South Dakota’s law school will be staying in Vermillion… sort of. At its final meeting today, USD’s Law School Task Force rejected the idea of moving the law school to Sioux Falls and instead approved a hybrid plan to develop some programs to offer in the big city to provide students with more opportunities to combine their studies with work opportunities with the Queen City’s big lawyer population.
USD should be careful about making too much of that hybrid. According to Megan Raposa, a lot of students think any requirement to do part of their three-year law program in Vermillion and another part in Sioux Falls would be chaos:
“I think that’s a terrible idea,” said Sara Little, third-year law student at USD.
Little, and most law students interviewed this week at the school agreed that wherever the school is, it should be fully in one location.
…”It would just be chaotic,” said third-year law student Kaleb Paulsen.
Morgan Nelson, a third-year law student and member of the task force, said students “resoundingly” oppose splitting the third year of the school between two towns.
“It would be detrimental to the community,” Nelson said.
Student Rachelle Norberg worries what dividing the third year would mean for class schedules. Norberg says many upper-level classes have a mix of second- and third-year students, and the logistics get complicated for professors and students alike if those classes are split 50 miles apart [Megan Raposa, “USD Law School: Students Oppose Idea of Partial Move to Sioux Falls,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.10.05].
I’m with the students there. Keep it simple: one law school, one campus. Learn a lesson from the failing University Centers and, instead of making a big fuss for aspiring legal eagles who aren’t willing to move more than ten minutes from Sanaa’s Restaurant, offer some online classes.
The first adult [Fehringer] told was his swim coach, Jason Mahowald.
“I responded like I would hope anybody would. That’s great. Invite me to your wedding here in a couple of years, because that’s what we want to do. We want to see you get married and have a good life after you leave here,” Mahowald said.
Mahowald, USD’s head swimming and diving coach, says this is not the first time an athlete has come out to him. He tries to be supportive, and offer a safe space for his athletes to be themselves.
“If you’re willing to work hard and you’ve got a dream and you want to do this, why shouldn’t we be open and accepting to that? To me, it’s a no-brainer,” Mahowald said [Brady Mahowald, “USD Swimmer Finds Acceptance from Coach,” KELO-TV, 2017.09.08].
A talented young swimmer was driven to depression and anxiety by anti-gay slurs in school. He left his small rural hometown to attend university in another state where he found his swimming valued and his homosexuality accepted.
…Still, I was thrilled to see that a Division I University in the rural Midwest was so progressive in promoting equal playing opportunities for all their student-athletes.
I discovered that there were both present and former gay athletes who had shown success as they made their way through the USD program. I knew that if they had been able to live openly and be successful, that there was a chance that I could too.
The University of South Dakota’s Law School Relocation Task Force held its inaugural meeting yesterday in Vermillion to talk about whether the state should move its only law school from the USD campus to Sioux Falls.
CFO Gestring says declining enrollment will hurt the law school’s budget:
Gestring shared pro forma financial data with the task force. Her numbers are based on a total law school enrollment of 182, 156 and 155 law students at USD in fiscal years 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.
“What we’ve used here is roughly 50 students per class,” she said.
Her calculations, when comparing the law school’s revenue to expenses those three years, show its budget to be in the red by nearly $186,000 in FY2018. In FY2019, that deficit increases to $655,000. By FY2020, the law school budget is expected to be nearly $658,000 in the red. Between FY 18 and FY19, Gestring calculates the law school could see a decrease in tuition of approximately $300,000.
Senator, former judge, USD law graduate, and Vermillion resident Arthur Rusch says declining enrollment transcends location and offers an uncomfortable reminder that a past Regental effort to boost enrollment by moving classrooms to Sioux Falls failed:
“…the decline in enrollment is a nationwide problem; it’s not a Vermillion problem, so why would we think that moving the location of the law school would necessarily be a solution?” he asked. “My understanding from the people that I’ve talked to is that the decline in law school enrollment nationwide is because there are other jobs available.
“Is there any real guarantee that moving the law school to Sioux Falls would increase the enrollment?” Rusch asked. “Recent publicity has shown that The University Center’s enrollment in Sioux Falls is half of what they anticipated, so would necessarily moving the law school solve that problem?” [David Lias, “Residents: Keep Law School in Vermillion,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2017.08.07].
