Dean's Corner

Dear Students:

With my first academic year in the rearview mirror, I thought I would take one final opportunity to address all of you, to offer my thoughts on the past year, both in terms of achievements and areas of growth.  I will try to repeat this exercise each year around this time, as it offers me an opportunity to reflect on the year in the careful manner that I might not if the reflections were entirely private.

Certainly, my most important achievement was learning how to be the Dean at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.  As my speech at the Hooding Ceremony made clear, I feel like I came to the job as prepared as I could reasonably be.  Still, stepping into the role certainly came with a fair share of proverbial drinking from the firehouse.  I tried to adopt the tried and true strategies of leadership through transition—listen with curiosity to everyone, make no decisions of consequence until the landscape appears more familiar (unless forced to do so in order to comply with, for example, University alcohol policy), and be as open, authentic, and transparent as you can possibly be.  From a summer retreat to the Dean drop ins, 1L lunches to student leadership council meetings, I have endeavored to do this over the past year. 

To the extent that I have been successful in these matters, and I will leave that for all of you to judge, I have others to thank.  I am particularly grateful to Interim Dean Whiteman, whom I succeeded and who worked tirelessly to make the transition so seamless, and Dean Cogan, upon whose deep institutional knowledge I so heavily relied as I learned my current position. I am delighted that Dean Whiteman will be staying on in his leadership position, and very thankful that Dean Cogan agreed to do so through this year, serving as an Associate Dean for far longer than most, and far better than most. I wish him the best on his return to the faculty, and I look forward to seeing his scholarship and his teaching shine even more brightly in the coming years.

Secondly, we talked about strategic priorities, and ways to leverage our existing, considerable strengths to bring us to another level.  Our vision, which is student centric, focuses on ensuring your success, investing in experiential opportunities for you, enhancing our centers of excellence to your benefit, and creating and developing further international and comparative opportunities. Precisely because it is so student focused, it is embraced widely by our stakeholders in all of their personal and professional diversity.  Also embraced across community and culture is the idea of expanding our educational opportunities beyond the JD degree, whether this is in the direction of a more traditional doctoral program for international students, or an MLS or certificate degree for working professionals.

Our investment in our priorities, which in many ways predates me, has already begun to pay off.   Our employment figures are very good, and our bar passage rate is the envy of nearly every other law school in Ohio. For the first time since 2010, US News ranks us alone as Ohio’s second highest law school.  Admissions this past year have been exceedingly strong, as students across the country show broad interest in our College.  We are truly delighted by these positive developments, and we will work to ensure they continue in the years to come.

Finally, we have put into place, or are in the final stages of putting into place, an all-star leadership team that will take this College forward.  Overwhelmingly, they are relatively new faces. Of all of our Assistant and Associate Deans, only two have served in their current roles for more than three years, and two of them began with me.  I am particularly excited to have Professor Kim Bailey join our leadership team as Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. I am certain that alongside Deans Whiteman and Armstrong, we have as strong a group of Associate Deans as any in the country.

The leadership team is perhaps a great place to start my reflections on where we need to go from here.  Transitions are inevitable, and with all of the leadership transition we have had, it is time to step back and undertake the work necessary to maximize our potential as a team.  The Associate and Assistant Deans do not in my view serve as leaders of respective units of our organization—they are leaders of the College, and the College is not successful unless all of our units function cohesively and collaboratively as a whole. The second year of a Deanship, with so many new individuals, seems to be the ideal time to begin to build that cohesive and collaborative team.

More broadly, recent events have convinced me that we need to deepen our efforts in the area of civil discourse.  Put more simply, we need to find a way to talk to one another across difference.  Many of you know that I served this past spring on President Pinto’s Task Force on Building Community for Democracy.   I share the view of virtually all of my fellow task force colleagues that a healthy democracy requires a healthy community, and a healthy community cannot exist where divisions result in the types of polarization we see across our society today. We are all too quick to castigate those with whom we disagree as either ignorant or evil.  All too rarely do we listen, completely and without judgment, not to respond, but only to understand, with genuine curiosity.   Obviously, I do not view this as a problem that is unique to the College.  Nevertheless, it is clear to me that it is a problem at the College, and that we must work to address it.  We intend to do so, beginning next year.

Finally, in terms of what I personally can do better as a leader, I keep a list, adding to it each Friday over a weekly review.  For now, I will focus on one—I think I can communicate more effectively than I have over the past year.  I try not to be excessively secretive, and I do not think I am unwilling to share information broadly.  Nevertheless, there are many things happening, all of which are in my head, and not all of which get to the relevant audiences when they should in the manner that they should. The result is misunderstanding and the fueling of suspicions that could have been avoided by better communication. I have begun to institute processes to address this, and I hope they will bear fruit.

In the end, despite inevitable setbacks and challenges, I believe this year has been a very successful one. I think we are off to a wonderful new start in our wonderful new facility, and I look forward to building on these promising offshoots with the stellar College team to bring our institution to ever greater heights.  I am privileged to serve in the position I do, and I thank every one of you for helping make my first year such a memorable one.  My congratulations to each of the graduates, and my best wishes to all for a rich and rewarding summer.  

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Dean Hamoudi

Because it is now US News season, I thought I would take the opportunity in my latest post to explain my own view of the annual rankings, and how I have tried to approach them as your new Dean.

First, I should say I am less motivated than others by the most common criticism of the rankings, which relates to methodology.  I do understand the concerns in this regard, of course.  It is no doubt true that when US News used to place such high weight on incoming LSAT scores, many law schools were incentivized to use scarce resources to extend scholarships to students with high scores rather than direct financial aid to those with the most demonstrable need.  As a Dean whose entire career as a faculty member has been in public law schools, I also understand the ways in which historic use of factors such as expenditures per student in the rankings, rather than on how wisely those expenditures were used, have been problematic. Specifically, they seem to privilege high tuition private schools over public ones, which take pride in the access we afford to legal education to constituencies all across the socioeconomic ladder.

Moreover, when methodologies change in response to complaints or for other reasons, as has occurred most dramatically over the past two years with the announcement of large numbers of law schools that they will not participate in the US News process, the result is significant changes in the rankings, for reasons that have very little to do with the schools themselves. Indeed, US News has not even released its methodology for this year, and will not until the rankings themselves are released.  It is hard to find a law school dean who does not find at least some of this a little bit frustrating.  The idea of being held to account for falling in the rankings on account of a methodological change on the part of US News that nobody knew about in advance is quite hard to stomach.    

