Barry granted provisional accreditation

first_imgBarry granted provisional accreditation Associate EditorIn a tense countdown that left graduates dangling in career limbo, Barry University School of Law’s fourth and final chance to win provisional accreditation from the ABA has finally succeeded.In Philadelphia on February 4, the American Bar Association House of Delegates’ vote put the official seal of approval on a positive recommendation that came two days earlier from the ABA’s Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admission. The long-awaited good news sparked cheers, tears and hugs from dozens of graduates, students, and friends who had waited in a nearby hotel lobby for the word on Barry law school’s fate.“We celebrate this decision as a just and timely one,” said Sister Jeanne O’Laughlin, president of Barry University. “Our greatest joy is for our students and our alumni who have worked so hard to fulfill their dreams. Now they will get the chance.”“I’m thrilled! I can hardily put it into words!” exclaimed Susie McCabe, 44, from her home in Daytona Beach the day it all became official. After taking five years to get her law degree as a part-time student in Barry’s charter class, she graduated in June 2000, took the bar exam in February 2001, and wondered if she’d ever get to put her law degree to full use. She has had a standing job offer as a prosecutor in the state attorney’s office in Daytona Beach, where she interned, once she is licensed to practice.Like 76 of 125 alumni who have already sat for the bar exam, some waiting as long as 18 months to learn their scores, McCabe awaits the process of lawyers petitioning the Florida Supreme Court to unseal those exam scores to see if she has passed. For McCabe and many others, the clock has been ticking on the one-year deadline from the point of taking the exam and the school being accredited.Even without knowing her score, McCabe and her family were already celebrating victory after the ABA council’s positive recommendation on February 2.When her friend, a Barry student, called with the good news, “there was such shrieking going on the other end of the phone. For 25 minutes, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. After all the worry, this was such a huge hurdle to get over. I cannot describe the utter joy. My husband rented a limo and we went out with friends and family Saturday night and drank champagne. My son and daughter were in the limo, too, and were so excited. It had become a family issue,” McCabe said.“My doorbell rang just a while ago, and it was flowers from my aunt. I went to church on Sunday, and my priest said he wanted me to draw up his will. I am just walking around with a smile on my face.”The contingent of students and alumni who traveled to the ABA meeting in Philadelphia — even passing out “Accredit Barry” buttons that landed on the lapels of bus drivers and waiters — helped put a human face on the struggling Orlando law school.“There was a strong showing by the students and alumni who went to Philadelphia. I applaud their effort, because I know for a fact that students and alumni met with representatives of the ABA. They were able to put a face to the name of Barry University School of Law,” said Rodd Michael Santomauro, a 30-year-old graduate of Barry’s first class. He’d hocked his possessions, took out a $70,000 loan to finance law school, and still lives with his parents, while working as a paralegal at Alzipar, Ville & Camfield, where he has been promised a job as an associate attorney once he is licensed.“Today, the dream for us has been realized. It is a moment that none of us will forget,” said an elated Santomauro.The whole ordeal, he said, “has helped me reevaluate where I’m at in my life and realize that the most important things in life don’t come from materialistic wants. It’s helped me look at people in their true nature when the chips are down, and see the tenacity and character and constitution of a group that banded together to fight for a cause we so passionately believed in for a number of years. You can’t put a price on that.”It was the law school’s finances that prompted concern in the previous round of accreditation hurdles in November. An ABA subcommittee had recommended against provisional approval, expressing fears the school’s financial needs would force it to lower standards in deciding which students to enroll. In a vicious cycle of waning confidence during accreditation struggles, the law school’s enrollment plummeted from 380 students to 200.What helped change the ABA’s mind this time around?“The major issue was $15.6 million in donations we raised, combined with the admissions recruiting firm we hired. I think that put us over the top,” said Eric Dubois, director of institutional advancement for Barry’s law school.In January, a major boost came in the form of $11.3 million, primarily from two South Floridians who wish to remain anonymous, as well as glowing support letters from Gov. Jeb Bush and Attorney General Bob Butterworth.At the ABA meeting in Philadelphia, O’Laughlin, Law Dean Stanley Talcott and other Barry leaders spent nearly two hours behind closed doors with the ABA council on Saturday.Council Chairman Gerald W. Vandewalle, chief justice of the North Dakota Supreme Court, told the Orlando Sentinel that Barry’s presentation Saturday allayed most but not all concerns. The voice vote was not unanimous, he said.“It is a concern that, is this a law school that will always remain in [financial and enrollment] trouble?” Vanderwalle said. “Sister Jeanne says that’s not going to happen. So we’ll see.”Now, Barry must win full accreditation within five years.But at least for now, the pressure is off.“Now, our main focus is to continue educating tomorrow’s lawyers,” said Sister Peggy Albert, executive vice president and chief Barry administrator in Orlando.“We have always believed in our students,” said Dean Talcott. “This end result will be one that’s beneficial to all, including the ABA and citizens of Central Florida.”The dean invited students and alumni to gather with him at the law school for a party on February 7.At long last at Barry University School of Law, it was time to celebrate. Barry granted provisional accreditation February 15, 2002 Jan Pudlow Associate Editor Regular Newslast_img read more