2011 ABA Public Censure Documents
ABA Public Censure
Freeh Sporkin Sullivan Compliance Report
The law firm of Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan, LLP (“FSS”) is acting as the Independent Compliance Monitor of Villanova Law School (“VLS”) on behalf of the American Bar Association (“ABA”) to review the reporting of information by VLS to the ABA. FSS conducted an analysis of the information submitted by VLS to the ABA in 2011 along with the supporting documentation. FSS conducted interviews of key personnel. As a result of this review, FSS is able to conclude that the reporting process for 2011 was conducted in a highly transparent method and the data reported appears to be accurate and not intentionally manipulated by VLS.
FSS did not see any indication that the 2011 ABA Questionnaire was manipulated in a manner that would improperly benefit VLS. FSS did find that VLS has implemented a robust program to prevent and deter any similar actions in the future. VLS appears to have implemented remediation efforts that exceed the requirements imposed by the ABA. Dean Gotanda has reportedly set a strong tone at the top which has effectively flowed through the VLS faculty and staff.
In sum, since their Public Censure, VLS has changed the tone and culture within the law school as it relates to ABA reporting. According to those interviewed, no other law school has implemented procedures as robust as VLS to ensure accurate reporting.
Villanova University School of Law Data Collection Plan
Villanova University School of Law Policies and Procedures for the Collecting and Reporting of Data for the ABA Annual Questionnaire: Document Overview
The document titled “Villanova University School of Law Policies and Procedures for the Collecting and Reporting of Data for the ABA Annual Questionnaire” (“the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy”) sets forth the general policies and procedures for completing the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) Annual Questionnaire and identifies the individuals responsible for performing key control activities which have been implemented to provide assurance that the data reported is both complete and accurate.
The ABA requires law schools to submit an Annual Questionnaire that demonstrates that its program of legal education is consistent with sound legal education principles and is being operated in compliance with the ABA Standards. The Questionnaire must be complete and accurate and submitted in a timely manner as specified by the ABA.
II. ABA Annual Questionnaire
The ABA Annual Questionnaire (“Annual Questionnaire” or “Questionnaire”) requires seven sections to be submitted. The sections pertaining to the Questionnaire are individually detailed in the Policies and Procedures document and consist of:
1. General Section
4. Financial Aid
7. Foreign Programs
III. Reporting Policies and Procedures
The reporting procedures outlined below have been developed by the Law School to ensure that each section of the Annual Questionnaire is submitted in a complete and accurate manner.
The ABA requires that the Dean of the Law School “certify that the information provided [in the Annual Questionnaire is] a complete and accurate presentation of this Law School” The Dean of Villanova University School of Law shall sign this certification only if the Dean can certify that:
- The Dean has reviewed the Annual Questionnaire;
- Based on the Dean’s knowledge, the information provided does not contain any untrue statement of material fact or fail to state a material fact necessary to make these statements accurate;
- Based on the Dean’s knowledge, the information provided in the report contains a complete and accurate representation of this Law School pursuant to ABA Standards;
- The Dean is responsible for establishing and maintaining the controls and procedures for the collection and reporting of data for the Annual Questionnaire and has:
- Designed such controls and procedures, or has caused such controls and procedures to be designed under his/her supervision, to provide reasonable assurance of the accuracy and completeness of the information contained in the Annual Questionnaire; and
- Evaluated the effectiveness of the Law School’s controls and procedures, or has caused such evaluation, and has found no significant deficiencies or material weaknesses in the design or operation of such controls and procedures.
B. Roles and Responsibilities
The following are the key roles to be assigned in the ABA Annual Questionnaire reporting process:
Dean of the School of Law. The Dean shall be responsible for overall ownership of the Law School’s data reported on the ABA Annual Questionnaire. The Dean’s responsibilities shall include the following:
- Implement and maintain the Law School’s ABA reporting procedures and policies;
- Review the list of individuals with key reporting roles to determine appropriateness (independence, competence, etc.);
- Review the Annual Control Confirmation Sheet for each Annual Questionnaire part/section to ensure that key control activities have been completed by the appropriate personnel; and
- Sign the Dean’s Signature Page on the ABA Annual Questionnaire asserting that the information reported is both complete and accurate.
