COLUMBIA — The MU School of Law named Professor Rafael Gely to be the new associate dean for academic affairs Wednesday morning.
The associate dean position opened after the death of James Devine on May 12. Devine, 62, died of a heart attack during a meeting of the Boone County Bar Association, according to a previous Missourian report. He was the associate dean of academic affairs at the law school at the time of his death.
Gely, 48, is entering his third year at the law school and has 20 years of teaching experience. Previously, he taught at the University of Cincinnati, the Chicago-Kent College of Law and Texas A&M University. He received his law degree and a doctorate from the University of Illinois.
As associate dean for academic affairs, Gely will be dealing with student academic issues, faculty issues and the curriculum at a sensitive time for the MU School of Law.
Students expressed concern in April when the MU Law School dropped from number 65 in the nation to number 93 in a U.S. News & World Report ranking of law schools. At a meeting held with law school faculty, several students demanded that the school employ higher-profile faculty, adjust the curriculum and take steps to improve career services.
Before his death, the previous dean, Devine, met with student groups to identify issues of concern. Gely said he plans to "continue that good work" in his tenure as associate dean.
"Every law school deals with issues, but with (the U.S. News rankings) it became very public," Gely said.
He said that the best way to improve the reputation of the MU Law School is to "keep putting good students out." As associate dean for academic affairs, he will not be in charge of career development.
Law School Dean Larry Dessem said in a news release that he was confident he made the right choice.
"Professor Gely is a wonderful classroom teacher, an exciting legal scholar and a terrific law school colleague," he said. "He will be similarly successful as associate dean for academic affairs, and we all look forward to working with him in his new position."
However, Jonathan Hutcheson, who graduated from MU Law School in May — and who was an outspoken critic following the rankings drop — thought the hire was a missed opportunity. He said the open position could have been an opportunity for MU to bring in a senior professor from a higher-ranked law school.
Gely will still teach, but with a lighter class load. Gely said that other professors or adjunct faculty could be brought in to teach his courses, which he said might be offered less frequently.
As for students who are deciding whether to go to law school, Gely says people should consider their goals and whether they want to practice law.
Will Guldin contributed to this report.