Maryann Jones has stepped down as the Charleston School of Law's president after only eight days on the job.
The law school has been embroiled in a controversy for more than a year over the possible sale to the for-profit InfiLaw System, which owns three other law schools.
Two of the school's three owners, George Kosko and Robert Carr, are in favor of the sale. But Ed Westbrook, the third owner, is pushing to form a nonprofit corporation to run the 10-year-old school, which also is for-profit.
But the owners voted unanimously Nov. 13 to hire Jones as president.
Law school leaders have not announced who will replace Jones. But previously, Dean Andy Abrams also served as president.
Supporters of the sale to InfiLaw think the company will bring in needed resources to the school.
But many students, alumni and members of the state's legal community have been outspoken in their opposition to a sale. They think the company's three other law schools have lower standards than the Charleston school. A sale to InfiLaw would decrease the value of a Charleston School of Law degree, sale opponents have said.
In an email sent late Thursday to Kosko, Carr and Abrams, Jones said she decided not to take the reins of the private, downtown law school, and would not sign a contract. "The level of vitriol, with all sides making me a lightning rod for an unfortunate situation that was not of my making, makes this truly a situation that I am unwilling at this stage of my life to undertake." Jones stated in the email.
Westbrook earlier Thursday had sent Jones a letter expressing his disappointment in her speaking to faculty and students in support of a sale to InfiLaw.
To get his vote, Jones had agreed to be objective, and to learn more about alternatives for the school, Westbrook stated.
He also stated that he was disappointed that Jones hadn't yet met with him and his attorney Dawes Cooke to discuss the school's future.
Westbrook's letter also revealed that Jones was being offered only a three-month contract.
Jones sent a separate email to Westbrook Thursday night. "I telephoned your attorney on two occasions this week to attempt to set up the requested meeting with you. It saddens me that you would send this letter without having spoken with me first," Jones stated.
"Obviously, to be successful, anyone in a leadership position at the law school needs the full support of the board," Jones stated in the email. "As I clearly do not have that, I will not sign a contract to serve as president and am withdrawing from the position effective immediately."
Jones had faced difficulties in her few days at the helm of the troubled law school.
On Thursday, a group of students protested outside the school, demanding to see a copy of the school's budget. School leaders had told faculty that InfiLaw could solve the school's financial problems, second-year student Tom Fernandez has said, but without InfiLaw, teachers might have to be let go.
The students wanted to review the budget document themselves, but school leaders refused to release it to them.
Annah Woodward, president of the Student Bar Association and an opponent of the sale, said she thinks Jones was put in a tough position. But, she said, "I think she was unable to be objective. It was clear she was not going to act in the best interest of the school and the student body."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.