Questionnaire Policy Coordinator. The Questionnaire Policy Coordinator shall be designated by the Dean in consultation with the Associate Deans. The Questionnaire Policy Coordinator shall ensure compliance with established procedures and policies as well as the overall administration of the ABA Questionnaire submission. The Questionnaire Policy Coordinator should be an independent and objective party. The Questionnaire Policy Coordinator’s responsibilities shall include the following:
- Attend ABA Annual Questionnaire Training held every year by the ABA to ensure the Law School is informed of the latest changes to the Questionnaire;
- Train all Data Owners, Peer Reviewers, and Facilitator on the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy and all updates which are communicated by the ABA at the ABA Annual Questionnaire Training;
- Coordinate the implementation and updating of the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy;
- Aid in the compliance with the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy for all Data Owners, Peer Reviewers, Facilitator, and Dean; and
- Request completed Annual Control Confirmation Sheets and Policy Checklists for each respective section and provide these Sheets to the Dean for his/her review before submitting the Questionnaire to the ABA and signing the Signature Page.
Questionnaire Facilitator. The Questionnaire Facilitator’s responsibilities shall include the following:
- Maintain access rights and permissions to the ABA Annual Questionnaire;
- Track the completion of key and supporting control activities;
- Obtain all Annual Questionnaire data from Peer Reviewers
- Input data for each respective section into the final ABA data submission forms via ABAQUEST;
- Sign the Annual Control Confirmation Sheet for each respective Annual Questionnaire part/section indicating completion of key control activities; and
- Follow the instructions contained in the Villanova University School of Law Policies and Procedures for the Collecting and Reporting of Data for the ABA Annual Questionnaire document regarding the retention of files, documents and records.
Data Owners. Each Data Owner shall be designated by the Dean in consultation with the Associate Deans. These individuals shall be responsible for the data reported on the ABA Annual Questionnaire for their respective Questionnaire parts/section. In some cases, there may be more than one Data Owner for a Part of the Annual Questionnaire. Data Owners shall have the following responsibilities:
- Complete the Annual Questionnaire parts/sections in accordance with the ABA’s Instructions/ Suggestions/Notes
- This includes gathering information from any necessary sources (i.e., departments, third parties, and Law School personnel);
- Complete all supporting control activities (reconciliations, validations, etc.), for their respective part/section, as defined within the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy document;
- Provide all collected data to their assigned Peer Reviewer and assist the Peer Reviewer (s) in the completion of the peer reviews;
- Sign the Annual Control Confirmation Sheet for the respective Questionnaire part/section indicating completion of key control activities;
- Within 30 days of the date that the Annual Questionnaire has been submitted to the ABA, review the section or sections of the Questionnaire for which the Data Owner had responsibility and sign a certification to be provided to the Dean and the Faculty Academic Committee that the relevant section or sections of the Questionnaire are accurate and complete; and
- Follow the instructions contained in the Law School’s ABA Reporting document regarding the retention of files, documents and records.
Peer Reviewers. The Peer Reviewers shall be designated by the Dean in consultation with the Associate Deans and approved by the Faculty Academic Committee. These individuals shall perform the internal peer review over their assigned Questionnaire parts/sections. The Peer Reviewer’s responsibilities shall include the following:
- Conduct peer reviews in accordance with the processes set forth in the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy document detailing Villanova Law School’s reporting procedures;
- Document any discrepancies, and the resolution of the discrepancies, identified during their reviews;
- Provide the completed Questionnaire section to the Questionnaire Facilitator once the internal peer review is satisfactorily completed; and
- Sign the Annual Control Confirmation sheet for the respective Questionnaire part/section indicating completion of the key control activities.
C. Control Activities for Certification
In order for the Dean to certify that the information provided in the Annual Questionnaire is a complete and accurate presentation of the Law School, the following control activities must be completed:
- Each Data Owner shall have compiled data required for the Annual Questionnaire and shall have validated the reported data for completeness and accuracy;
- Prior to submission to the Questionnaire Facilitator, a Peer Reviewer shall have validated the data compiled by the Data Owner against source documentation for completeness and accuracy. Any discrepancies that are identified shall be researched and resolved prior to submission to the Questionnaire Facilitator;
- After completion of the peer review process, the Peer Reviewer, and not the Data Owner, shall have provided the compiled data to the Questionnaire Facilitator.
- Only the Questionnaire Facilitator shall have inputted the data into the ABA system for the Annual Questionnaire;
- After the data has been entered into the ABA system, but prior to final submission, the Data Owner shall have performed a final review in which the relevant portion of the Questionnaire is checked for input errors and all data is checked for completeness and accuracy; and
- All individuals identified as responsible for key control activities shall have signed the Annual Control Confirmation Sheet. In doing so, these individuals shall attest to the satisfactory completion of each control activity.