On the other hand, while we can quibble about whether what factors should be considered in rankings, and their relative weight, I think the more salient question is whether a ranking system using any methodology is justifiable, in particular to the extent it is designed to provide applicants with useful information through which to evaluate what law school to attend.   After all, law school is not college football. We do not play a game against each other using predefined rules to determine which one of us is better than the other.  Rather, we each place high value on different things.  We at UC Law are driven by a holistic conception of student success, academic and scholarly excellence, deep dedication to inclusive excellence and belonging, the vital importance of experiential learning, access to affordable education, investment in discrete centers of excellence, and a firm belief in the value of international and comparative law in a global world.  I do not expect many schools would describe any of these as unworthy, but I do think some might value other things more than those set forth above, and vice versa.  And this is to say nothing of other values that any given student often takes into consideration in deciding on law schools, such as the strength of alumni networks in the region of the country where they ultimately seek to practice. Each of these valuations, added together, result in an individualistic preference that no rankings system could possibly predict for all students. 

Of course, the problem is that it would be very hard for any one student to undertake the sort of analysis necessary to evaluate 200 law schools against what they regard as important in attending law school using their own personal preferences.  There are certainly tools that make it easier—by allowing, for example, students to value various common considerations on their own and then find schools that seem to fit their profile based on publicly available data that schools provide to the ABA.   Even these do not capture all of the relevant factors and thus can serve only as a potentially helpful source of guidance.  It would not be indefensible for any agency to defend their law school rankings on the same basis—as a source of guidance rather than gospel, to help advise students rather than direct them.

There is probably no need on my part to expound further on that slightly less than lukewarm not quite endorsement because, in the end, my own personal views on the US News rankings are of marginal importance to my role in leading the law school.  Irrespective of what I think of whether rankings are valuable, it seems empirically obvious to me that they matter.  They matter to our alums and our donors, as well as our employers and prospective students.  I am asked about them far too often, and seen far too much data analysis relating to the effects of rankings rises, to conclude otherwise.  In other words, the data, and my own anecdotal experience over the past eight months, leaves me with some confidence that a higher US News ranking makes it much easier for us to achieve those very things described as important to our institution two paragraphs above.

So do I care about the rankings? Yes, I do, and it would be inauthentic to claim otherwise. However, and this is important, the interest is and must always be purely derivative.  That is, if we as an institution remain committed to the success of all of you, then in my judgment it would be prudent to pay some attention to our ranking.  This means I am and will be pleased when it rises, and concerned when it falls.  The perversity enters when the derivative becomes the value in itself.  This would occur if we allow rankings prestige for its own sake to compete against bar passage or employment numbers, for example—primary indicia of student success—or if we fail to invest in experiential education because it will do nothing for our US News score.   That would be a tragedy, and one I fervently hope to avoid.

I do not claim the line between the derivative and the intrinsic is a particularly easy one to draw, in this case or any other, only that it is fundamentally important.  In the end, we are, and will continue to be, driven solely by our mission to educate and inspire all of you to pursue justice and elevate the role of law in society, not to chase LSAT scores, win popularity contests, or seek prestige for its own sake.  On that commitment, you should absolutely hold me accountable. 

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Dean Hamoudi

Let me start this blog post by expressing a great deal of both relief and delight that we have managed to come up with an alcohol policy that seems to be working, from my humble perspective.  (Please do reach out to me if you disagree about how well it is working, at a drop in or a lunch.  I’m always happy to listen.) 

I am delighted because it presents me an opportunity to move away from narrow questions of compliance with policy, which was the necessary first step, to broader issues I like to spend more time on as your Dean. For the truth is that when it comes to alcohol, I would rather not be talking about policy violations, character and fitness reports, or disciplinary proceedings.  Instead, I really want to reach out to all of you from a place of deep concern---as a Dean strongly committed to the idea of grounding the law school experience in a culture of wellness and belonging. And to be quite frank, I do not think I can do that without talking at least a little bit about alcohol.

This is not, to be clear, because I perceive any unique problem at the College that renders it somehow worse than any other law school, or law firm for that matter, in dealing with substance abuse. I have no reason to think that. Indeed, the proliferation of mocktails and nonalcoholic beers at law school events has been gratifying to see—culture change at work.  At the same time, I think it is prudent to assume, as seems eminently reasonable, that our College is not immune from the substance abuse crisis that envelops law schools and the legal profession, and that we need to continue to find ways to address that.  Without constant vigilance, the danger of backsliding back into crisis remains eminently possible. 

First, the nature of the crisis.  It might be helpful to cite some rather noncontroversial empirical information.

  • Recent studies show that abstract reasoning and problem solving is negatively impaired by heavy or binge drinking for as long as 30 days. 
  • The percentage of practicing attorneys with a drinking problem is estimated to be somewhere between 20% to as high as 33%. 
  • The problem begins in law school.  In an article published in the Journal of Legal Education, Professors Organ, Jaffe, and Bender report that over half of law students were drunk at least once within 30 days of completing a survey they administered on law student well being.  Over 43% had been drunk within 14 days of it.  One in five missed class at least once because of drinking.  One in seven self reported as alcoholics, meaning that the number is certainly much higher.

These numbers are rather shocking. As the old adage goes, look to your left and look to your right in your law school classroom tomorrow morning. There’s a better than even chance that one of the three of you is, or will be, a problem drinker. 

And these are only the statistics.  In my various roles in my academic leadership, I have seen deans resign and professors take leaves. I have seen students drop out and never return. I have attended secondary bar hearings for character and fitness on behalf of my students, and I have consoled too many families when a recent graduate is denied admission. I have made referrals to Title IX offices.  I have seen lives ended. Careers derailed. Severe and irreparable harm inflicted and endured.  The best minds of a generation destroyed by the madness of substance abuse.

