KALAMAZOO, MI – In a name change more than a year in the making, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School is now officially the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, both entities announced Wednesday.The schools have had a relationship since 2002 and had announced the affiliation last year. A new 3+3 undergrad/law program will be included in the new offerings.
With this affiliation, WMU heads into the new academic year having joined the ranks of the approximately 90 universities in the U.S. that have both a law school and a school of medicine.
Right now the name change only affects 6 of 7 Cooley campuses -- all the ones in Michigan. The Tampa FL campus requires approval by the state of Florida. In the comments, there was amusement in having a Western Michigan campus on the west coast of Florida. Still, I note that with online programs, many universities with geographical names are breaking their borders and there are many campuses in foreign countries in Asia and the Middle East, so maybe it's not so weird.
I've been at Western for most of 22 years. In the first ten years there was a lot of gnashing of administrative teeth for WMU to be taken seriously and counted with the big boys of Michigan State, University of Michigan and Wayne State, but there just wasn't quite the graduate and research programs to support that. A change in the Carnegie classifications of research universities right in the middle of this moved the bar and made the argument much more difficult. The last dozen years has seen a different sort of expansion, with the new engineering campus on the hill in Parkview, the creation of a new medical school and now the merger with the law school. Building cachet is much more effective than just whining about it.
For those who complain we've got too many lawyers, I would argue -- see what I did there -- that (a) this is not a new law school but a new affiliation and (b) as one commenter suggested, this is the first law school in Michigan NOT to have the first two digits of its ZIP code be 48. It was a similar desire to have a medical school presence on this side of the state -- to go with the Four B's of Butterworth, Blodgett, Borgess and Bronson hospitals -- which brought Michigan State's School of Human Medicine to Grand Rapids' Medical Mile and the creation of WMU's medical school in Kalamazoo.
Important to the faculty, both the law school and the medical school fund themselves. Western students, faculty and programs are not getting shortchanged to foot the bill.
So I'm good with all that.