In addition to these general policies and procedures, all individuals responsible for the completion of the Annual Questionnaire must follow the guidelines set forth in their respective Questionnaire sections. The Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy provides a more detailed set of policies and procedures for each of the seven individual sections of the ABA Annual Questionnaire: General; Admissions; Library; Financial Aid; Profiles; Fiscal; and Foreign Programs.
The main components used to certify the information in each of these individual sections of the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy are:
The ABA Questionnaire Section: A copy of the respective Annual Questionnaire sections which must be updated with the most recent instructions available on the ABA website is included in the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy.
VLS Policies and Procedures: The specific policies and procedures for the individual section including the people responsible for that section and the documentation needed are outlined in the VLS Policies and Procedures section of the Law School’s ABA Reporting Policy document;
Policy Checklist: This form is a guide to the completion of the Questionnaire section and must be signed and dated by the Data Owner, Peer Reviewer, and Questionnaire Facilitator in order to confirm that all steps have been completed correctly;
Questionnaire General Form: A paper copy of each individual section is included and will be completed and scanned so that it can be stored electronically. This form will also be signed by the assigned Data Owner to provide confirmation of the accuracy of the information; and
Annual Control Confirmation Sheet: A form that will be provided to the Dean with the signatures of the Data Owner, Peer Reviewer, and Questionnaire Facilitator upon completion of the Questionnaire section as well as all review processes.
The data for the Annual Questionnaire must be received by the Questionnaire Facilitator in a timely manner. Ordinarily, the Questionnaire Facilitator should receive the data from the Peer Reviewer no later than two weeks before the due date of the Annual Questionnaire.
F. Retention of Files, Documents and Records
All files, documents and records that are compiled in connection with each Annual Questionnaire, as well as each Annual Questionnaire, shall be kept permanently in electronic form. Within thirty days of the date that the Annual Questionnaire has been submitted to the ABA, each Data Owner shall submit to the Villanova Law School electronic archive system the electronic file or files, records, forms and any other documents or materials used in connection with the compiling of data for the Annual Questionnaire. Prior to submitting the files to the electronic archive system, the Data Owner shall obtain a password from the Questionnaire Facilitator, who shall be given a password by the Villanova Law School Webmaster to distribute to the Data Owners. The password shall change at least once a year, but more frequently as needed. The password shall expire each year after all information is collected for the year. The password shall be created according to the password standards posted under the Law School Technology Services website. The Data Owner shall access the electronic archive system site, enter his or her password, and then upload the file or files using the password protected and SSL encrypted web form. Once the file or files have been submitted, the Data Owner shall have no access to any files uploaded into the electronic archive system.
The Questionnaire Facilitator shall be provided a password by the Webmaster that will enable the Questionnaire Facilitator to upload an electronic version of the Annual Questionnaire submitted to the ABA. TheQuestionnaire Facilitator shall access the electronic archive system site, enter his/her password, and then upload the Annual Questionnaire using the password protected and SSL encrypted web form. Once the Annual Questionnaire has been submitted, the Questionnaire Facilitator shall have no access to the Questionnaire or any files uploaded into the electronic archive system, except as provided below.
All files uploaded to the electronic archive system by Data Owners, as well as the Annual Questionnaire uploaded by the Questionnaire Facilitator, shall be stored in a secure directory created by and maintained by the Webmaster. Only the Webmaster/ and the server administrators shall have access to the directory and the files stored therein. To further ensure the security and integrity of the data stored in the designated folder, the Webmaster shall have a full image back up automatically created daily at 12:00AM to a hard drive that is housed in a physically secure separate location within the Law School building. The full image from the last day of each month shall also be stored in a separate location. This procedure is designed to ensure that there will always exist an electronic archive of the Annual Questionnaire and supporting documentation, that the electronic files will be secure, and that mechanisms exist to verify the authenticity of the documents stored in the electronic archive system.
With permission of the Dean and concurrence of the chair of the Faculty Academic Committee, the Webmaster/ may give access to the files in the directory for purposes of viewing any of the files or the Questionnaire contained therein or making copies of any files or the Questionnaire. The Webmaster shall keep a log of the name of the person given access and the date of access. Such access shall be limited in duration.
Annual Review of ABA Standards, Policies and Procedures Related the Annual Questionnaire
The ABA periodically reviews and updates its Standards, Interpretations, Policies and Procedures. The Law School shall each year review the Standards, Interpretations, Policies and Procedures and take into account changes that have been made as those changes affect the Annual Questionnaire. The Law School shall review the Annual Questionnaire each year to account for any changes to the Questionnaire. If needed, these policies and procedures shall be updated to account for those changes.
Reporting of Irregularities
Any irregularities in this process shall be promptly reported to the Dean of the Law School and the University’s Office of General Counsel.