I think a great deal about that when I hear a joke in an elevator downtown expressing surprise that one of them happens to be sober even after happy hour ended, given his prior practice.  I think about it when I’m asked to approve alcohol at an event because it helps participants unwind after a stressful week.  And I think about it every time I read of another drunk driving fatality on the highway. I wonder whether this human being whose life was tragically cut short, or who tragically cut short the life of another, told themselves their important and stressful work necessitated the use of alcohol to unwind, laughing at the jokes told at their expense along the way, either viewing them as proof of the harmlessness of the behavior or as a way to cover the shame of a problem they felt powerless to address.  Finally, I wonder how often law students engage in these sorts of cruel jokes and destructive behaviors, presumably out of my presence, and what costs it might impose on our community and our culture at the College.

Again, none of this relates to policy.  All of it relates to wellness, belonging, and a culture of caring. I would be hard pressed to think of a policy more thoroughly idiotic than one that required students to extend a helping and supportive hand to a student they think might be suffering from substance abuse.  Yet that offer of support is precisely what I hope all of us affirmatively want to do on our own, rather than make an attempt at humor at another human being’s expense on their point of greatest vulnerability. 

Of course, I am aware that drinking is entirely legal for virtually all of you.  I am also aware, even as a nondrinker who could extol the virtues of abstention at some length, that there are social benefits to moderate alcohol use.  There are absolutely benefits to our institution to holding events where alcohol is served, which is why I keep approving such events.  It seems rather empirically demonstrable by this point that I do not seek to end alcohol consumption in the College or outside of it, for these reasons and for the additional reason that one does not become Dean if they are in the habit of tilting pointlessly at windmills. 

I am only hoping that, in the midst of a crisis about which far too little is said, we can shift the conversation to ground on which I think consensus could be built.  Alcohol consumed in excess, to the point of intoxication and beyond, on a repeated basis, is deeply damaging to both physical and mental well being. Not a day passes without another study showing the pernicious effects of heavy drinking, and the costs it imposes.  It is not funny.  It is extraordinarily widespread, having imposed social, emotional, and physical costs that are so immense as to be nearly incalculable.  As a College, we would do well to recognize this problem, and to do what we can to combat it.  That might involve a personal decision to reduce consumption—a matter on which each individual must alone be the judge.  It certainly involves a series of individual decisions on the part of individual members of our community—all of us—to help steer others away from excessive use and toward other healthy and responsible choices where possible, and to offer support and direct them to resources that might be helpful if they need it.  And if they aren’t interested in the help, then simply asking how they are doing, and offering to help, if they ever think they need help, will do much good, in this circumstance or virtually any other where an offer of support is rebuffed.

I suppose I only ask here what I ask always.  Take care of yourselves.  And take care of each other.  It really is that simple, and that important.

From (the earth) did We create you, and to it shall We return you. . . . (Qur’an, Taha v. 55)

Following what I hope was a restful and rewarding winter break, I welcome you back to campus, and the start of the spring semester.  Mine proved challenging, with the passing of my father just at its start.  I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on who he was, what he meant to me, and what of his legacy I seek to carry forward in my own work with all of you.  In candor, I also hope to use it as space to grieve, and as a deliberate corrective to a culture of toxic positivity that seems relentless in its demand to find the bright side in everything, even the death of a human being whose life I valued more than could be measured. 

Ala ul-Din Baqir Abdul Majeed Hamoudi was born on Huwaydi Street in the Inner Kerrada neighborhood of Baghdad on July 7, 1935.  Or so his documents report, anyway. Few in Iraq paid much attention to actual dates of birth in those days, at least until British officials came through demanding proper documentation and proper certificates.  July 7, or 7/7, adds up to 14, a special number for the Shi’a, representing the Fourteen Infallibles, and so it was as convenient a day as any to supply the curiously demanding British.  Hence July 7 it was for him, and for each of his twelve siblings as well.

My father was the sixth child of that remarkable group of thirteen, and the fifth to survive to adulthood.  This served him well throughout his life, as he proved remarkably resilient and self-reliant.  It also freed him in a way that advanced his career considerably.  Unlike the older children, he had few family responsibilities and unlike the younger ones, the academic achievement that would lead him to become the first in the family to go to graduate school of any kind, let alone medical school, was more unusual for the family at the time and thus more supported.  And so he graduated from Iraq’s top medical school, Baghdad Medical College, in 1961. 

There were many reasons that my father, a child of a merchant family, chose to become a doctor. Two are particularly worthy of mention. The first was ambition—the most successful students in Iraq became doctors, and my father was committed to excelling.  The second, equally important, was a deep and abiding commitment to a life of service to others.  We Hamoudis are on balance faith-driven, even if it does not show as prominently in all parts of our individual life journeys. As such, we carry with us a deep-seated belief that, as my father was wont to put it, we will stand one day before the Throne stripped of title and possession.  My father wanted to be able to say for himself at the end of his life that he saved human lives.  

My father would certainly put it that way.  For my own part, observing him as I did, I would not regard it as wrong, but rather partial.  I am not entirely convinced that the Call to Judgment served as the sole motivator for his commitment to service, and for his adoption of kindness and gentleness as the state of being that defined him.  I think he recognized it as core to the living of a good life, in this world as much as in the next.  He made a point of saying hello and exchanging a kind word with anyone he came across, from his barber to my schoolyard friends to colleagues at a conference, and listening with active and genuine interest to whatever happened to be on their mind.  I could see how it made them feel at the time, I could recognize how deeply that remained with them for years on end, and I only began to internalize its power in the last few weeks, as people whom I barely know have reached out to tell me a story of a random, seemingly small, act of kindness or generosity on my father’s part that they wanted me to know, now that he is gone.  This is a model I often seek to emulate, albeit highly imperfectly.

In any event, whatever the motivations, my father was ambitious, he was kind, and he was dedicated to service.  These core attributes defined every step of his journey upon graduation from Medical School. Ambition drove him to Morgantown, and West Virginia University, in 1966, where he remained for two years before returning to Baghdad and meeting my mother.  Ambition drove him back to the United States in 1969, and to completing the medical boards as a pathologist, and ultimately, to the start of an academic journey that led to the discovery of a rare form of pancreatic cancer that continues to be known to this day as the Hamoudi Tumor.

And ambition had its limits for this person of service, which came at him from two directions.  The first was inherent in the nature of the academic enterprise.  To discover a tumor is to do important work, he would say, and its benefits are less immediately felt than, say, initiating a program of experiential medical education that directly impacts the lives of students.  In the height of my scholarly career, I could not understand what on earth he meant by any of this.  Now, as with so much else, I feel its wisdom resonate deep within me.

