South Texas School now A&M Law Center

Heather Detrixhe

Managing Editor

Texas A&M is making a home for itself in downtown Houston.

The South Texas School of Law and Texas A&M University have announced what they call an "affiliation" of the two institutes.

Under the agreement, the name of the South Texas School of Law, a private law school located in downtown Houston, will be changed to Texas A&M University Law Center.

The alliance is raising eyebrows among University of Houston officials.

This action "clearly requires getting approval of the American Bar Association and they have not yet done so," said UH Law Center Dean Stephen Zamora.

UH President/UH-System Chancellor Arthur K. Smith is also critical of the arrangement. According to Smith, any such agreement must be approved by state legislators and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

"We are calling on (the coordinating board and the American Bar Association) and legislators of Texas to examine the oversight and consider whether this 'affiliation' meets the needs of the state and is within the projected resources of the state," Smith told The Daily Cougar.

Texas has four state-supported public law schools, including UH, Texas Southern University, the University of Texas and Texas Tech.

"TSU and UH are both in Houston, but they are very different," Zamora said. "I am concerned that the interests of the coordinating board may be duplicated (with this arrangement)."

Though it provides for A&M representation on the Law Center's Board of Directors, the agreement states that the A&M Law Center will remain a private and independent institution.

"What (the agreement is) saying is that state funding will not go directly to the South Texas School of Law, but it will be reflected in its affiliation with A&M. I do not understand how it can be an independent institution and still be called A&M," Zamora said.

This affiliation will affect UH "any way but good," said Aaron Atkins, vice president of the UH Law Center Chapter of the Federalist Society.

Atkins estimated that within a few years the A&M Law Center would probably push to become a public school so that they can "lower their tuition rates and become more competitive with UH.

"That's the real albatross around their neck - that they have to charge out of state tuition," Atkins said.

Though Zamora said he doesn't think enrollment at UH will be dramatically affected, he voiced concerns over whether or not the state will be liable for the actions of the A&M Law Center.

"One example is that they may now be (restricted) under the Hopwood decision," Zamora said.

Sheila Hansel, spokesperson for Texas A&M School of Law, said A&M came to them in July with the proposal, and that it should not be a surprise to anyone.

"This sort of arrangement has been talked about since 1968," Hansel said.

"A&M was told they would never make it into the top ten without a law school," Hansel added. "The pairing makes sense, because A&M has always wanted a law school and South Texas lacks national name recognition.

A similar alliance was approved by the ABA between Michigan State and Detroit College of Law, Hansel noted.

"When we drafted the agreement, we fully expected (the ABA) to come check us out, but we fully expect it to pass," Hansel said.

According to Hansel, the Law Center is required to submit a description of purpose which will be evaluated by the ABA, and undergo a site evaluation April 24-26 before the agreement will be approved under ABA regulations.

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