(This post was published on November 10, 2014. The May update to this story is located here.)
Here’s the latest on the effort to convince Texas A&M to reissue diplomas to the folks that made Texas A&M University School of Law possible. If you don’t know the first part of the story, read the Full Summary below first.
Texas A&M has recognized that it has the Petition. Its Board of Regents has given it to their recently formed Sub-Committee on Law School Affairs. I do not expect to hear a response until Spring 2015. This is substantial progress, in my mind. At least they have acknowledged receipt of the Petition and are seriously considering it.
I remain hopeful that Texas A&M will see that it can only benefit by welcoming us into the A&M family, even if that may be too optimistic. They have all the information that they need to see the right answer. I encourage everyone to maintain a positive attitude toward our would-be brothers and sisters. When speaking with Aggies, try to be sure that they understand that this is not about some attempt to grab some panache from A&M, but about having a valid sheepskin on the wall. Aggies need to understand that TAMU School of Law routinely uses our work and takes credit for our accomplishments, and in so doing, is already claiming us as Aggies. As Ghandi used the honor of the British to accomplish his goals, we should remind Aggies who they are, and that a university which claims to have a meaningful Code of Honor should not be acting as A&M does, even if no one can stop it.
If A&M does nothing by the beginning of summer 2015, we will form a litigation team and file a federal lawsuit before any statute of limitation runs in August 2015. I will send out emails before that time, but if you are reading this and want to be on that team, look for an email like this in late first quarter 2015.
1) In mid-2013, Texas A&M purchased Texas Wesleyan School of Law for about $60 million. Dr. Karen Watson, Provost for Texas A&M conducted a Q&A session in which she stated that current students would be adopted as A&M students, but previous graduates would not receive updated diplomas. Dr. Watson told pre-acquisition alumni in August 2013 that A&M would be jeopardizing its accreditation if it issued updated diplomas, and though A&M requested a waiver from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, it was unable to obtain one for pre-acquisition graduates.
2) When asked by the FW Weekly, SACS President Belle Wheelan publicly stated that said she did not recall A&M asking for any waivers and that diploma reissuance “is not an accreditation issue; that is the university’s issue.” Recently, I was provided the acquisition documents, which revealed the plan to give diplomas to the existing students…the request contained no discussion of an exemption for the rules for the past graduates. (For fun, go back to the video and start at five minutes into it. Then…go check the Aggie Code of Honor.)
3) In response to the renamed TAMU School of Law’s decision to leave its former graduates behind, a group of more than 500 Texas Wesleyan University School of Law Alumni signed a petition asking that Texas A&M University School of Law reconsider its 2013 decision not to reissue corrected diplomas to its alumni who graduated prior to the purchase.
4) This petition was delivered to the Texas A&M University Interim President, Board of Regents, American Bar Association, Texas State Bar, and Texas Legislature by the TWU-TAMU Working Committee on behalf of the petition’s signers, and points out that TAMU School of Law enjoys claiming accreditation in 1994 for this school that it did not own until 2013. Even today, TAMU School of Law demonstrates that the school has just been renamed, but is the same school. Examples include claim for the accomplishments of pre-acquisition graduates in press releases dating back to 2003. TAMU School of Law’s website currently states: “To date, Texas A&M law students have provided more than 120,000 hours of pro bono legal services which equates to more than $2.4 million in total legal services given to the community.” More than 90% of those hours are from pre-acquisition graduates. (Thirty of those hours are mine…from 2007. But I’m not considered an alumnus.)
5) Concurrent with the petition, a dozen pre-acquisition graduates put together a complaint to the American Bar Association. The petition document cites troublesome issues that pre-acquisition graduates have faced as a result of TAMU’s refusal to grant earlier requests for corrected degrees. Other such issues include reciprocity delays and the reality that our former alma mater is not listed on the drop-down menus that are found in many legal processes.
6) Among the many interesting anomalies we’ve learned along the way, we have found at least two pre-acquisition graduates simply did not file their pro bono hours until after TAMU purchased the law school, and thereby received A&M diplomas. These two individuals are walking around with A&M rings, though they never took a single class at any A&M institution. I bring this up because it shows that, while the ring mystique may be a big deal to many Aggies, the university really has arbitrary rules that do not reflect such elevated ideals.
7) The American Bar Association looked at the Complaint that a dozen pre-acquisition TAMU School of Law graduates filed in July 2014, and issued a “we’re not doing anything” letter. This was no surprise, and was always considered a necessary step in the process.
8) I am often asked why I care about this issue. It’s simple. I don’t like large organizations that use and abuse those who make success possible. People have told me that I just want a free degree from a better ranked school. That is not true. I paid a pretty penny for my J.D., in both time and money. Whether a law school that is named “Texas Wesleyan School of Law” has less panache than “Texas A&M School of Law” is absolutely debatable. Although I do like the idea of joining the Aggie tradition, the motivating issue for me is that I need a diploma from a school that is alive, and can be found on lists of accredited law schools. My law school has changed its name, and I just want my paperwork updated, in the same way that all the rest of the law school’s paperwork has changed.