But what my father could do was more limited than what I could many years later.  Nobody with an Arab and Muslim name who spoke English with an accent like his was going to become Dean of the College of anything in the mid-1970’s in the United States, no matter how many tumors they discovered.  We had a hard enough time buying furniture in the months following the Yom Kippur War—a war which, for the avoidance of doubt, we had nothing to do with.    

Apropos of the problem my father faced throughout his life, I asked him once why he was such a rabid fan of the Ohio State Buckeyes football team, as an Iraqi immigrant who only began to understand the rules of the game in his third decade of life.  “It’s really the only time that they let me feel like I’m one of them,”  he replied simply.  That he said it without complaint or judgment, only description, made it all the more devastating.  It was enough to make the creation of a culture of belonging a lifelong commitment of mine, however imperfectly I carry it out.

Ultimately, in light of these constraints, my father chose to return to clinical work, and specifically to work with children, a passion of his for as long as I knew him. He worked for decades at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  As a pathologist, pediatrics was very challenging work—so much of it involved autopsies of dead babies.  And yet the rewards of trying to find out why a given child had died, and what might be done in the future to avoid something similar, was his calling, and one that he performed by all accounts exceptionally well. 

My father’s forays into leadership were driven by necessity and desire in a different direction.  He built Muslim community.  When I was a child in Columbus Ohio, the number of Muslims could be counted readily in the dozens, and we had no center.  Through the work of my father, and of course many others, the Islamic Foundation of Central Ohio was established, a property purchased on Broad Street, and Central Ohio’s first mosque was built on it, where it remains standing to this day.  My father ultimately served as president of IFCO at one point, and on its Board of Directors several times.  There were ups and downs. I remember well the demonstration held in front of what was then Central Ohio’s only mosque, denouncing us and (without irony) proclaiming the core values of free speech and tolerance, on account of a death sentence issued by an Ayatollah against an author half a world away, which, for the avoidance of doubt, our mosque had nothing to do with.   I also remember screaming at a television set on the eve of Halloween as the only famous American Muslim we knew took down George Foreman in round 8 when quite literally everyone said there was no chance of victory for the Muslim traitor (so Muhammad Ali was called back then, with Vietnam still raging).   Halloween always meant something special to me after that. It is the day after Ali changed the world, or my world anyway.   

In the end, my father persevered, patiently building, as the Qur’an repeatedly exhorts the believers to do, deploying his kindness and generosity of spirit to the antagonists who stood in his path, and ultimately winning most of them over.  Central Ohio now boasts the second largest Somali community in the United States, and over 100,000 Muslims and ten mosques.  None of us in our converted mansion on East Broad Street would have dreamed it possible. 

With the Muslim community firmly established and well ensconced, my father then turned to another project around his retirement—the creation of a center for the growing Shi’a Muslim community in Central Ohio.  When there were less than a hundred of us Muslims, Sunni-Shi’a division was not a luxury we could afford.  At 100,000, the matter was quite different, and the desire for a Shi’i center more acute.  And so, as he had done decades earlier, my father led a community, bought a property, and built a center, the Ahl ul Bayt Islamic Center, which remains the one Shi’a mosque in Central Ohio.  It was there, reading the Qur’an at the end of a day in Ramadan about ten years ago, that he suffered a significant stroke that would impair his capacity to walk and to communicate for the rest of his life.

My father was never one for ostentation or extravagance.  He never owned a designer suit, nor a fancy car.  Our only major household expense was private school tuition because, as he told us often, what God ordered the Prophet to do first was to read.  Given this outlook, I do not think I ever purchased anything anywhere at any time that my father was not certain I overpaid for, excepting my children’s tuition fees of course.  What he valued in the end, beyond education, was community, service, and family, and he put his immeasurable talents and ambitions to all three, to the immeasurable benefit of us all.

As a result, when he did pass, it only took us hours to procure a spot to wash his body—at the local Somali mosque which also insisted that we do our funeral prayer for the deceased before he leave the grounds, as one of the founders of Central Ohio’s first mosque.  I will never forget the act of kindness, and the support, physical and mental, these Somali-Americans extended to me, whose responsibility it was to wash the body.  It was not a burden I could bear alone.  The cemetery prepared a grave even as we were washing him, and refused to take money from our family, even for the headstone. The commemoration at the Ahl ul Bayt Society he founded, which was held a day later, drew several hundred.  They learned of the passing less than 24 hours earlier, and yet they came from hundreds of miles away to pay their respects.  This is what my father meant to the Central Ohio Muslim community.

As to what he meant to me, I remember well a moment in second grade, having heard another story of the Prophet Muhammad’s kindness, generosity of spirit, or wisdom, asking my father when we would be able to travel to meet the Holy Prophet, and learn from him directly.  I was overwrought with anxiety upon learning that he had passed from the earth over a millenium earlier, unable to sleep in the evening for a while as I contemplated the weight of that absence. In the end, my eight year old mind gave way to slumber, as I came to recognized that even if the Holy Prophet was no longer with us, my father was, and he would always be able to point the way.  Now that he is gone too, it is hard to convey the depth of loss I feel, and the extent to which I travel truly without guide. 

He lived loving and beloved. He died content and having contented all who had the good fortune to know him.  I will cherish our time together and remember him as he deserves to be remembered, not an elderly stroke victim whose body was racked with sores I sought in vain to wash clean when preparing his body to meet his Lord, but young, vibrant, funny, and generous, whose kindness came as naturally as his breath, which slowed, grew shallower, and ultimately stopped just after 10 am on December 16.  Rest in peace, Dad.  I love you.


This blog post, my final of the semester, comes on the eve of examinations, and it will be shorter than most. In it, I just want to emphasize a few important points that I hope have some resonance in much of my earlier messaging to all of you, individually, and collectively.

First, please do take care of yourselves. The examination period is stressful, as anyone who has gone through it can attest. The anxiety is heightened among 1L’s. If you are feeling particularly anxious and are concerned about your mental well being, please do not hesitate to reach out to Dean Trejo or Kinsey, who can connect you to the appropriate resources. Your well being and your success are deeply important to us.

