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Bradley University pre-law students petition to save Center for Legal Studies

Bradley University Pre-Law seniors (left to right) Logal Caudill, Hailey Keeton, and Katie Turner
Isabela Nieto
Bradley University pre-law seniors, left to right, Logan Caudill, Hailey Keeton, and Katie Turner.

Senior pre-law students are petitioning to save the Bradley University Center for Legal Studies after it was closed indefinitely by the administration.

The closure of two student support centers has sparked student protest after the centers were shuttered due to a budget shortfall. The Health Professions Advising Center also was closed indefinitely.

On July 31, Bradley University President Stephen Standifird sent out an email to faculty outlining a $13 million budget shortfall for the upcoming 2023-2024 school year.

Standifird hosted a faculty budget forum on Aug. 3. Students were not notified of the meeting, but student faculty members were able to attend. The media was not allowed access.

Student faculty member and senior history major Kaitlyn Morrison attended the forum with her peers in the Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Morrison said Standifird expressed displeasure with the situation, and she said he admitted that university leaders were reckless with spending.

“So throughout president Stanford's presentation, he admitted that his data often wasn’t accurate and that it was to be more directional,” Morrison said, “He was like, we don't have updated data. So this is just an idea for you all.”

She also said the meeting was attended by many professors and faculty members, and that her coworkers noted the biggest turnout for a summer meeting they had ever seen.

“I encourage the university to not look just at numbers, but student lives,” Morrison said.

The week of the budget shortfall announcement, Bradley administration closed both the Center for Legal Studies and the Health Professions Advising Center.

Students who frequently used the Center for Legal Studies said they received the news directly from the former director of the center, Bridgette Lobacz, and did not hear anything from the university administration.

Seniors Hailey Keeton, Katie Turner, and Logan Caudill frequently used the resources provided by Lobacz and the center. All three are planning to attend law school following graduation.

Keeton is responsible for starting the petitionto save the Center for Legal Studies. She said the center provided many accessible resources for low or no cost to students pursuing a minor in legal studies, or who were interested in attending law school.

“We had expertise that was not offered by just a mere faculty member who got a degree, we got somebody that was able to give us expertise in an actual legal setting,” Keeton said. “They would give us access to different internships in the area, and then also any academic advising to make sure we were on track for law school.”

Turner is a senior psychology major with a minor in legal studies. As a first generation college student, Turner said she relied heavily on the services the center provided.

“It gave me a level of understanding to really hone in on the specialty that I want, as well as to not constantly feel like I need to be an extraordinary person to get by and to actually be seen and helped” Turner said.

She also said the decision will have negative effects on future pre-law students looking to apply to law school.

“When you snatch something like this away from a bunch of students who don't have the proper understanding of what to do next, you are now the main target of all the answers and the questions,” Turner said, “You can't cut anything and not have answers to our questions.”

Caudill said the Center for Legal Studies helped shape his college path.

“I came into Bradley, actually, as a sports communication major, switched over to political science and wanted to be a lawyer. Through all that, there was only one way I could outlet or like, figure out how to do that,” he said, “And that was through the Center for Legal Studies.”

The petition started by Keeton has not reached its goal number of signatures. Keeton said she hopes to present the signatures to president Standifird directly to highlight the importance of the Center for Legal Studies for pre-law students.

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Isabela Nieto is a student reporting intern at WCBU. Isabela is also a student at Bradley University in Peoria.