USD law graduate and Vermillion City Council president Kelsey Collier-Wise says moving the law school to our biggest city won’t help South Dakota meet its most pressing legal workforce need, the lack of attorneys in our smaller towns:
“The purpose of the law school and why it is supported by South Dakota taxpayers is to make sure that everyone in our state has access to vital legal services,” she said. “Sioux Falls and Rapid City are not experiencing a shortage of attorneys that we are seeing in the rest of the state … I can’t imagine a potential student who wouldn’t even spend three years in Vermillion, which is too urban to qualify for Project Rural Practice, would somehow end up in Lemmon or Bison or one of the other communities that really needs legal services” [Lias, “Residents…,” 2017.08.07].
Rusch, Collier-Wise, and the other Vermillion residents who spoke yesterday frame a healthy conservative policy-debate perspective: unless the proponents of change can prove that moving from the USD campus in tranquil Vermillion to bustling Sioux Falls will solve our most significant problems, that other nationwide factors wouldn’t drown out any meager enrollment uptick from such a costly move, and that the harms to USD as an institution and the Vermillion economy wouldn’t outweigh the minor benefits of giving Sioux Falls one more advantage (120 students and 20 professors matter a lot more in a town of 11,000 than a city of 175,000), we should stick with the status quo.
That’s funny: I thought USD already charged students for a bar exam prep course: it’s called law school. The Regents’ move feels like a high school saying it’s going to spend money on ACT or SAT prep courses from Kaplan. Instead of letting tests measure what students learn in school, the Regents are apparently admitting USD can’t teach its own law curriculum effectively and must teach to the test, thus giving an out-of-state corporation (BARBRI is based in Dallas, Texas) a chance to cash in on our law students.
Charleston School of Law in South Carolina includes BARBRI materials in its curriculum. Charleston students who opt in to the BARBRI post-graduation seven-week review course pay $457.50 per semester… so at least USD students are getting a better deal.
Angela Kennecke checks the court documents and find the state has submitted evidence against Dan Guericke, accused co-conspirator in the GEAR UP/Mid-Central scandal. The red-letter finding: 17 contracts worth $3.8 million signed in secret by Guericke, without approval by his Mid-Central Educational Cooperative board. Who got that illegal gravy?
PAST Foundation, three contracts, June 2012–September 2015, $1,576,962.
Brinda Kuhn, GEAR UP evaluator, four contracts, October 2009–September 2010, October 2012–September 2014, $308,365.
Rural Learning Center, one contract, October 2009–September 2010, $160,011.
University of South Dakota, three contracts, October 2011–September 2014, nearly $1 million.
American Indian Institute for Innovation, six contracts, October 2009–September 2010, October 2012–September 2015, three with no amounts specified, one for $266,172, two annual contracts giving co-indictee Stacy Phelps $130K for 270 days of work and Jay Roman $160K for 400 days of work.
Attorney General Marty Jackley presents these secret contracts to “show the jury the manner in which Defendant was running MCEC”—i.e., to show that Guericke was hiding his handouts from the board that was supposed to approve and supervise any use of those public dollars.
Not discussed in A.G. Jackley’s brief is the question of whether Mid-Central—or the South Dakota Department of Education, which directed to Mid-Central the GEAR UP funds disbursed in these seventeen contracts, or the federal Department of Education, which issued these public grants in the first place—can claw back these illegally disbursed funds from Kuhn, Phelps, Roman, PAST, and USD.
p.s.: Included in A.G. Jackley’s evidence packet is an e-mail thread involving Guericke, Phelps, Education Secretary Melody Schopp, and DOE director of finance Tami Darnall concerning graduation and college entrance rates for GEAR UP participants. The thread includes Darnall’s e-mail signature quote:
“She was unstoppable, not because she did not have failures or doubts, but because she continued on despite them.” So wrote Beau Taplin, a self-publishing Australian author with no idea who runs South Dakota’s Department of Education.
While Williams is bulking up his campaign team with mainstream Democrats, he’s wading into Bernie Sanders territory with his tour of college campuses. Monday Williams heads to Vermillion to visit USD and speak with Matt Glanzer on 2Guys1Mic on campus radio station KAOR at 2 p.m. Central. In town, you can hear the Williams interview on 91.1 FM; farther afield, you can tune in to KAOR’s livestream online. Clay County Democratic organizer and District 17 House candidate Mark Winegar has reported strong support for Sanders among USD’s young people.
