April 17, 2014
Dear Oregon Law Faculty, Staff, and Students,
These are challenging times at every law school in the country, and the past several days have been particularly stressful for many of us in the Oregon Law community. I believe that we can, at this point, move forward most productively by focusing on a commitment we share: enhancing the professional success of our students.
As many of you know, at last Friday’s faculty meeting, a group of faculty members raised an idea related to enhancing funding for student fellowships. They introduced a motion asking me to explore with the Provost whether a portion of the funds the university planned to provide to underwrite faculty raises could, instead, be used to fund student fellowships over the coming years. I am certain the motivations underlying the substance of this inquiry were selfless and admirable, and I commend our faculty for their creativity.
The proposal prompted vigorous debate. Given the importance of the issues and the circumstances, the presence of heartfelt divergent viewpoints was entirely understandable. However, the conversation quickly escalated. And unfortunately, it moved into forums that are less conducive to the productive assessment of proposals or candid dialogue among colleagues.
As I told the faculty earlier this week, I inquired with the Provost about the possibility of reallocating faculty salary increase funds in this way. The Provost expressed his appreciation for the motivations underlying the request but made it clear that the dollars coming from the University to the law school for faculty compensation this year cannot be diverted for a different use.
This particular avenue is not open. But our shared institutional commitment to supporting our students’ professional success remains as strong as ever, if not stronger. I have heard a number of new, creative ideas from faculty members in the past couple days, and I am confident that our collective energies and passions will lead us in positive directions.
To our students: The faculty and staff of this law school are committed to you. We are in this with you. And we will do everything we can to help you be successful.
Philip H. Knight Dean
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The University of Oregon School of Law Tax Moot Court team advanced to the final round of the National Tax Moot Court Competition claiming the title of Best Brief earlier this month. Teammates Heidi Bowerman, Vanessa Rich and Trevor Gates performed exceptionally and received great reviews from the judging panel.
Sponsored by the Tax Section of the Florida Bar Association, the competition provided 16 teams of law students from across the nation with an opportunity to demonstrate their proficiency in oral advocacy and brief writing. The competition consisted of a double round elimination oral argument followed by single eliminations quarterfinals, semifinal and final rounds. A panel of attorneys, who are members of the Florida Bar Tax Section, judged the preliminary rounds, and the assessment of the final rounds consisted of judges from the United States Tax Court.
The Tax Court judges who judged the final round of competition commented that, “Vanessa had the judges convinced that she was actually corporate counsel representing the taxpayer.” The judges also called Trevor, “intense… projects confidence,” and “implacable.” Heidi also argued to victory twice in earlier rounds and got great comments from the judging panel.
Bowerman, Gates, and Rich began preparing for the competition last December. After writing their award-winning brief over winter break, in January they began intensive preparation for the oral advocacy portion of the competition. They honed their arguments by practicing three to four times per week, first with their coach, Oregon Law Professor Roberta Mann, and later before practice judges. Professor Mann arranged for the students to practice in front of local practitioners and former competitors to provide them with ample opportunities to refine their arguments. Two of the three team members were also taught Legal Research and Writing techniques by Professor and Director of Clinics and Externships Megan McAlpin.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Trevor, Vanessa and Heidi," said Professor Mann. "As I tell all of my moot court students, the preparation has as much or more value as the results of the competition itself. That being said, I just couldn’t stop smiling when the team did so well. Their hard work really paid off.”
All three students are especially grateful to Professor Mann for playing an instrumental role in their success throughout their education thus far. They consider her a driving force in furthering their interest in tax law, both individually and as a team related to the competition.