Payments to dean are least of university's questionable fiscal practices

February 25, 2010

I am writing in response to the stories and letters in the Baltimore Sun regarding the findings in the legislative audit of the graduate schools under the University of Maryland, Baltimore umbrella. Based on the coverage so far, readers may be left with the incorrect perception that the target of the audit was only the law school, or more specficially, only payments to its former dean, Karen Rothenberg. The truth of the matter is the audit took a full look at all of the schools: dentistry, law, medicine, nursing, pharmacy and social work.

Those who actually read the full audit findings closely will notice that the auditors expressed clear and overarching concerns about the lack of what appears to be proper accounting practices and gave a wide range of examples. In total, the auditors found about $33 million in "questionable" payments, a concern about financial controls, timeliness of execuiting contracts and issues with purchasing authority.

It appears that signficant parts of the system's financial house is in disarray. Among the most disappointing parts of the audit comes on page seven where the auditors disclose this fact: Of 13 findings that appeared in their 2006 audit of the university system, eight of them reappear in the 2010 edition. Eight repeat findings?

Unfortunately, only one of the audit's findings has found its way into the public discourse thus far; the sole focus has been on former Dean Rothenberg's compensation package. Has anyone thought to ask this question: Who authorized it? But no matter what that answer is, there's no doubt that the state and the law school are better off because of Dean Rothenberg's nearly 10-year tenure.

She significantly expanded clinical and public service programs. Our faculty and students now provide more than 110,000 hours of free legal services annually to the citizens of Maryland. She increased financial resources to support students, awarding nearly $2 million annually for returning students, public interest grants for summer work and loan repayment for graduates.

Dean Rothenberg increased the size of the law school endowment by nearly 70 percent, from $29 million in 1999 to $49 million today. In addition, she founded the Law & Health Care Program, which has been ranked consistently among the top three in the country by U.S.News & World Report. Our cutting-edge environmental law program is also much the result of her work. Additionally, the reputation of the University of Maryland School of Law increased by leaps and bounds during Dean Rothenberg's tenure.

While there may be some who question the level of compensation or the facts surrounding the reported increases in the audit findings, one thing no one can question is Dean Rothenberg's commitment to the University of Maryland School of Law and her long record of accomplishment. To retain the best deans requires paying competitive salaries in the academic world. I for one am happy to pay what it takes to ensure the law school has the best leaders possible in place.

Nancy C. Lineman, College Park

The writer is an evening student at the University of Maryland School of Law.

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