School of Law may move campus downtown

Future lawyers reading books the size of dictionaries next to professors eating Subway may remind students of the School of Law. But this may no longer be the case-no pun intended-in light of last spring’s preliminary discussions about a possible move off the Coral Gables campus.

Although a decision has not been made, and will not be made without extensive planning and information gathering, the school’s dean said some possible move sites in downtown Miami have been identified and he expects more information in October.

To alleviate the school’s space constraints, the university looked into expansion in its current location, but faced objections from the city of Coral Gables.

Dean Dennis O. Lynch said that a move would not likely affect any current students, nor would it likely change the enrollment of the school. He added that the decision would be made by the board of trustees, and law school and university administrators.

“There’s so many variables involved,” Lynch said. “As we get more information we are going to keep the faculty and students informed.”

The dean, who plans to leave his position at the end of the academic year and return to teaching, said building a “brand new, state-of-the-art building that was a strong architectural statement” could be valuable to the school. Cost estimates on new construction would be dependent on the site chosen.

Although relocating would allow for more classroom space, a larger library and possibly living space, some students have expressed serious concerns about the prospect of moving. Most indicated that no one they knew supported the proposition.

“I think it would be a mistake,” said Michael Silber, a first-year law student. “Even though it would move us closer to a lot of firms, it’s not the best area.

“This is a great neighborhood, Coral Gables,” he continued. “We’ve got golf courses, we’ve got hotels, U.S. 1 is right there; everything is within a reasonable distance. Traffic downtown is ridiculous.”

Lynch expressed his own concerns about the traffic, saying that unless public transportation services were improved, any new construction the school undertook would run the risk of “strangling itself.” He said another concern is the lack of campus amenities downtown, such as the Wellness Center and bookstore.

Third-year law student Michelle Parlade lamented a hypothetical move but said she understood the need to expand.

“I love the UM campus, it’s a beautiful campus,” she said. “I think [the prospect of a move] is horrible, but if we can’t get other facilities here that they would be able to give us downtown I’d understand that.”

The discussion has continued on blogs such as That site’s anonymous author opined that such a move would have few benefits, though the author called the school’s current facilities “less than adequate.”

Jackie Adams, a second-year law student, would miss more than the services and facilities if the law school left the Coral Gables campus.

“I like going to law school as a part of a whole, bigger university. I think it brings the whole campus together,” Adams said. “You’re not just secluded as law students, you get to meet other grad students and undergrad students. For future generations of law students I think it’d be a shame if we moved downtown.”

Lynch has acknowledged student disagreement with the possibility of leaving the Coral Gables campus, but he said “it’s hard to imagine it would be better elsewhere without having a place of comparison.”

Law school Professor Minnette Massey, who has been with the school since 1951, believes a move may be an improvement to the school.

“The law school is like anything else that is breathing and changing,” Massey said. “If you stand still and don’t change, you’re going to decay.”

Nate Harris may be contacted at