Carey Law School is considering changing its shortened name back to "Penn Law" from "Carey Law" in response to overwhelming student and alumni backlash, an administrator said at a town hall meeting.
Carey Law Dean of Students Felicia Lin, along with three other administrators, held an hour-and-a-half lunch Q&A session on Monday for any law students concerned about the school's renaming. The meeting comes after more than 1,500 students and alumni signed a petition demanding the school revert its short-form name from "Carey Law" back to "Penn Law," arguing that employers will not recognize the new name. Students said during the meeting that they are not asking for a change to the school‘s full name.
“Today’s meeting made clear the many questions and concerns students have,” Carey Law spokesperson Steven Barnes wrote in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian after the meeting. “That was the goal of this meeting. The Dean [Ted Ruger] and others will work to respond to these questions, and the Dean will talk directly with students in various settings.”
Several attendees posted recordings of the meeting on social media. A DP reporter confirmed the veracity of an audio recording of the event with Barnes and spoke with several students who were present at the meeting. The reporter was denied access to the event, which was only open to the law school community.
“There are ongoing discussions based on the last few days about the shorthand name,” Lin said during the meeting, confirmed by Barnes.
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. Penn's law school, like the other schools at the University, has a style guide to regulate the school's branding. The new short-form names include "Carey," "Carey Law," and "Carey Law School" — but "Penn Law" is no longer an acceptable abbreviation for the school.
Last Friday, Penn President Amy Gutmann and Board of Trustees Chair David Cohen sent a University-wide email announcing the name change, spurred by a $125 million donation from the W. P. Carey Foundation — the largest sum ever gifted to a law school.
Several "Penn Law is now Carey Law" banners were unfurled on posts outside several law school buildings during the afternoon meeting and were taken down as of the evening. Multiple webpages have text that is changed from "Carey Law" back to "Penn Law," such as the page on the school's achievements, the page on branding, and the page on career application materials.
Third-year Carey Law student B.J. Courville said after the meeting that she does not believe Penn is taking the short-form name discussion seriously.
“If it is true that there are talks in the works, good, but I'm skeptical because it seems like they are moving full steam ahead like with these banners," she said.
She added that several hours after the renaming was announced last Friday, there was a celebration at the law school with alcoholic beverages and free shirts with the "Carey Law" logo. Students at the town hall meeting said the speed of changes made to merchandise and banners indicates that a decision must have been made before the Board of Trustees' decision on Friday, according to the online video.
During the meeting, students criticized administrators’ lack of transparency with the negotiation and the allocation of the funds. The students also voiced disapproval that Lin was tasked with answering their questions, rather than an administrator involved with the donation negotiations.
Lin did not respond to student questions on whether the short-form name change was part of the donation agreement. Instead, she reiterated that the University is considering which short-form name to keep. Barnes also declined to comment to the DP on the same question.
Second-year Carey Law student and Communication Ph.D. candidate Sanjay Jolly, who attended the event, said the panelists were mostly unable to answer any of the students’ questions because they were not part of the negotiations to rename the school and had not read the contract. He said students completely filled the Fitts Auditorium, which seats 336 people, and many students had to stand.
At the meeting, Lin spoke for about four minutes before the Q&A session began and said she was unhappy when she first found out about the renaming and understands students’ frustration over this “upsetting decision.” She added that “it was not great that there was a confidentiality clause."
Barnes said Carey Law Dean Ted Ruger and Carey Law administrators are considering various options for the acceptable short-form names and their appearance on the website.
Jolly said students in the crowd became “increasingly resentful” and rowdier as the meeting went on, shouting down the administrators' responses with frustration. The crowd clapped and cheered after the students argued their points.
Students during the meeting also wanted a more concrete breakdown of how the money donated will be spent.
“We wanted to know a lot about how this $125 million is actually going to be split up,” said third-year Carey Law student Kristen DeWilde. “If they said that they are going to help with financial aid and public interest, what does that look like?”
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