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Wednesday, May 8, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Letters To The Editor

New Law School -- Gift Raises Questions About Influence On UW's Mission

While it may be true that the generous gift of $12 million by Bill and Melinda Gates toward a new building for the University of Washington Law School does not affect the site selection, the question still remains of why the Law School has been so adamant in seeking to relocate to the main campus.

The esthetics and dysfunctional nature of Condon Hall, where the Law School is now located, have been cited as the primary reasons for abandoning this 20-year-old building, but upon closer scrutiny, it appears that this is more of a rationalization than a substantive argument. What was argued as a secondary reason for a new building, that of wanting to be on the central campus, may well be the primary reason, given the identity of the no-longer-anonymous donors.

In arguing for the prime site adjacent to the Parrington Green, Dean Roland Hjorth of the Law School has been repeatedly quoted as saying that this site is desirable because of its proximity to the Business and International Studies schools where collaborative work can be done in such areas as Asian law and the protection of intellectual property rights. That these areas of study are of importance to Microsoft's future in the Pacific Rim may be coincidental, but it raises questions regarding the new dependency on private donors and corporate research efforts by the University of Washington and how gifts and grants influence the educational mission of the university.

Washington state taxpayers are still paying the majority of the bill for the new Law School with an appropriation of $35,128,000 from the state Legislature, a significantly larger amount than what a rehabilitation and addition to Condon Hall would cost, not to speak of the irreparable loss of one of the most significant open spaces left on the UW campus. Folke Nyberg Seattle

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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