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39 Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution 169 (2023)


Revising the Tenure Code of an institution of higher learning may be among the most challenging of the processes it undertakes, especially when there is a commitment to shared governance by its Board of Trustees and Faculty. At Mitchell Hamline School of Law, we recently experienced this process - both difficult and ultimately satisfying - following the combination of two law schools. In 2016, Mitchell Hamline School of Law became an independent institution formed through the combination of independent William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline School of Law, a school of Hamline University, both based in St. Paul, Minnesota. In the early years, implementing the combination agreement consumed trustee and faculty attention, requiring significant work that included integrating faculty from each school, organizing administrative structure, filling staff positions, adding staff where necessary, and creating annual and capital budgets.

Numerous challenges had to be addressed immediately following the combination. A particularly critical one was determining the Tenure Code to be used for the new school. At the time of the combination, each school had its own Tenure Code, but neither one was seen as appropriate for the new law school. In particular, there was a strong belief that the William Mitchell Tenure Code created a severe imbalance of governance and authority between the Faculty and Trustees. But because of the new law school's location in the William Mitchell building, we thought we could use the William Mitchell Tenure Code temporarily, merely as a placeholder. No one imagined it would be in place for the next six and a half years. In hindsight, however, no one should have been surprised that the shortcomings of the original William Mitchell Tenure Code would become increasingly obvious and frustrating for the faculty of the new Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

While each school considering a tenure code revision will face issues that are uniquely its own, the Mitchell Hamline School of Law experience confirms that when shared governance is the foundation of the tenure code review process, trust can be built, issues can be resolved, and a new tenure code can be unanimously adopted by the Faculty and the Board of Trustees.