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UNC Law School Dean Talks About Decision to Step Down After 9 Years

By Danny Hooley Posted May 21, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Dean Jack Boger of the UNC School of Law is stepping down from that position after nine years.

“I guess I’m most proud of keeping our ship moving in the right direction, if you would, during some very difficult times for American law schools” says Boger. “We have an important mission to keep public legal education affordable, and by relative standards, we’re still doing that.”

Boger will leave behind an impressive legacy of accomplishments when he changes jobs in about 14 months.

He’s overseen the hiring of around 35 new faculty members over the past eight years.

Even in light of big state-government cuts to UNC, Boger thinks the law school should be able to sustain that level of faculty for at least a decade to come, thanks to careful planning.

“We’ve been very careful in thinking about how to make those expansions,” says Boger. “And right now, I think we can sustain that. We’ve hired a lot of people in at younger levels – salary levels that are lower, of course, than salary levels for senior professors. And that’s an advantage for a while.”

One notable program Boger implemented in 2011 was a research-and-writing program for first-year students.

“We had heard widely, from alumni and others, that law students – not just Carolina law students, but law students generally – were graduating without as strong skills is writing; and without as much familiarity with special kinds of writings that lawyers do.”

To address that issue, the school added six or seven faculty members dedicated to working with first-year students on their legal writing skills.

Under Boger, the UNC School of Law implemented grant incentives for professors who created courses that gave students hands-on experience.

Boger graduated from UNC Law School in 1974. He went on to work at the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, as well as a prestigious New York firm.

Beginning in the late 1970s, he gravitated more toward civil rights work, and lent his talents to the NAACP and the Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Boger joined UNC’s law faculty in 1990.

When civil rights hero Dr. Julius Chambers retired as Chancellor of North Carolina Central University in 2001, he was invited by Dr. Gene Nichol, who was Dean of the UNC School of Law at the time, to start a Center for Civil Rights.

Boger, an old friend of Chambers’, was chosen as his Deputy Director.

“It was really one of the high points of my professional life,” he says.

Boger’s timing in his decision to return to teaching has led some to wonder if it has anything to do with a recent controversy involving Nichol.

Nichol, who now teaches constitutional law and federal jurisdiction at UNC, is also the director of the Center on Poverty, Work & Opportunity.

He’s also a columnist for The News & Observer. Last October, one of Nichols’ jabs at North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory angered some of the governor’s supporters – and of of them was Ed McMahan, who’s on the UNC Board of Governors.

Boger dismisses the notion that pressure from conservative groups has anything to so with his decision to step down.

“The Gene Nichol controversy is like many controversies I’ve had as dean,” says Boger. “It exerts some pressures on the school, but maybe five percent of the pressure I feel as dean, not 50 percent.

He chuckles.

“So that really didn’t factor into the decision at all.”

With a capital campaign coming up soon, Boger says he figured he should step down before it was time to start courting donors. He says it’s more appropriate to leave that to his successor.

“Well, I’m eight years into what would otherwise be a 10-year deanship,” he says. “And so the question is: Do I step down after another year – after nine years, or after 10?

“The capital campaign is likely to get started about a year from now. So either I do a year of it, and sing in the key of G, and in comes somebody else that would like to sing in the key of A flat. And that’s awkward to do.”

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