Carey Law has changed its shortened name back to “Penn Law” for the next three years, capitulating to widespread pressure from students and alumni. Although many view the change as “better than nothing,” some students are still upset because the school will eventually be renamed “Penn Carey Law."
Penn Law Dean Ted Ruger announced on Monday that the school's abbreviated name is now "Penn Law" again and will become "Penn Carey Law” in fall 2022 — the semester after the current first-year law students graduate. The move comes after more than 3,000 law students and alumni signed a petition demanding the school revert its short-form name back to Penn Law, arguing employers would not recognize the new name and that Carey Law is not as prestigious as Penn Law.
1979 Penn Law graduate M. Kelly Tillery said he would describe Penn Law’s announcement as a “not too subtle way of clearing out the classes” of students who might file litigation on the basis of breach of contract or fraud.
"All [the temporary return to Penn Law] does is kick the can down the road a couple years to mollify some angry students and wait until they turn over," said second-year Penn Law student Sanjay Jolly.
The shortened form of the name is used on official University communications, signage, and documents, according to the law school's style guide. The abbreviated form is also used on the law school's merchandise.
Administrators announced in a Nov. 11 town hall meeting that the school was considering changing its short-form name back to Penn Law. The Board of Trustees approved the full name change to "University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School" on Nov. 8, after a $125 million donation made to the school by the W. P. Carey Foundation — the largest donation ever made to a law school.
Although the name is now back to "Penn Law," some criticized senior administration officials for undertaking the name-changing process without direct meetings with students and alumni. Ruger did not speak with students before deciding to revert the name to "Penn Law," said third-year Penn Law student BJ Courville.
Courville said while "Penn Carey Law" is better than "Carey Law," the lack of transparency surrounding the terms of the naming donation and the administration’s refusal to meet with students upon request is outrageous. She added that the entire renaming process has been "a complete nightmare."
“Even if they had given us exactly what we demanded — which was [that] Penn Law remain the short name forever — I think I still would have a bad taste in my mouth over the utter lack of transparency that has been demonstrated by the leadership of the admin within the law school,” Courville said.
“The process was flawed from the beginning. Even when there was an outrage from students and faculty, [the administrators] didn’t seem to engage in any systematic way,” Tillery said. “They just kind of listened and went into more secret meetings to decide what to do.”
Courville added she does not see this decision as a compromise, as a compromise requires two parties to discuss and negotiate, which she said did not happen in this case.
“A lot of my colleagues have been saying ‘they didn’t give us a seat at the table,’” Courville said.
"With the way forward clearly established, I look forward to the many conversations I and my colleagues will be having with students, alumni, and other members of our community about how we can put this transformative gift into action," Ruger wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian Monday evening, in response to the criticisms about the lack of transparency.
Ruger did not respond to a request for comment on who made the decision to change the school's short-form name back.
Tillery said alumni are discussing a donation moratorium in which they would refuse to give donations to the school until "Penn Law" remains its permanent name.
“Students and particularly the alumni deserve more respect,” Tillery said. “We weren’t even consulted. That’s what’s really outrageous.”
Many also expressed frustration over the permanent short-form name "Penn Carey Law," which is set to roll out in the 2022-23 school year.
2004 Penn Law graduate Dan Horowitz said while he likes Penn Carey Law more than Carey Law, Penn Carey Law is “clunky and awkward.” He added that a short-form name by definition is meant to be short and "roll off the tongue easily."
Tillery called "Penn Carey Law" the "McDonald's of law schools" because the name appears to be in a franchise with "Maryland Carey Law." University of Maryland's law school was renamed in 2011 after a $30 million donation from the W. P. Carey Foundation.
"The essence of a franchise is that the quality of the goods and service is not necessarily good, it is just consistent," he said. "And the consistency level is defined by the lowest denominator: here, the University of Maryland, a fine school no doubt, but not the caliber of Penn Law."
"I guess we will have to ask students, 'Would you like fries with that law degree?,'" he said.