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American University Associate Dean Accuses George Washington University Law School of Poaching Students
By Jim Vassallo

Anthony Varona is an the Associate Dean of Faculty and Academic Affairs at American University’s College of Law. Varona has accused George Washington University Law School of poaching transfer students, according to a report from DCInno.

The accusations were made last week via Facebook. On the social media site, Varona said that GW taking more than 50 first-year transfer from AU was “downright predatory” and caused AU “quite a bit of disruption.”

This year, 97 transfer students were accepted by GW Law, with 54 of them coming from AU Law.

“No other law school is similarly raided anywhere else in the United States. No other law school engages in this sort of practice to this degree,” Varona said in the Facebook status.

In the status, Varona continued to throw accusations at GW Law by saying that their national rankings are deceptive because of the high number of transfers they admit. He accused the school of admissions malpractice.

In the post, Varona said, “More troubling still for GW Law students especially is the 'bait and switch' nature of this backdoor transfer trick. The 'student quality' numbers (collegiate GPA and LSAT) GW submits to the accrediting and, ultimately, the ranking authorities -- like US News -- are solely those of their artificially small [first-year] class. GW is not required to disclose the true, overall student quality numbers -- so, it doesn't. With nearly 100 (!!) new classmates at the start of their second years, are GW students attending the same ‘quality’ of school (myopically defined by GPA and LSAT) as advertised in the rankings? Um, don't think so.”

In national rankings from U.S. News and World Report, GW Law ranks 20 and AU Law ranks 72. The fall class at GW Law had a GPA of 3.71 and an LSAT of 165. The fall class at AU Law had a GPA of 3.37 and an LSAT of 156.

Varona sent an email to the Wall Street Journal in response to media inquiries about his status, saying, “I don’t blame GW for being impressed with our first-year students — we attract an illustrious and promising group of [first years] year after year.”

The Associate Dean of Admissions for GW Law, Sophia Sim, denied the accusations of poaching. She also said that the high number of transfers from AU occur because of location.

Sim said, “GW Law selects transfer applicants based on their prior law school performance because the best indicator of how well a student will do in law school is how well they have already performed in law school.”

Posted on: 01/25/2015 03:07 PM | Number of feedback 4


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Posted by: chloe123 on 01/30/2015 07:54 PM

Let's face facts. The system within which legal education operates in this nation creates perverse incentives that encourage and reward those who engage in so-called "predatory poaching" as well as several other competitive practices. We exist within, and through our acquiescence we remain within, a system that exalts artificial and misleading indicia of prestige, selectivity, and quality.

Despite numerous well-argued critiques of the U.S. News rankings and their highly subjective/arbitrary choice of metrics, many law schools tout any positive movement on the chart. Law school officials, from deans to promotional people, go to great lengths to emphasize a school's high ranking, upward trend, advantage versus close competitors, etc. You can see this widespread practice in law school websites, brochures, letters to prospective students and alumni, speeches, recruiting events, and more.

Many law schools such as GW take full advantage of the well-known flaws in the ranking system to gain as many tuition-paying transfer students as possible, with no diminution in their illusory U.S. News statistics. It should surprise no one in legal academe that they do this. Indeed, given the powerful perverse incentives at work, it would be astonishing if they did not do it. Even while maintaining their official not-for-profit status, GW and other law schools do all they can within the existing system to bolster their revenues while propping up the false front of high admissions standards, low enrollment, and lofty selectivity.

Like any good business person, the officials at GW and many other law schools see an obvious opportunity to increase their surplus of revenue over expenses, while retaining the allure of their brand. Nearby competitors (such as American in the case of GW) are an inviting target of opportunity, because they are filled with students who have proved their ability to survive the first year, and can transfer without any need to relocate, with all the expense and inconvenience that would entail. GW can exploit its attractive brand, complete with a top-20 U.S. News ranking and the appearance of selectivity and rigor that comes with it, to accept many willing students who voluntarily (and understandably) apply to transfer as an upgrade from their original law schools.

The huge additional revenue-to-expense surplus (i.e., what would be called profits in most contexts) that this generates for GW can then be used to pay for: (1) lucrative salaries for professors, administrators, staff, and deans; (2) generous summer research stipends for faculty, lavishly funding the creation of law review articles that, with rare exceptions, will never be read by anyone; (3) abundant opportunities for faculty and deans to travel for conferences and symposia, many of which are of questionable value-added merit; (4) attractive sabbatical benefits; (5) excellent medical/dental benefits; (5) professor book purchases; (6) upgraded furniture and equipment for faculty, staff, and deans; (6) stipends for Research Assistants to help the professors with their academic publication output; and much more. Is it in any way surprising that GW and other law schools leverage their artificially-created branding advantages to further strengthen their brand, and then use this allure to increase their revenue surpluses? That's what a good manager is paid to do.

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