Duquesne in tumult over law dean's ouster

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Several prominent Duquesne University alumni yesterday threatened to withhold donations to protest the abrupt ouster of the law school dean.

Talk of the removal of Dean Don Guter dominated during a reception at the law school last night honoring a group of donors, many of whom said they stood behind Mr. Guter and were stunned by his removal on Wednesday.

"I want to know why this happened," outgoing alumni association President Jack Goodrich said outside the reception. "I am shocked. This dean has done nothing but good for this community and for this university."

Mr. Goodrich said he doesn't plan to make his annual contribution to the school this year and has heard from other donors who are considering the same.

Shortly after the reception of the 1911 Society, the student government association held a special senate meeting and voted 21-13 in favor of a motion of no confidence in university President Charles Dougherty. The discussion continued late into the night.

Also yesterday, Duquesne's governing board expressed full support for Dr. Dougherty's decision to replace the dean.

P. David Pappert, chairman of the university's board of directors, issued a statement giving full backing to an ultimatum delivered on Tuesday by Dr. Dougherty and Provost Ralph Pearson to Mr. Guter that he resign within 24 hours or be removed.

"This issue was reviewed thoroughly with the university's board of directors prior to action being taken," he wrote. "The decision was made and implemented with the full confidence and unanimous support of each member."

Citing law school gains, including a rise in the bar exam pass rate from 68 to 97 percent, Mr. Guter on Wednesday blamed his removal on Dr. Dougherty's personal animus toward him.

He told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the only prior expression of displeasure with his job performance came 18 months ago from the provost, who Mr. Guter said demanded "personal loyalty" and "absolute obedience" to the administration.

Dr. Pearson, in a memo sent to law faculty and others on campus yesterday, called those words a mischaracterization and said concerns were evident at a number of instances in Mr. Guter's tenure, though he did not provide specifics.

"The formal evaluations of his performance, which I completed and reviewed annually with Professor Guter, indicated a consistent pattern of failure to meet expectations," Dr. Pearson wrote. "In addition, I expressed my concerns to him regarding his lack of leadership in several areas."

A day earlier, university spokeswoman Bridget Fare said without elaborating that the law school needed to raise its scholarship. She noted the school's fourth-tier position in U.S. News & World Report's college ranking,

Supporters of the dean continued to argue that his removal was unjustified and that Dr. Dougherty pursued a vendetta. They pointed to disputes over funding allocation and the dean's open support of a law faculty member's bid for tenure that the president initially opposed.

Emerging from a meeting last night, the law school's alumni association said in a statement it was "disheartened and saddened" by the ouster, especially its timing during final exams and the holiday season.

"We're shocked, dumbfounded, mystified, perplexed, any number of adjectives," said Mary-Jo Rebelo, president of the group.

She said the dean had the group's full support, noting gains in fundraising and Mr. Guter's outreach to alumni that raised the association's membership by 78 percent to more than 900 members. She said efforts by her group over seven years to meet or have a dialogue with the president have been unsuccessful.

"Where do I think this is leading? Personally, I think this is leading to a series of votes of no confidence in the president of the university. That's my personal view," she said.

"We hope to have an opportunity to meet with the [administration] to ask them to reconsider the decision that was made," said Brennan Hart, who sits on the alumni association's board of directors and is encouraging others to voice their disapproval in letters to the university administration.

Paula Witt Enderby, president of Duquesne's faculty senate, could not be reached for comment yesterday.


Bill Schackner can be reached at bschackner@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1977. Sadie Gurman can be reached at sgurman@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878.


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