The Whittier College Board of Trustees has made the surprise decision to discontinue the Whittier Law School, shocking and angering law students and faculty at the Orange County campus, it was reported Thursday.
Whittier College President Sharon Herzberger said Wednesday that campus leaders have spent several years looking for ways to keep the law school going, including exploring a merger with another law school or finding another entity to take it on, the Orange County Register reported.
“Law schools have been having lots of problems for 10 years,” Herzberger said in remarks reported by the Register. “We have tried a lot of things.”
Law schools nationwide have struggled with declines in enrollment and income from tuition. Whittier Law School has also struggled with finding long- term employment for graduates. But officials with the law school itself described the decision by their parent campus as “unwise, unwarranted and unfounded,” according to the Register.
“As is well known, the last few years have been extremely difficult for law schools across the country,” law school faculty wrote in a statement. “Whittier Law School felt those challenges keenly and we took significant steps to address them. Sadly, our sponsoring institution opted to abandon the law school rather than provide the time and resources needed to finish paving the path to ongoing viability and success.”
Bahareh Omrani, a third-year law student at the school, told the Register that students were sent an email Tuesday night and told to attend an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning, when two trustees broke the news of the closure to angry students but answered no questions.
Omrani said the law school faculty were just as surprised as the students. The sudden announcement left younger students unsure if they should stay with the school, and graduating students, such as Omrani, worried about the value of their diplomas.
The number of students admitted to the small campus at Harbor Boulevard and Sunflower Avenue has dropped — from 1,579 students in 2013 to 934 in 2016.
The board’s decision doesn’t mean an immediate closure for the law school, Marc Stevens, spokesman for the law school, told the Register. No more first-year students will be accepted, but officials said current students can complete their degrees.
—City News Service
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