Deidré A. Keller, the ex-college law dean at Florida A&M University who abruptly resigned on over a week ago, cited ‘abusive treatment’ as the reason behind her resignation.

In an emailed letter to Allyson Watson, FAMU’s Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs on Jan. 31 (email obtained by the Tallahassee Democrat), Keller expressed her concerns regarding the program’s bar exam passage rates, claiming they “fell on deaf ears.” “Specifically, at this juncture, it is clear that the university’s vision for the College of Law no longer resonates with my vision for sustained success at the college,” she wrote.

“My efforts to strengthen the college’s student body, its relationship with the bar, bench, surrounding community, its alumni, and the university have recently been met with behavior on the part of the university that can only be properly characterized as abusive.”

Deidré A. Keller, ex-college law dean at Florida A&M University

The Florida HBCU reportedly has a reputation for low bar exam passage rates. Traditionally, law school students take the bar exam during the summer post-graduation. However, in some states like Florida, the exam is offered twice a year.

In July 2023, only 25 out of 60 FAMU student participants passed the exam, resulting in the school holding the title of the lowest-performing law school in the Sunshine State—with a rate of 41.7% – 10 points lower than the 52.6% rate received in July 2022. 

Keller alleged she was questioned by the FAMU Board of Trustees’ Academic and Student Affairs Committee chair, Nicole Washington, regarding student success at the College of Law. On Jan. 18, she alluded to the fact Washington’s questions were “impossible to answer and irrelevant to the project of addressing the college’s bar pass challenges.”

FAMU College of Law in Orlando, Florida.
FAMU College of Law in Orlando, Florida.

She opened up about the board’s constant interactions, which presented a hindrance in her getting her work done effectively. In addition, Keller listed an email she received from Associate Provost of Academic Programs Cecil Howard, in which she claims he “mischaracterized statements” Keller made to trustees. She called Howard’s email “clearly an attempt to impugn my integrity” that served no supervisory purpose.

Howard is currently sitting in as a temporary dean. A university spokesperson told The Tallahassee Democrat that the school does not comment on personnel matters. 

Keller joined Florida A&M College of Law in July 2020. Prior to joining FAMU, she was the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the Ohio Northern University Claude W. Pettit College of Law where she taught for ten years. Dean Keller’s teaching experience includes Property, Intellectual Property, Law & Literature, Internet Law, Legal Problem Solving & Analysis, Estates, Wills, and Trusts, and The Legal History of Montgomery, Alabama.

Prior to her FAMU departure, Keller was very vocal regarding Florida’s anti-woke legislation.

During an interview on WMFE in 2021, she explained what would happen if certain laws pertaining to DEI were to pass. “So DEI training takes many forms,” she said.

“It’s important to note here that most organizations, when they’re thinking about diversity, aren’t just thinking about racial diversity. They’re thinking about gender diversity. They’re thinking about gender expression, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, religion, and a great number of aspects of diversity.”