The turmoil at Charlotte School of Law appeared to continue Monday with the dean in charge of curriculum telling students she had been forced out of her job.
In an email, Camille Davidson said she was asked to resign as the school’s head of academics by Jay Conison, the head dean of the school. Davidson, a Georgetown University law graduate, said she would remain on the CSL faculty. The change comes less than a week before the beleaguered school is scheduled to reopen for classes.
“It is with much regret that I inform you that Dean Conison has asked me to step down as Academic Dean,” Davidson wrote, according to a copy of her message obtained by the Observer. “As of today, I will no longer serve in such capacity.”
In her job as dean, Davidson helped plan the school’s curriculum and schedule of classes. She also assigned teachers and addressed academic issues with students, while also teaching classes.
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Davidson is the wife of Trevor Fuller, a Mecklenburg county commissioner who was recently deposed as chairman by his colleagues. She did not respond to an Observer phone call or email seeking comment for this story.
One of her former colleagues at the school said Davidson regularly served as a shield between faculty and students and InfiLaw, which operates CSL and two other for-profit law schools in Florida and Arizona.
“Camille had an incredibly hard job. She did it as well as anybody could,” said the former faculty member, who asked to remain anonymous due to the school’s current problems with the federal government and the American Bar Association.
“She stood up to Infilaw on behalf of students and faculty when it was possible to do so. But she was the person who had to have difficult discussions with students and was often the messenger for things students didn’t like. Honestly, I’m happy for her that she doesn’t have to do it anymore.”
The bar placed the school on two years’ probation due to what it described as chronic problems with admissions, curriculum and the worst passing rate on the bar exam in North Carolina.
Last month, the Department of Education made CSL the first accredited law school in the country to lose access to student loans and other financial aid. The agency accused Conison and school President Chidi Ogene of trying to hide the school’s problems from current and future students in order to maintain enrollment.
Friday night, the school announced it will reopen next week on schedule for the spring semester. But students and a parent said Monday that they still don’t know if the school has arranged alternative financing for the lost federal loans.
While the administration says it continues to negotiate with the federal government in hopes of freeing up the money, the faculty has issued a statement of no confidence in Conison and Ogene and has asked for a larger role in admissions and curriculum.
Rob Barchiesi, a third-year CSL student, described Davidson as “an excellent professor” who is “tough but fair.”
“The people who should have to step down are Chidi Ogene and Conison,” said Barchiesi, a plaintiff in a federal, class-action lawsuit accusing the school and its leaders of deception and fraud. “It was their ship to run and they turned it into the Titanic.”
Charlotte attorney Lee Robertson, president of the 10-year-old school’s alumni association, said his alma mater will miss Davidson’s leadership, “but (we) look forward to seeing her back in the classroom.”
Last year, the Department of Education said CSL students received almost $49 million in loans and other forms of financial aid. Tuition and fees to the school total around $45,000, and students regularly leave the school with six-figure debt. Critics of the school’s performance on the bar exam say most CSL graduates won’t land the jobs and salaries necessary to repay the money, leaving it for taxpayers to swallow.
Bill Dangler of Long Branch, N.J., said his son, Jason, already has run up $200,000 in school debt at the school and needs 10 more credit hours to graduate. He said he started calling Charlotte School of Law daily before Christmas. Only once did anyone answer, Dangler said. The lone response he received for his questions was I don’t know, “and nobody has picked up since,” he says.
“This is getting ridiculous ... They have not told the students where the (new) money is supposed to come from,” he said Monday. “I’m glad the school is going to reopen. But in three or four days, where am I supposed to get $30,000?”
Asked to comment about Davidson’s letter Monday, CSL spokeswoman Victoria Taylor said the school does not discuss personnel matters.
As for the financial uncertainty surrounding the school, Taylor said CSL would update the situation for students and families by the end of the day.