Jennifer Bard

A former dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law has sued to get her job back after being placed on administrative leave last month following clashes with faculty over proposed budget cuts.

Jennifer Bard alleges that the university and interim provost Peter Landgren unlawfully removed her from the deanship and retaliated against her for speaking publicly about her confrontations with the law faculty and about the law school’s financial woes, in a complaint filed April 21 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

“There is a certain irony here that the very institution tasked with teaching future lawyers and jurists about due process and the constitution is violating those very sacrosanct principles,” said Marjorie Berman, an attorney at New York firm Krantz & Berman who is representing Bard.

University spokesman Greg Vehr said officials are reviewing the suit. “We welcome the opportunity to present the truth in court,” he said.

Bard became the law school’s first female dean in July 2015 for what was to be a five-year term. But Landgren placed her on administrative leave March 22, just days after news of turmoil on the law faculty went public.

The Cincinnati Business Courier on March 19 published an article saying some members of the faculty had threatened a vote of no confidence in Bard. It published another article two days later featuring Bard defending her leadership at the law school and saying that she had to make difficult decisions to close a large operating deficit, and that a small faction of the faculty opposed those cost-cutting proposals. She was removed as dean the following day.

“I came to [the University of Cincinnati] in good faith, deeply committed to addressing the College of Law’s failure to adapt to a rapidly changing legal market,” Bard said in a prepared statement about her lawsuit. “Although I enjoyed the support of the students and many highly talented faculty and staff, the university now seems committed to seeing a small, entitled minority of faculty hijack reform efforts that should be dedicated solely to the welfare of its students.”

Bard’s complaint offers additional allegations of the law school’s financial and operational problems and her ongoing clashes with faculty members and Landgren.

—Bard found instances of “gross mismanagement of public funds” at the law school, including outdated and inefficient admissions and scholarship allocation practices.

—Operating funds were used to cover deficits in what were supposed to be fully endowed salary supplements for endowed faculty members.

—Endowed professors led the revolt against her deanship after Bard gave a presentation in November 2016 on the school’s finances, fearing their salary supplements would be curtailed.

—The opposing faculty members exploited the recent departure of former university provost Beverly Davenport, who had been supportive of Bard’s leadership at the law school.

—Landgren asked Bard to resign by Dec. 14. but she refused. Instead, Landgren and Bard agreed to a six-month mediation plan to improve communication between the dean and faculty.

—Landgren never approved the mediation portion of the plan and instead commenced an evaluation of Bard’s leadership, which she feared would be used to force her to resign.

—Bard wrote to Landgren two days before she was placed on administrative leave to tell him that she was being treated differently than all of her male predecessor law deans.

Bard is claiming due process and First Amendment violations and breach of contract. She is seeking her reinstatement as dean, a statement from the university that she has not engaged in misconduct, and compensatory and punitive damages.