SJT envisions law school expansion

GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg recently announced plans for an additional $20 million building for the University’s law school, a response to current overcrowding in the school’s facilities.

Trachtenberg and GW Law School Dean Jack Friedenthal – who steps down in June – clash about solutions to the space problem.

During his nine years at GW, Friedenthal advocated a reduction in student body size and increased spending per student.

“The University is very much against a reduction in (law) student body,” Friedenthal said. “And, it is fair to say, they want an increase in student body rather than a reduction, if anything. There are financial aspects to it.”

Trachtenberg first laid out his long-term plans for the law school at a Student Bar Association meeting two weeks ago, according to Nota Bene, the law school newspaper.

Trachtenberg said the University will put up half the $20 million necessary to build a facility at the corner of 20th and H streets. The law school will provide the other $10 million, he said.

“Twenty million dollars is a serious number, but not an overwhelming number,” Trachtenberg said. “You get a tin cup, you go around rattling it, and people put coins it. Either that, or you get a ski mask and a gun.”

Trachtenberg said that if the law school’s new dean – scheduled to be chosen this spring – is involved in fundraising, if the economy stays strong and if the school “stumbles upon a benefactor,” it will not be difficult to raise money for a new facility.

Friedenthal said he does not know the details of Trachtenberg’s plan to expand the school’s facilities.

“This separate new potential building has not been approved, President (Trachtenberg) has never discussed it with me directly,” he said. “I would hope that if we were to build a second building it would be coordinated with the current building.”

“Once we get a (new) dean in place, there will be discussion, including meetings with faculty and alumni,” Trachtenberg said. “I am only the president, not the king, and it is not as if once I say something, it immediately happens.”

Friedenthal said the University has less square feet of space per law student than any other top-ranked law school in the country.

Law school student organizations have expanded, the number of law journals has increased and participation in moot court competition has grown – all factors that contribute to the law school’s space crunch, Friedenthal said.

The law school’s long-term planning committee suggested a reduction in class size to maintain the caliber of GW’s student body last fall.

Trachtenberg’s other long-term plans for the law school include the conversion of Francis Scott Key Hall into a law student residence hall.

Last year, the law school sent brochures to incoming students advertising spots in the Dakota, a GW-owned apartment building on F Street.

Friedenthal said few students chose to live in the Dakota because the rates were too high.

Living in FSK would help first-year law students adjust to life at the University and in Washington, Trachtenberg said. The residence hall also is near the law school and law library, he added.

To replace the on-campus undergraduate housing lost in the process, Trachtenberg said the University either would build or buy a new residence hall.

The $7 million conversion of a townhouse on the corner of 20th and G streets already is in the works to expand the law school’s facilities.

The renovated townhouse will provide more space for classrooms, faculty offices and another student lounge, Friedenthal said.

Trachtenberg said he does not know how long it will be before his plans for a new building and residence hall come to fruition, but he said “all present undergraduates will be alumni when the rubber hits the road.”

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