Second, please do take care of each other. Creating an inclusive culture of belonging is a premier priority of the College, and one we will continue to promote. Kindness, empathy, and mutual respect and support are pillars of such a culture, and I thank you in advance for all that you do to further these. In times of high stress, our community values come under the greatest pressure, and yet it is at these times when they are the most important. I know that we will all work hard to remain true to our values despite the pressures of the moment.

Finally, it is going to be okay. It simply is not true that performance on any set of examinations determines, or even has a significant influence on, whether a law student has a happy and rewarding legal career. In over two decades of experience, I have amassed dozens, if not hundreds, of counterfactuals to that absolutely false assumption. I acknowledge that I would not have believed my Dean if they had told me that before my first set of examinations. They would have been right regardless.

Thank you for listening, and for making this an incredible first semester for me. I wish you each every success in the world, and once again, do take care of yourselves, take care of one another, and know that it is all going to be okay.

Kindest regards,

Dean Hamoudi

At the end of last week, we here at the UC Law received some really wonderful news—a first time bar pass rate of 88% on the Ohio Bar examination administered last summer, placing us second in the state, and 8% above the statewide average.  Our overall bar pass rate of 83% was also second in the state, and a full 10% higher than the statewide average.  It is hard to underestimate the extent of elation that permeated the building, among all stakeholders.  Perhaps the best illustration of it was the fact that our Provost was informed of the news twice during the same faculty meeting he attended, and that there were three rounds of applause associated with it, at that meeting alone.  I also announced it two other times over the course of the day, in each case to rich applause.

The reason I highlight this is to demonstrate what I think is near absolute unanimity in our community, and indeed among stakeholders in law schools generally, that a high bar passage rate is an unalloyed good.  This is in sharp contradistinction to many other metrics, such as US News rankings, where there is active debate in law schools across the country respecting its value and utility.  And the reason this is important is because it demonstrates the intentions of the UC faculty in instituting academic success policies in recent years. These appear mostly in amendments to Rule 9 of the JD Academic Rules of the College, calling for earlier interventions for struggling students.  As an academic leader who rose to my position in the traditional manner (i.e. through the academic hierarchy), it is not hard for me to understand and internalize those intentions. 

Specifically, the faculty was seeking to direct resources to students who were most vulnerable to not being successful on the bar, based on data that the College had collected, which is very consistent with the data across the country.   I am absolutely certain that the faculty believe, as I do, and as the data strongly indicates, that a harder start to law school does not at all preclude a rich and rewarding legal career.  Each of us could offer personal examples that number in the dozens that disprove that lazy (and actually quite silly) hypothesis.  We also know that a hard start to law school does mean a greater risk of failing the bar. And we also know how much time, effort, and expense it takes to pass the bar, that underprivileged and first generation students are more likely to struggle early than the children of Sixth Circuit judges and prominent law firm partners, and that our early investment in our struggling students helps to establish a more equitable playing field.  There are honestly no bad intentions at work—in a world of scarce resources, we are devoting them to students who need them, to help ensure their ultimate success. 

That, I emphasize, is the message intended.  What I also have learned in my years of leadership training is that the road to perdition lies in assuming that because one has good intentions, everyone else must know this, and therefore anyone resisting the well intended measures must be proceeding from bad intentions.  That fallacy, all too common in our hyperpartisan age, entirely disregards the chasm that can exist between how a message was intended and how it was received.  And a person has no hope of being able to bridge that chasm without trying to step into the shoes of the person on the other end, and see the world from their perspective.  Again, in our times, this is sadly disregarded all too often, both in the United States and across the world.  Let me try to take that step here, however imperfectly.

You graduated from a respected college with fairly good grades and a decent LSAT score, despite being the first in your family to go to college. Your hard work landed you into the law school of your dreams in the Fall of 2022, which is, it goes without saying, Cincinnati Law.  You begin eager, imagining yourself at the top of the class, litigating cases before the Supreme Court eventually, perhaps running for federal office.  And to get there, you work hard—really hard. Law school proves far more difficult than you imagined, but you pushed through. You made it through a semester at least, and you think you did okay.  Now you get a letter or an email.  It might say nice and encouraging things, it might speak of investment in your future and faith in your capacities.  That’s the part that you skim.  The piece that sticks in your throat is the information imparted to you, however delicately, that you didn’t do so well, that you are at risk of not passing the bar, and that there are steps to take.  You’re a “Rule 9 student” or at least at risk of becoming one.  The message received? In the worst case, it might boil down to “you’re failing, loser, and it’s time to shape up.”  About as far from the message intended as can be imagined.

One of the challenges in this particular case is that there are very few faculty members who can actually draw from their own personal law school experiences to bridge the gap. I certainly cannot—I did well.  But we all have our experiences of struggle, and I always try to draw on those.  Mine relates to back to a time in my early 40’s, when I was a morbidly obese ex-football player in terrible shape. I was told I had a blood pressure problem, and I might have to start taking medication for it and changing my lifestyle if I wanted to see my children graduate high school.  I don’t remember precisely what the doctor said beyond that.  I do remember what I heard, and the flood of embarrassment and shame that flooded over me.  None of it felt good.  The shame persists to this day. I do not write these words easily.

Yet they are important for me to remember. They have made me a better leader.  In my earlier roles in academic leadership, I sent out hundreds of letters relating to bar passage risks, of the type described above.  I try to remember that doctor visit, each and every time a student came to my office—to protest, to cry, to ask if they should continue law school.  Nothing was more important for me in these contexts than to remember what it felt like when someone was trying to give me information that would improve my life, and all I heard was that I was an insurance risk with an insufficient commit to dieting whose life was nearing its end. 

At the same time, as I hope all of you realize, the delivery of the message, and the offer of resource support, is in fact necessary, much as it was necessary for me to hear of my health problems.  The shame, of course, is neither helpful, nor intended.  In some ways, however, it feels unavoidable.  As Academic Affairs Dean elsewhere, I must have rewritten my letters dozens of times, and if there is a way to avoid inducing shame entirely, I am certain it lies beyond my capacity.  Yet I continued to write the letters, and to support our processes, because they work. The information they deliver, and the support that follows, is very important, as shown by our bar passage data, or in my case by the fact that I am now a marathoning vegan who has never taken a blood pressure pill in my life. 

