By Pete Escobar & Noah Garcia
Dozens of Whittier Law School students protested Friday, April 21 over the Trustees Board decision of terminating the Law Program at the end of the 2017 school year. Centered around the administration building, disgruntled protesters marched on the corners of Painter and Philadelphia, shouting chants of “Give us answers,” “Where is the money?” and “I’m more than just a test score.”
Antonia Reyes, a second year student of the program and one of 400 current law students, voiced her concerns, the uncertainty of their education, and the silence of future plans from the board.
“We just want answers, and they weren’t able to do that… we are all really emotionally distraught…we don’t know about the certainty of our career,” Antonia explained.
Kristina Edrington, President of the Student Bar Association, elaborated on her frustration with the Board’s decision to shut the law school down, “…they came to us with no information and no plan for what they’re gonna do to students who remain and who are not graduating this year. It’s been really frustrating and disheartening to see everything that’s been going on.”
“We do have our finals around the corner and this is our last week of classes when they decided to tell us this information… Everything has just kind of been frustrating because the timing of this is short notice, the lack of information, [and] the lack of a plan, it’s been really, really frustrating,” Edrington expressed.
Ana Lilia Barraza, Director of Communications at the college, helped clear some of this confusion up, specifying that “we are going to ensure that all currently enrolled law students at the law school can finish their legal degree.”
Barraza explained the Board’s own reasoning behind the closing of the law school, saying “We’ve had lower enrollment, but in addition, the Board has had concerns about low baller passage rate as well as employment outcomes for the law school…this was the final decision that they felt that they had to make for the law school.”
Signs of the program’s end began from the sale of the Costa Mesa college campus for $35 million, of which $14 million being promised to be used to support the law school. By April 19, any plans to save the program had failed, with a nearly unanimous vote to close the law school.
“The school is not going to accept any incoming law students and are working on plans to continue the education of those already enrolled. Any specific information regarding the logistics of the plan for currently enrolled students hasn’t been worked out yet. We will be letting students know over the next 30-60 days,” Barraza said about the logistics of the plan.
Whittier college is the first American Bar Association approved school to be closed, the future of the program being as ambiguous as the plans for its’ continuing students.