After more than 50 years of waiting, Texas A&M was finally able to purchase a law school when President Frederick Slabach announced the potential sale of the Texas Wesleyan Law School on June 26.
Texas A&M will purchase the law school for $20 million up front and for $5 million over the next five years at $1 million per year. Wesleyan will lease the space now occupied by the law school for $2.5 million over the next 40 years.
Slabach, president of Wesleyan, said he has high hopes for the sale.
“This has apparently been something that has been on their radar screen, to have a law school for some time now, for decades,” Slabach said. “I don’t know how far back it goes, but I know it goes pretty far.”
Slabach said all Wesleyan has done thus far is submit a letter of intent, that has been approved by both the Texas Wesleyan University Board of Trustees and the Texas A&M System Board of Regents. The letter of intent lays out some of the basic pieces of the agreement, but it specifically says by its own terms that it is not legally binding.
According to a print out of the letter of intent (LOI), A&M will agree to establish a “3 plus 3” undergraduate program between Wesleyan and the law school upon transfering to Texas A&M name, this is exclusive to Wesleyan in Tarrant and Dallas Counties for a 20-year period.
Another program the new merge will bring is to establish a joint Master’s in Business Administration/Juris Doctor (MBA/JD) degree program between Texas Wesleyan University and the law school upon transfer to Texas A&M that is exclusive to Texas Wesleyan and Dallas Counties for a 20-year period.
Slabach said he was pretty optimistic about the law school sale, and said the sale will have a good affect on Wesleyan.
“Based on my conversation with the folks at A&M this is going to be a really, very positive move for the law school itself, and for the students at the law school,” Slabach said. “A&M is going to be able, I believe, to make the kind of investment at the law school that will very quickly begin to move it to the very top ranking of all the law schools in the United States.”
Slabach said the sale of the law school will also help raise it to one of the highest standards in the United States.
“It [Wesleyan School of Law] is a very good law school,” Slabach said. “They [A&M] want to make it one of the best in the country.”
Slabach said there are no plans to move the law school out of Fort Worth, this was part of the reason Slabach said he chose the partnership with A&M.
Slabach said the partnership cannot be made legal until three things happen. First, the Texas A&M University System as well as Texas A&M College Station has to go to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to get approval to have a law school. By state law each university, the program of offerings has to be approved.
Second, both Texas A&M and Texas Wesleyan must be accredited by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS),which is the region both colleges are located. Then SACS will consider whether to approve the major change in both university programs.
Third, the American Bar Association (ABA) also has an approval process both universities have to submit to, which is similar to SACS.
Joe Spurlock II, professor of law at the Texas Wesleyan School of Law, said the faculty of the law school did not hear about the merge until June 25, the day before the sale was announced.
Spurlock said his first clue was when he received an email from Frederic White, dean and professor of law, about an important announcement.
“You don’t purchase people,” Spurlock said. “You purchase contractual liabilities.”
Spurlock said when another company purchases a business it is the purchaser’s, Texas A&M’s job to take on the contractual duties put in place by the previous owner.
“When you purchase a law school, you purchase essentially the business or corporate name,” Spurlock said. “The property of the school, the chairs, the desk, library and for the faculty members you retain you purchase their tenure presumptuously.”
Spurlock also said if a company takes on the tenured faculty members into their own faculty, the company owes them the same duties as to what was owed them from their previous company.
Spurlock said at the time of print there is a group of Wesleyan faculty and Texas A&M faculty meeting to discuss logistics of the merge, and what is going to happen with the students and faculty as these two universities become one.
In 1989, Wesleyan bought what was then the Dallas/Fort Worth School of Law for $1, and at that time the owners were not worried about the funds. It then became Texas Wesleyan School of Law in 1992, and in 1997 they moved from Irving to their downtown location where they still remain today.
“They gave us a home when we needed one,” Spurlock said. “I have nothing but love for Wesleyan.”