An American Bar Association committee has refused to reconsider its recommendation to withdraw Antioch Law School's accreditation despite an appeal for a delay while the school mounts a major fund-raising drive.
Antioch officials, who disclosed the committee action, denounced it yesterday as unfair. They said the innovative 13-year-old law school at 2633 16th St. NW had taken steps to deal with virtually all the deficiencies cited by the committee, although no firm arrangements have been made yet for satisfactory new facilities.
"I can only conclude that the committee . . . has no real interest in helping us nor in supporting the school's basic mission to train public-interest lawyers to serve the poor," said Antioch University President Alan E. Guskin, who appealed for a two-month delay in any ABA action at a committee meeting last Saturday in Sacramento, Calif.
"The purpose of accreditation is not to close institutions but to make them better," Guskin continued. "But I think this committee is interested in developing rigid rules for the elite and wealthy schools and discouraging any kind of experimentation." Accreditation is required for law school graduates to take the bar examination in most states and the District.
Last month the Antioch University trustees voted to end financial support for the law school, saying that although they favored the program they had to concentrate their limited resources on rebuilding the college's main campus in Yellow Springs, Ohio. They authorized the university president to take steps to close it unless the school receives major new backing soon from supporters in Washington.
Guskin set Dec. 6 as the deadline for the law school to obtain satisfactory new space and at least $100,000 for scholarships. If such arrangements aren't made, he said the school will be phased out over the next two years.
School officials have arranged to lease the old Perry Elementary School at First and M Streets NW for 20 years from the District government, but the building requires $2.5 million in renovations.
Three weeks ago, a fund-raising drive was launched for that amount. So far about $30,000 has been raised, according to law school Dean Isaac Hunt. The school is also trying to get the city government to pay for some of the renovation, but Hunt said no agreement has been reached.
Guskin said yesterday that he will adhere to the Dec. 6 deadline since the ABA committee refused to give the school more time. The accreditation issue is now scheduled to go before the ABA's Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar on Dec. l4.
If that body approves the committee recommendation, it will be considered in mid-February by the ABA House of Delegates, which has final authority to grant accreditation or withdraw it.
Yesterday, ABA officials refused to comment on the accreditation committee action or Antioch's response.
A report on last weekend's meeting said the panel had not changed its view, expressed repeatedly over the last two years, that the school's "academic rigor was inadequate" and its funding and facilities deficient.
It said admissions test scores and college grade-point averages of new students, already relatively low, had "declined precipitously" this fall.
Hunt said the drop in quality along with a substantial decrease in enrollment -- now 362 compared to 477 in 1983 -- was caused mainly by publicity about Antioch's accreditation problems.
"I think the school has made major changes," Hunt said. "I'm still guardedly optimistic that we can pull through."