Prom Party Crashes Law Study

Dean of Baylor Law School apologizes for letting son hold catered dinner at its library during exam period.
April 26, 2006

For one high school student, it was presumably a magical prom night.

For several students at Baylor University's law school, it was a noisy inconvenience.

Some students are still fuming that the dean of the law school, Brad Toben, allowed his son to have a high school pre-prom party in -- of all places -- a portion of the school’s library on Saturday evening, while several of them prepared for a hectic week of exams. A section of the library was closed for the event, and some students said the dinner was an unnecessary distraction during a stressful time of year.

Soon after the party began, some students and faculty members started complaining, and Toben quickly realized that he had made an error. He first apologized to the Waco Tribune-Herald, then forwarded his apology via e-mail to students and faculty members over the weekend.

“I exercised very poor judgment in the matter,” wrote Toben. “Many students were very angry and upset by the use of the space for this purpose, and at, as they have noted, the worst of times during exams. They are right. This was a breach of a basic principle that the law center is for the students' benefit. I am very sorry and ask that you accept my apology.”

Courtney Hicks, a law student at the school, said that she and several of her classmates appreciate the apology, but feel that the dean has more work to do in remedying the situation.

“I think students would have appreciated a personal apology as opposed to a forwarded e-mail with a link to a newspaper article,” Hicks said. “Perhaps graduating law students will receive such an apology this upcoming Saturday at graduation.”

She added: “Although I respect Dean Toben as a person and as a contributing leader to the Waco community, I and other students feel as though this event only exemplified the lack of connection he has with the Baylor Law student body.”

Some faculty members think Toben has paid his punishment, and it’s time to move on. “The faculty knows he made a mistake, but they also fully appreciate the sincerity of his apology and don't want to see him suffer further for this -- which tangibly harmed nobody,” Brian Serr, a law professor at the school. “He is a good man.”

In an e-mail Serr sent to students on Tuesday, he wrote that he “fully appreciate[s] how upsetting it was to many that the library was set aside for reasons having nothing to do with the mission of Baylor Law School during such an important time in your legal education.”

“But apologies have now been made repeatedly and in various venues, it is now highly unlikely that such a use of the law library will ever be made again (certainly not at finals), and it is now time to move on,” he continued. “You deserved to win on this point, and you have won.”


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