So in the end we have work to do.  We in the faculty and the administration need to continue to deliver as clearly and consistently as we can what our intentions are in delivering the messaging we do, and why we have embarked upon the course we have.  And we need to adjust as we can to be sensitive to how the message is received. Some of this might involve adjustments to policy, and indeed we have adjusted Rule 9 this term to address some concerns.  Most of it involves talking with you, our students, so that we can better understand you, and you can understand what we are trying to achieve. From that, we can work together productively to achieve the results we all fervently desire—the highest bar passage rate we can manage.  Second is wonderful. First would be better. 

I commit to continuing to work on this.  If I cannot make everyone in the world try to see it from the perspective of their adversaries, I will at least exert influence where I have it, and where it might be productively deployed.

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Dean Hamoudi

This week, as you return from Fall Break, I thought I would offer our academic success team an opportunity to address all of you, so that you can best position yourselves to succeed in the next half of the semester.  I’ll be back to address everyone in the next entry, right around Halloween, either in zombie or human form (TBD).  Thanks to Dyann and Kate for their contribution!  Until next time, I ask as always that you each take care of yourselves and one another.  Dean Hamoudi

Hello and welcome back from Fall Break!

We hope that you were able to take time to relax and reboot so you are ready to come back and finish the semester strong. It may seem hard to believe, but in the blink of an eye, fall semester will be behind us, and you will be preparing for final exams.

To that end, we want to take this opportunity to remind you of ways that you can best position yourself for success in the second half of the semester.

(1) Outlining is a learning tool, and it is not just for open book exams.

Outlining is one of the best ways that you can contextualize the vast amount of information you are learning in your classes. It helps you see how everything works together and how you can use the law to solve problems and hypotheticals.

Because outlining is largely about the process itself, it’s important to remember that outlines aren’t just for open book exams. In fact, you want to prepare for exams—closed or open book—in the exact same way. The other important thing to remember is that, even if an exam is open book, you won’t have sufficient time to flip through outlines or other course materials. You must be able to readily identify the issues and resolve them with efficiency, and the outlining process will strengthen this skill.

In sum, the act of creating your own outline has substantial value regardless of exam format—so don’t shortcut the process!

(2) Take time to work on practice problems.

It can be easy to fall into the “I just have to outline and memorize everything” pattern in law school. However, if you solely focus on memorizing black letter law, you are missing out on an important piece of the learning process that is key to your exam success.

On a typical law school exam, you won’t be asked to recite memorized law or explain the law in a vacuum. Yes, you must be able to recall and accurately state the law, but that is the baseline. You must then demonstrate your knowledge of how the law operates in different situations. This is why law school exams ask you to work through hypothetical questions where you must spot issues and then analyze them by utilizing the relevant law and provided facts.

The best way to prepare for these types of exams is to work through practice problems, and you can access many free practice resources through the UC Law Library. Some of our personal favorites include CALI Lessons and Examples and Explanations, but ask your professors if they have any they find particularly helpful!

(3) Take advantage of the other resources that are available.

Law school is hard! There is no expectation that you go through it alone. Through UC Law, you have access to a plethora of available resources, including:

  • Your Professors.

Don’t be afraid to go see your professors during office hours! Your professors understand that the law is complex, and they specifically set aside this time to ensure that you can ask questions and gain clarification on the topics they’ve covered. If you can’t make a particular office hour, reach out to your professor to find some time that will work for both of you.

On a related note, if you had a midterm that didn’t go as well as you wanted, it is especially important to take the time to go meet with your professor so you can use it as a checkpoint and springboard to improvement.

  • Your TAs.

The TAs for your classes are an invaluable resource. Your professors select their TAs based on their competency and knowledge in that subject area. Therefore, your TAs are well-situated to help you with class materials and content, approach, and any other questions you have related to that course.

  • Your Academic Success Team.

Of course, we are also here to help you!

Whether you are struggling with how to adjust to law school, build an effective study plan, draft your outlines, approach exams, or anything else, please don’t hesitate to reach out or schedule an appointment with us. Our Calendly links are provided below:

-Dean Margolis:

-Professor Selander:

We know that this point in the semester—between the readings, and the outlining, and the midterms, and the other assignments—can start to wear you down. If you start to feel overwhelmed, just try to remember two big things: (1) you are not alone, and we are here to help in any way we can, and (2) you have done hard things before, and you can do this too!


Most of you have probably heard by now of “flow”, a state of being where one is fully immersed in their work, bringing with it an intensity and a clarity of focus that borders on ecstasy.  The paradigms of performers in flow are elite athletes and artists, for perhaps obvious reasons.  Yet flow can come just as naturally to law students (and law deans) in job interviews, taking exams, or making oral arguments.  Time stands still, distractions have faded away, negative feelings are nowhere to be found, and there is nothing in the world but dedication to the task at hand.  The feeling is truly unparalleled.

As the above shows, I am as much a fan of flow as anyone. I believe that my previous posts, relating to mindfulness, belonging, and gratitude in particular, help bring it about.  I imagine most could readily understand why flow does not happen all that often to a resentful person seething about a social media post who is in a professional setting where they do not feel welcome, and why balanced, centered, and grateful people who are in a place where they do belong are more likely to find it.

Still, despite all this, there is a problem with the flow mania that I think is underappreciated.  Flow does not happen much of the time when you need to perform.  Most of the time, we are all at least a bit distracted, anxious, or annoyed about something that causes us not to be able to remain fully focused for every long.  And to me, the sign of a successful professional, legal or otherwise, lies in their ability to summon the resources necessary to complete the task notwithstanding the obstacles.  That underappreciated virtue is not flow, but grit, which is what you have to call upon when you have to do something and flow is not coming.   

The most common image of grit is of one nearing the summit of a mountain, the end of a marathon, or overtime in a football game, and coming up with that last little ounce of strength necessary to close out some magnificent and previously unimaginable feat.  Yet as a marathon runner, I don’t think that I rely so much upon grit at that moment.  When thousands of fans on Boylston Street are cheering me on, and I can see the end of the Boston Marathon, it’s not all that difficult to finish.  

