Q & A with Mark Grady, Dean of the School of Law

Posted: July 29, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Editor’s note: Over the summer, the Daily Gazette will publish interviews with 11 deans, 2 institute directors, and the vice president for University Life focusing on what was successful in their departments last year and what the George Mason community can expect this year. This is the fifth article in the series.

By Amy Biderman

Can you give me a general overview of the past year and talk about some of the things that were successful at the School of Law?

We had a tremendous hiring year–professors who made a big difference. We have the most talented group of young professors in the whole country, and most arrived during the past academic year.

Mark Grady
Mark Grady

Another success was the Critical Infrastructure Protection Project, something the Law School has invested in over a period of several years and officially launched over the past year. John McCarthy and Brad Brown did a tremendous amount of work. The project involved units from around the university. We believe that it has tremendous potential for our country–and for George Mason–to help solve this critical national problem. We made a proposal to Congress, and it was funded, initially attracting $6.5 million and then receiving quick renewal for another $6.5 million. The program is administered at the Department of Commerce through its National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). The entire Virginia delegation was helpful to us, but Congressmen [Frank] Wolfe, [Tom] Davis, and [Jim] Moran were key in securing the money.

The purpose of the project is for the whole university to look at problems of vulnerability of critical infrastructure in telecommunications, the air traffic control system, national monuments and buildings–any threat to the security of the American homeland from our enemies here and abroad. The idea was to think within the university about strategies for defending the U.S. homeland against foreign and domestic threats. We actively involved other units, including the School of Public Policy, Information Technology and Engineering, the College of Nursing and Health Science, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. We really reached out to all of the units that can help solve this problem.

We had our strongest entering class in the history of Law School. In addition, the Tech Center sponsored another successful networked economy summit. Also, we received an important gift from the National Rifle Association to create the Patrick Henry Professorship of Constitutional Studies and Second Amendment, which is held by Professor Nelson Lund. This is the first endowed professorship in about 20 years.

How have the budget cuts over the past couple of years affected the Law School?

We have tried to avoid cutting back on programs as a result of the budget cuts. The biggest impact has been on our faculty, who have not received the raises they certainly deserved. In addition, tuition increases were painful; in many cases, they were unplanned. We’ve attracted students with modest means, so increased tuition has been a hardship.

We put together a special fund initiated by a current student–he contributed $20,000, and others followed. The “We Help Each Other” fund is sort of a rainy day fund. Any student who has experienced an unexpected hardship can apply for money. I think the fund is one good thing that’s come from the budget cuts. It encourages us to help students in need from increased tuition and other things that have happened in their lives.

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

Our first goal is to make the Critical Infrastructure Protection Project even more useful to the university and develop new initiatives that will attract federal funding, not just for the Law School, but also for the benefit of other units. We also hope to admit the strongest entering class we’ve ever had. It’s an increasingly select group. At the same time, we want to hire more outstanding professors.

What challenges do you see?

One challenge will be to continue to find jobs for our students. We have a 98 percent employment success rate. We want to maintain that in the coming year and hope the economy will improve.

We continue to look for funding for a new project called the Rule of Law Initiative and hope other units within the university will participate once we find funding. The initiative would help solve the problem created by the absence of the rule of law in many developing countries such as those in Latin America. The need is critical because of the absence of property rights, the lack of enforceable contracts, and the problem of corruption among judges. All of these factors impoverish Latin American countries.

In the past, our nation has sought to improve prosperity in Latin America by large-scale public investment projects such as dams and highways. But despite billions of dollars invested in these projects, these countries remain poor. The one thing that has not been tried is to create an infrastructure similar to the one that is the foundation of our own economic prosperity, namely the rule of law. So we would like to acquire funding to do what we can to promote the rule of law in less developed countries, especially Latin America.

Similar to the partnership with the Critical Infrastructure Protection Project, we’d hope the same process would follow with the Law School as the first investor and the steward and other units getting involved. We’ve been seeking funding over the past year and continue to seek funding. Our hope is that the USAID, World Bank, or IMF would fund this project at least on a start-up basis and then we’d be able to acquire more funding after we put some programs on the ground.

Where do you see the Law School in five years?

We hope to be an even better law school, working towards our objective of being one of the top five law schools in the country. We have a fabulous location with many opportunities and a tremendous faculty.

Are there any new faculty members you’d like the university community to be aware of?

This coming year we have Ilya Somin, a young professor coming to us from Northwestern Law School. He has a Ph.D. in political science as well as a law degree, and he’ll be teaching constitutional law.

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