Stories of 100 Years : A Debate Over Tuition

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Stories of 100 Years is a series written by former Gonzaga Law professor Gary Randall that appears in the Lawyer Magazine, as well as online. See this story in the Summer 2012 Lawyer.

Friction with the University

In 1972 things began to become interesting at the law school. The University was in financial difficulty, and the law school was bringing in revenue. A substantial amount of revenue. Student Bar Association representatives met with main administration officers and received assurances that in the future, more law school tuition would be retained by the law school. Class Action, January 1972.

The intentions may have been good, but the money was not there. And the revenue sharing with the University continued at a level that was eventually determined to not be acceptable by Father Frank Conklin, S.J., who had become dean of the law school in 1973. The Great Tuition Strike of 1975 was in the works.

A string of Deans

Dean Conklin had replaced Dean Lew Orland as an interim dean in 1973. When interviewed by Class Action he was asked: “How do you envision your job as Dean of the Law School?” The answer was classic Frank Conklin, “My job is to answer the phone until the next guy gets here. The sooner the better, so I can get back to practicing law.” Class Action, February 1973.

Things changed, a new dean did not appear.

Conklin became the dean of the law school not long after (he had been dean at an earlier date). The law school was one of the first real environmental programs, recycling him, and later Dean Smithmoore P. Myers, also an earlier dean, into the dean’s office.

A New Gonzaga University President

By the fall of 1974 a new, no-nonsense Gonzaga University president, Father Bernard Coughlin, S.J., had arrived on the scene. The scene was not pretty. The University was in deep financial difficulty. Law school enrollment had exploded. Roughly half of the law school revenue was going to the main university.

Not surprisingly, the University did not share the law school view that law tuition used for university purposes was the law school’s money. It regarded the University as one, big, happy – sort of – family. Share and share alike.

The Tuition Strike of 1975

In the spring of 1975, law students voted for a “tuition strike.” Attorney Bill Powell was hired – he worked pro bono – and an escrow fund was set up for tuition that was due, but would not be sent to the main university until the issue of “overhead” was resolved. Dean Conklin was gone by then, and Dean Myers – the ultimate reasonable man – was the new interim dean.

The American Bar Association accreditation division was interested in Gonzaga Law School. (Gonzaga was not the only law school in the country with revenue sharing problems. At that time there were a substantial number of schools whose “overhead” was quite high.)

Gonzaga Student Bar Association Honored

Rumors abounded that the law school might lose its accreditation. By November of 1975, with Dean Myers the permanent dean and a university agreement (brokered by Father Coughlin) that roughly 80 percent of law school tuition would be retained by the law school, the crisis passed. Law school accreditation was no longer in jeopardy. In September of 1976 the Gonzaga Student Bar Association was named the most outstanding student bar association for the 1975-1976 school year by the ABA. For a variety of things, not just the tuition strike.

Another New Law Dean?

The only frightening thing that occurred in the spring of 1976 was the April 1, 1976 edition of Class Action which began with the headline:

“Dean Myers resigns, Professor Solk named new Dean.”

Luckily it was the April Fools’ Day Edition.

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