Williams then heads up the road Tuesday to visit the Augustana Democrats, who will host a public forum with Williams at 7 p.m. in the Halverson Room, Morrison Commons, in the middle of campus. But don’t assume all those young kids are Sanders supporters. Augie Dems president Spencer O’Hara and rising Viking Ryan Solberg, as well as their sociology prof Carolyn Ly, are all on Clinton’s delegate slate.
Bonus Policy Statement! Clinton people and Sanders people should be able to agree that Williams understands the significance of TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline accident near Freeman. While Senator John Thune has maintained an awkward silence about the foreign project that leaked at least 400 barrels of tar sands oil and other mystery chemicals onto Hutchinson County last weekend, Jay Williams says TransCanada’s boo-boo underscores the need to get off fossil fuels:
The current leak in the existing Keystone Pipeline illustrates again the bankrupt policy of fossil fuel energy. TransCanada claimed the existing Keystone pipeline has sensors that collect data from 20,000 different points along the pipeline. The leak was discovered by a landowner – not TransCanada. TransCanada touts their ability to instantly detect pipeline pressure changes and “fail-safe” mechanisms and human monitoring all designed to ensure the pipeline is safe and secure.
This current leak calls all that into question. Not only was the leak detected by someone other than TransCanada, it took them nearly a week to discover the source of the leak. TransCanada says the pipeline environmental impact of this leak is minimal, and we all hope that is true. But this leak illustrates the danger of building more fossil fuel infrastructure in a time when me MUST be moving away from fossil fuel energy [Jay Williams, Facebook post, 2016.04.09].
Whether you like Sanders or Clinton, remember that Jay Williams will do more to advance our next Democratic President’s agenda than obstructionist John Thune will.
Also on today’s Regental agenda is a discussion of students meeting academic progress standards on our public university campuses. 92% of our undergrads finished the 2014–2015 school year in good academic standing, up a snudge from previous years:
USD appears to have the most studious students, with 94.1% of the ‘Yotes in making the grade. They beat the slide-rule jockeys at Mines (who may respond that their engineering classes are harder) and the Jackrabbits (who have no excuse for letting USD outperform us on any positive measure—none! Hit those books!)
The lowest academic performers are our two smallest general campuses. Both Northern and Black Hills State fail to post more than 90% in good academic standing.
The Regents break down academic standing by admission codes—i.e., students meeting the normal admission requirements and other groups.
Top performers are those who met all admission requirements and came to campus with 24 credits or more already under their belts. That would include our young dual-credit gunners who load up on college course for cheap in high school. Good work, kids!
The groups admitted with exceptions to the admission requirements predictably have more students not reaching good standing. So does the GED/home-school cohort—though alas! the report does not distinguish the home-schoolers, from whom we would expect great things—from the GED recipients.
Older students, our non-trads, are underperforming their younger campus-mates, with only 84.3% in good standing. I always found non-traditional classmates a touch more serious about studies, but perhaps overcoming teenage hormones and the novelty of beer is outweighed by the increased likelihood that non-trads have more family and job obligations.
p.s.: That second to last admissions cohort, the ISIS group? That’s “Integrated Student Information System,” the first centralized, cross-campus system the Regents had for tracking students.
But don’t just whitewash the current board’s apostrophe. USD’s writers’ greater error may be those improper quotation marks. Forbes’s 2015 university rankings does not use the phrase “Best in the Dakota’s” or “Best in the Dakotas” at any point. The only place I find that exact phrase in print with reference to Forbes’s rankings is in USD’s own August 4 press release and the press’s subsequent coverage of USD’s staff’s own trumpeting of those rankings. In other words, none of USD’s advertisement’s punctuation is correct.
Oh yeah: USD’s rank is 411 out of 650; Augie’s, 423; UND’s, 444; NDSU’s, 452; and SDSU’s 483. Fourteen of Minnesota’s colleges and universities beat USD’s rankings, including Carleton at 30 and the Twin Cities’ U of M campus at 130.