Six miles earlier, with a full 10K left to run, in rather intense pain, with many fewer fans around, is a different matter altogether.  And even more different than that is the day I venture out for a 12 mile tempo run, or a 22 mile long run with no fans around.  Some days, indeed perhaps most, I can start these runs and find myself in a state of flow rather quickly. (Mood follows action and not the reverse, the adage goes—an adage wise enough to deserve another post in the future.)  And yet many days, because it is raining, because I had a bad night’s sleep, or because something happened at work that is very much weighing on my mind, those negative feelings sit with me the entire time.  The true value of grit is the ability to recognize them, sit with them in full awareness, and nonetheless carry on in less than ideal conditions, returning the focus again and again to the task at hand, knowing that ultimately at best I will turn in a performance that I will estimate at mediocre.  It is the ability to do that, time and again, which to my mind separates high performing professionals from their peers much more than the capacity to enter into a state of flow slightly more often. 

Moreover, it is easy to underestimate how much one can achieve in a slog, through grit alone.  One major categorical misconception I find in many early professionals is a belief that somehow if they are not in a state of flow, then whatever they are doing is subpar in the best case, and not worth the doing in the worst.  It is hard to overemphasize how wrong this is.  I don’t imagine Eliud Kiphchoge was in a state of undistracted ecstatic focus when he made it to the end of the 2015 Berlin Marathon, blistered and bloodied, with quite literally half of each shoe dragging along behind him. I imagine that the missing of half of each shoe might have served as a distraction from time to time, over the course of the two hour race.   On more prosaic and more personal terms, I did a deanship interview a few years ago in which I found myself in the greatest state of flow I have ever achieved.  An hour felt like 45 seconds.  The search firm chief told me it was the best interview they had seen in a decade of witnessing such interviews.  I did not get the job. The job I did get began with an interview that followed a night of three hours of sleep and a sick child where I consciously sipped a coffee after each question as a means of convincing myself that the little jolt of energy provided by that sip was what I needed to answer the next question well.  I did not feel as good at the end of it, and I estimated my chances of a call back at 15%.  Obviously, I miscalculated, because here I am.  I would like to think of this position I am so privileged to hold as my 2015 Berlin Marathon.

So what to do on that day when nothing seems to be going right, and you can’t seem to focus on your writing assignment, and yet you push through and do the work you need to, deciding at the end of it all that it isn’t your best work, though probably good enough?  Two things. First, remember that how you feel has little to do with how more objective outsiders, who have no idea how you felt, will assess your work in the end. Second, after that reminder, go buy yourself a nice ice cream sundae. And then prepare yourself to do it again, when the occasion arises. Because once that part is mastered, it is all downhill to walking across the stage with a cap on your head to shake my hand. 

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Dean Hamoudi

Those of you who have spoken with me, or heard me speak (voluntarily, at a drop in or lunch, or less so, at orientation) are aware of the high value I place on mindfulness and presence. Indeed, I find it the single trait I seek to cultivate most in my life, to ensure that I am able to achieve what matters most on a given day. In the absence of it, the hurly-burly of the world has the potential to sweep me away, so that what is actually important is sacrificed to what feels in the moment to be the most urgent.

I thought I would take time to write today on a companion practice to mindfulness, that of gratitude, which I likewise find core to personal and professional success in law school and in legal practice more broadly. Like mindfulness, my sense is that gratitude has a long and storied presence across cultures and eras, and that it has gotten short shrift in our consumer-driven, mobile-friendly, distraction-laden world. In both cases, in my view, we have lost something, and to recapture it will redound to great personal and professional betterment.

Interestingly enough, across the various trends of thought and belief that emphasize the benefits of gratitude, the primary beneficiary of giving thanks is expected to be the one who gives it, not the one who receives it. Certainly, I have been in no shortage of leadership seminars where the importance of expressing gratitude to others is emphasized as a means of boosting their morale and improving their performance. And I do believe that the community to which we aspire at UC Law can only be built through frequent giving of thanks to one another, to support each other in overcoming respective challenges. Yet an even more common sentiment with respect to gratitude overall is that of Solomon in the Qur’an, who proclaims that the one who gives thanks, gives it for the benefit of their own soul, and the one who withholds it, withholds nothing from the Lord, who remains giving and abundant. More secular expressions are perhaps even more obvious—I don’t imagine many believe that Alanis Morisette is thanking everything from “India” to “consequence” out of any expectation that this will, or even should, do something for the recipients of her gratitude.

Speaking only for myself, I view gratitude as providing the framing on which mindfulness is built, and out of which personal and professional success can be achieved. When one is mindful, they are aware of all that is around them. When they are grateful, they frame that into a mindset of positivity that then helps shape how they carry out their lives. The point is not delusion—to count blessings and not problems does not entail inventing blessings and denying problems. Instead, it is to frame a life around the riches in hand, rather than those out of reach. Where the latter leads to envy, resentment, and the building of a culture of toxicity and distrust, the former leads to positivity, contentment, and a shared mutual commitment to support each other to the betterment of all.

I do not think I am as grateful as I can be. Years ago, I think I struggled even more. I might have wished I was making more money, or was better recognized by colleagues for my scholarly achievements, or had offers to teach at law schools that were higher ranked on US News. I suppose in my failings I fell into the trap many do—of believing that somehow where mindfulness was a practice, gratitude was a disposition that required no work. One was simply grateful or they were not. Years of prayer, meditation, and journaling have managed to convince me of that which I wish I had known better years before—that gratitude is, like kindness and awareness, a state of being that comes about only through consistent practice, and that, as human beings, we are all capable of backsliding from time to time. Continuing the practice and being as forgiving of myself as I try to be of my friends and family are the only way I have managed to forge ahead, to the extent I have been successful at all.

It has taken me years, which is why I emphasize it alongside other core virtues that also take years, from cultivating deep relationships to building awareness. To my mind, this is the foundation upon which the skills you are developing in law school are built. So long as the foundation is solid, the skills will come. You do not need three years to learn how to brief a case. You will need much more than that to be at peace with your own thoughts in the most tumultuous of times, and grateful for all that you have when rejections or defeats, and with them self-doubt, start to pile up. This happens to all of us after all, me very much included. Knowing how to write a killer brief will not get you up when life throws you that punch, but mindfulness and gratitude will.

