Local

NCCU's law dean to exit as school tries to address compliance concerns

N.C. Central University Chancellor Johnson Akinleye said the law school dean would step down and the school would increase minimum admission standards following concerns by American Bar Association accreditors.
N.C. Central University Chancellor Johnson Akinleye said the law school dean would step down and the school would increase minimum admission standards following concerns by American Bar Association accreditors. ctoth@heraldsun.com, 2017 file photo

N.C. Central University’s law dean will leave her post and the law school's incoming class will shrink by about one-third because of new minimum admissions standards, as the school attempts to satisfy concerns of the American Bar Association.

Phyliss Craig-Taylor, who has been dean since 2012, will remain at the law school as a faculty member, NCCU Chancellor Johnson Akinleye said Wednesday. An interim dean will be named soon, he said, while the school conducts a national search for a new leader.

Craig-Taylor could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The school is taking a number of steps to respond to concerns by the ABA, which accredits law schools in the United States. The ABA wrote to NCCU early this year, saying the law school was "significantly out of compliance" with ABA standards.

In 2017, of those NCCU law graduates who took the bar exam for the first time in North Carolina, 54 percent passed, compared to 59 percent in 2016, according to a report filed by NCCU with the ABA. The school's attrition rate worsened, with 37.7 percent of first-year students in 2016-17 washing out.

NCCU officials will be questioned by an ABA accreditation committee in late June.

"We put in place a number of things that we believe will position us very well when we appear before the ABA in June," Akinleye said.

Starting for the fall entering class, all students must have an LSAT score of 142 or above and a grade point average of at least 2.96 to be admitted at NCCU. The new admissions threshold will force the class to be substantially reduced to 110 students — shrinking by more than 30 percent, Akinleye said.

For recent NCCU law graduates, the school will spend $300,000 on bar preparation. The chancellor said "all hands are on deck" to help those students pass the bar in July. He said he would meet with graduates this week to urge them to take advantage of the prep course.

First-year students will have access to online legal learning resources, academic coaches, skill tutorials, structured study groups and mandatory appointments with advisers to examine any learning deficiencies.

"As far as student success, we have a lot of action items that we put in place here that will help the students that we are bringing in from now on to be successful," Akinleye said. "I would add that it takes at least three years for you to begin to see it."

Anna Nelson, who lead's the UNC board's educational planning, policies and programs committee, said the board appreciates the actions so far, adding, "We take the situation very seriously."

The ABA has been cracking down on schools whose students aren't succeeding in class or on the bar exam. In 2016, the association pulled the accreditation of the for-profit Charlotte School of Law, citing persistent problems with the school's admissions, curriculum and bar exam passage rates.

The school eventually closed, but earlier this month, it filed suit against the ABA, claiming it acted improperly when it put the school on probation.

NCCU leaders have said its law school accreditation is intact and pledged to do anything necessary to preserve the school, which has long been a point of pride for the historically black university in Durham.

Jane Stancill: 919-819-4559, @janestancill
Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer

  Comments