, the school’s dean choice is important to her.
“Even as an alumna, it feels really important to have a say in shaping where the law school is going to go in the future,” Bullard said.
Ahdieh held an open meeting with students and alumni on Monday evening and will attend several meetings with law students and faculty on Tuesday. Mandel will hold an open meeting for students on Wednesday in Moot Court from 5 to 6 p.m. for students and alumni, as well as attend several meetings with students and faculty on Thursday. The schedules for their visits are posted in TUPortal.
“I can say right now that we have been very pleased with the breadth and depth of the applicant pool,” Epps said.
Jacob Garnjost, Hadiyah Weaver and Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TheTempleNews.
Julie Christie contributed reporting.