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Columbia Law appoints new dean with campus free speech experience

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By Karen Sloan

June 17 (Reuters) -Columbia University on Monday named University of Chicago law professor Daniel Abebe as the next dean of its law school.

Abebe, who in addition to his law school teaching post has been vice provost for academic affairs and governance at the University of Chicago for the past six years, will replace Gillian Lester as dean of Columbia Law School on August 1, Columbia President Minouche Shafik said in an announcement. Columbia Law is currently ranked No. 8 by U.S. News & World Report.

Abebe joined the No. 3-ranked University of Chicago Law School in 2008 and focuses his scholarship on the constitutional law of U.S. foreign affairs and public international law. Among his duties as vice provost was clarifying the University of Chicago's free speech policies, Shafik said.

Abebe said he is "humbled" by the opportunity to serve as dean at Columbia, adding that the school has "distinctive qualities," in a statement provided by a law school spokesperson.

Lester’s decade-long tenure as Columbia Law dean is ending amid a period of campus conflict over the war in Gaza. She announced her plan to step down in November, before protests on the Manhattan campus made national headlines, and is staying on the law school faculty.

In May, 13 conservative federal judges that they would not hire students from the Ivy League university in response to its handling of pro-Palestinian protests, calling the Manhattan campus an "incubator of bigotry" in a letter to Lester and Shafik.

Lester defended Columbia law students, saying they are "consistently sought out” by legal employers.

Read more:

Conservative US judges boycott Columbia grads over campus Gaza protests

Columbia Law voices confidence in grads in face of conservative judges' boycott


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