So I encourage you to consider a gratitude journal, where you note down three things you are most thankful for each morning, before you start your day, or each evening, when you end it. Make it a regular practice to think of a few blessings you have when your mind takes you to a few problems. And, when someone does something nice for you, small or large, just say thank you. It might very well make their day. And it will, over time, do wonders for yours.

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Dean Hamoudi

In my various meetings with students over the past four weeks, I am often asked whether I visited Cincinnati much as a child, which is after all only 90 minutes from my home town of Columbus.  The honest answer is that unless Mason, and specifically King’s Island, count as “Cincinnati”, then I did not. I can, however, point to a specific trip I made to Cincinnati as an adult, in June of 2003, shortly before returning to Baghdad to live and work for three years. The singular purpose of this trip was to visit the Contemporary Arts Center, which had been designed by the Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. 

By 2003, every Iraqi I knew was aware of who Zaha Hadid was—Iraq’s premier architect, from a nation that had no shortage of them. A year after completing the CAC, she would win the Pritzker—the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for architects.  She had been the subject of much international acclaim, and was for many of us a source of inspiration, including those, like me, who had no real experience with or training in architecture.  We also knew something else.  When selected to design the CAC, she had only completed three free standing buildings in her life, and none in the United States. She had faced formidable barriers entering the construction world as a woman, an Iraqi, and a Muslim. 

None of that became easier after she was selected, and groundbreaking began in May of 2001.  This was a difficult time in Cincinnati of course, only a month after the killing of Timothy Thomas and the unrest that followed.  It was also soon to be a very dark chapter in the American Muslim experience as well, following the horrific terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  All of us remember the tragedy of that day, the senseless loss of life, and, of course, the aftermath that followed.  Those we had thought of as friends and supporters repeated rumors and lies respecting immigrant schoolchildren knowing the towers would fall days before they did, thereby giving credence to the calumny that we were all in on it.  More than one person I considered a friend asked me what I thought of the attacks, as if there was somehow a possibility that someone who had spent so much of their life working in social justice and human rights causes would deem the targeting of an office tower a justified military venture.  And, of course, I have never since been able to enter or leave an airport without worrying about whether I will be “randomly” stopped for additional security measures, which seems to happen on nearly every international trip and quite a few domestic ones, to this day.  

I thought at the time that the CAC would surely rethink its decision to continue with Hadid. That she had nothing to do with 9/11, and that everyone knew that, was as obvious to me as it was naïve. Neither did I, and yet I still pay a price, more than two decades later.  Yet they stuck with her, and Zaha Hadid’s first American building was opened to the public in May of 2003.  I saw it three weeks later.  And, from that time forward, to any who mocked Ohio on the East Coast, where I spent so much of my adult life, I would frequently point out that Cincinnati, and not New York, Washington, or Boston, was the place where Zaha Hadid made her American debut. 

It would be pretty to connect in a straight line that visit to my acceptance of the Deanship of the University of Cincinnati twenty years and two months later, when the University of Cincinnati appointed America’s first Muslim law dean.  Yet life narratives are never so clean. As Hadid once said, and as her work has demonstrated to us all, the world is not a rectangle.  Nobody is disturbed because they can’t find a clean corner in Burnet Woods, a stone’s throw from where I sit now.  My journey, like the trails of Burnet Woods, has been convoluted, winding, and wonderful, as all are, and I hope to tell you more about it in future messages.

Instead, I only tell you this story to make a single point.  What the Contemporary Arts Center chose to do in selecting Zaha Hadid as their architect showed remarkable courage, when safer options were available.  I, and countless other Iraqi Americans and Muslim Americans living in very difficult times, took note of that courage.  We appreciated it, and we honored it. And twenty years later, when an opportunity came my way in Cincinnati, I certainly remembered it. 

I hope we all can work on trying to find it within us to extend that same kind of courage—I’ll call it Cincinnati courage—to fellow members of our community when the opportunity arises.  Extend a hand to a classmate who is struggling under the weight of anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.  Speak up for another who feels voiceless, and let them feel heard.  Empower, enable, and, if nothing else, show your fellow students you see them.  It might seem like a small thing to you. And it might end up meaning the world to them.

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Dean Hamoudi

As excited as I am in beginning my service as the 27th Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, this fall marks a wistful occasion for me as well. For the first time in 16 years, I will not be teaching Contracts in the fall semester. I will not be walking into a large classroom full of newly minted, excited, and ambitious law students to begin teaching them about the law of binding promises. That has long been a great joy for me, and one I am sad to forsake.

This is not a lamentation—I very much want to be your Dean, and I cannot be your Dean effectively, certainly in my first year, if I am also trying to teach a first year course at the same time. Instead, the point is that teaching Contracts, and the sense of reward and satisfaction I derived from it, helped keep me focused on why we professors do what we do. We are teachers first and foremost. Beyond the important and impactful scholarship we produce, and the vital service to the profession that we provide—all work in which we take the greatest pride— in the end, we work in law school to educate and inspire our students to pursue justice and advance the role of law in society. I am privileged to work with an incredible staff that I know shares the same priorities and seeks to advance the same mission. Whatever our differences, on the principle that our students come first, we are all in agreement.

The irony, of course, is that as the leader of an institution which exists to educate and inspire students, I find myself more isolated from students than I would be as a faculty member. I therefore need to be more intentional in reaching out to all of you, and to maintain a steady and consistent line of communication, so that you are aware of all that we are doing as a law school, and all that I am doing as your Dean, and you are able to communicate to me your own commitments and concerns, for us to take into consideration as we plot our future course. To that end, I have planned biweekly drop ins with the Dean, designed exclusively for meetings with students, along with lunches with 1L students, regular meetings with the SBA and leaders of other student groups, including the affinity groups, and, of course, this blog, written for students, on issues of student concern.

So, I hope you will take a little time every other week to read this Dean’s Corner Blog. I hope if you are a 1L, you will sign up for a lunch, and if you are an upperclass student, you come to a Dean’s drop in. I hope you follow me on Instagram and Twitter (@cincylawdean), or LinkedIn (under my name). If you are an athlete (or, in my case, pretend to be one), I hope you will follow me on Strava. I promise to do the same. I want you to get to know me, and I want to be sure to get to know all of you. I look forward to our future connections, and to building a bright future for UC Law together.

Take care of yourselves and one another,

Dean Hamoudi