The trustees of Antioch University yesterday demanded the resignations of the co-deans of its law school here after a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that the law school does not have the authority to manage its own operation.
Judge George H. Revercomb denied the law school's contention that its financial and administrative autonomy was necessary to protect the interest of students who had paid tuitions and to guarantee the salaries of the law school faculty in view of the university's history of financial problems.
The judge concluded that the law school is an "indentifiable part" of the university and should be under the university's control.
"The evidence of insufficient to support a conclusion that the survival of the law school would be more certainly assured by local control of revenues . . .," Revercomb wrote in his 45-page ruling.
Edgar Chan and his wife, Jean Camper Cahn, the co-deans, were asked by Antioch University's president William M. Birenbaum to tender their resignations by 5 p.m. yesterday, according to the Cahns.
"I won't resign," said Edgar Cahn, who said he also was speaking for his wife. "We've been discharging our duties here in good faith. The judge even recognizes in his decision that we have had a 'good faith' obligation to discharge our duties on behalf of the students of the law school."
The dispute over who would control the administration and finances of the law school was taken to court in November after university officials contended that the Cahns had collected law school tuitions and other money, then refused to transfer the funds to the central university treasury in violation of university policy.
The Cahns argued that they have had no guarantees that law school funds turned over to the financially troubled university would be used to meet financial obligations of the law school.
Revercomb denied a preliminary injunction that would have given the law school full independence. The judge ordered the law school deans to turn over within five days most of their operating funds -- about $1 million -- to the university's central finance office in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The university also will retain control over funds remaining at the law school.
Antioch Law School, a community-oriented school which combines a curriculum of standard law courses with community programs, was established in 1971 by the Cahns, who have remained its top adminstrators through a series of controversies with faculty and students over the years. Antioch University a liberal arts school, has 10 campuses scattered across the nation.
The law school, at 2633 16th St. NW, has a current enrollment of 422 students working toward law degrees. There are also 40 farm workers who have been brought to Washington for training as paralegals.In addition, the law school supports paralegal training for 120 American Indians across the country.
"At the time the law school was established," Revercomb said, "it was the policy of Antioch College (later changed to Antioch University) to permit its constituent units and affiliates located away from Yellow Springs substantial functional autonomy. Decentralization of decision-making responsibility was a long-standing tradition of Antioch College."
But Revercomb found that in recent years of Antioch president Birenbaum has made a major effort to "centralize authority" over the university's components.
Antioch University, which had declared bankruptcy twice in 80 years, fell into a financial crisis in May and was unable to meet its payroll or the debts of the law school.
Revrcomb said relations between the law school and the university have been marked by "ambiguities and misunderstanding" and ordered the university to pay all legal costs of the case.