Your Letters

Your Letters

Editor’s note: This is a letter addresses to the Ohio University Board of Trustees, Dean Florenz Plassman and Provost Elizabeth Sayers. The NEWS received a copy of the letter.

We are a group of Ohio University alumni writing to express our urgent concerns about the proposed budget cuts and restructuring that essentially defund the Center for Law, Justice & Culture (CLJC).

As proud OU graduates, we are exasperated at the news that yet another essential university unit is facing these cuts from an administration that does not seem to understand how central these departments and units are to the Bobcat experience. We echo the concerns raised by current students, faculty, individual alumni, and organizations like ACLU Ohio. Each and every one of us found a home with the students, faculty, and community members engaged with the critical study of law, society, and politics at the CLJC. Since graduating, the concepts learned, connections made, and opportunities pursued through the CLJC continue to impact our postgraduate and career paths.

While the administration claims no final decisions have been made, if you follow through with this plan, the cutting of the CLJC academic and pre-law programming budget would have drastic implications for the students, alumni, and faculty associated with the center and the entire Ohio University community. Founded a decade ago with support and encouragement from the Dean, the Provost, the President, and the Board of Trustees, the CLJC is an innovative and interdisciplinary program that sets Ohio University apart from regional competition, fosters an irreplaceable community for a diverse cohort of students, and provides high-impact and experiential learning opportunities for students. Those programs include:

- Undergraduate certificate program (2012-present)

- Study Abroad: Human Rights, Law & Justice in Northern Ireland (2013-present)

- Learning communities (2016-present)

- Breaking the Law (2014-present)

- Honors Pathway in Law, Justice & Culture

- Online/on campus MA in Law, Justice & Culture (2018-present)

- EAP Early assurance program BA/MA (2019-present)

- 3+3 BA/JD with law school partners Case Western Reserve University and University of Cincinnati (in progress)

- High School OHIO Summer Law & Trial Institute (2016-present)

- Pre-law advising, including LSATurdays hosted twice per year and mock law school courses (2014-present)

- OHIO Mock Trial (2015-present)

- Law-related community partnerships, including those at the Ohio Innocence Project, ACLU Ohio, and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services

- Student organizations, including Phi Alpha Delta, Ohio Innocence Project — U, ACLU Ohio University, and Students for Law, Justice & Culture

We are a broad group of alumni, some of whom were formally engaged with the CLJC as students, and others who have only had the opportunity to engage as alumni. We are the students who participated in the certificate program, founded and participated in student organizations, organized campus events, sought professional guidance from pre-law advisor Larry Hayman, engaged with international law and justice through study abroad, enrolled in or completed the MA program offered by the CLJC, completed intensive research projects with CLJC faculty support, and cultivated and nurtured a community of highly engaged high school, undergraduate, graduate students, and alumni unlike any other at Ohio University. For many of us, the CLJC remains our primary point of contact with Ohio University since graduation. It provides a critical way for us to engage with current students and network amongst each other, and with other organizations and institutions.

The currently proposed budget reduction and relocation of the pre-law advisor position severely undervalues unique programming that not only attracts but retains its students from diverse backgrounds. It ignores the fact that pre-law students benefit greatly from specialized and focused guidance that general advising through the new Guarantee+ Pathway program simply cannot replicate. The CLJC starts working with students while they are still in high school, provides extensive programming and career advising during their undergraduate careers, and follows them beyond commencement with its graduate program and extensive array of alumni activities.

As alumni, we demand that any final budget decisions involving the CLJC 1) maintain the pre-law advisor position currently held by Larry Hayman, as it exists in its current form, and 2) provide adequate financial support for the growing number of students engaged in undergraduate and graduate CLJC programs.

We will not hesitate to contact the state-wide media sources to publicize our exasperation and demands and rightfully put the spotlight on university administration’s responsibility to, in President Nellis’ own words, “...maintain our commitment to access and inclusion, student transformation, and research and creative activity that serves our community locally and globally.”

Katie Conlon (‘16), Pittsburgh, PA, Queen’s University Belfast

Logan Stark (‘18), Cleveland, OH, New Avenues to Independence

Ashley Kafton (‘20), Bethlehem, PA, United Way

Madeline Rettig (‘16), Columbus, OH, Marshall and Forman LLC

Lydia Weiant (‘16), Washington, D.C., United States Federal Judiciary

Jessica Roth (‘18), Baltimore, MD, Johns Hopkins University

Jenna Lada (‘14), Washington, D.C., University of Oregon

Olayemi Olurin (‘15), New York, NY, The Legal Aid Society

Taylor Hagen (‘18), Cleveland, OH, Cleveland Marshall College of Law

Kathleen Basalla (‘18), Cincinnati, OH, University of Cincinnati College of Law

Keeghan White (‘18), Cincinnati, OH, University of Cincinnati School of Planning

Casey Tisdale (‘17), Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska — Lincoln

Zachary Drees (‘18), Columbus, OH, Franklin County JFS

Celia Marilley Burke (‘14), Ann Arbor, MI, University of Michigan

Elizabeth Cychosz (‘15), Boulder, CO

Brian J. Muhitch (‘16), T. Rowe Price

Olivia Mirich (‘18), Columbus, OH, Capital University Law School

Sarah Vanderhoff (‘19), Lexington City, VA, Washington & Lee School of Law

Hannah Oster (‘15), Cleveland, OH, Jones Day

Erin Noonan (‘16)

Kathleen Basalla (‘18), Cincinnati, OH, University of Cincinnati College of Law

Kaleb Carter (‘16), Dekalb, IL

Lauren Smith (‘20), New Orleans, LA, University of New Orleans

Samantha Rommel (‘15)(‘20), Athens, Ohio, Ohio University

Hannah Koerner (‘17), New York, NY, Hachette Book Group

Francisco J. Cintron (‘18), South Bend, IN, University of Notre Dame

Nicole Shanks (‘09)(’16)

Alisha Riley (‘13)

Connor Hunt (‘15), Dealer Tire

Sue Ryu (‘20), Athens, OH, Brookings Institution

Shae Woodburn (‘20), Williamsburg, VA, William and Mary Law School

Bailey Noonan (‘18), Akron, OH, Peace Corps Uganda

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