Careful with Those Comparisons:

People have asked why Erwin Chemerinsky's political activism might have been seen as troublesome by UCI when Ken Starr's activism -- including continuing public commentary -- isn't seen as troublesome by Pepperdine, and Chrisopher Edley's past activism hasn't been seen as troublesome by Berkeley.

My sense is that different schools make these decisions with an eye towards their different donor bases. The makeup of these bases turns on many factors, including (1) the general ideology of the school's alumni and traditional supporters, (2) the political makeup of the school's geographical location, (3) whether the school is an old school with lots of alumni or a new school with few, and (4) whether the school is private or public (since in the latter case the public, through the legislature, is a big "donor").

Pepperdine, for instance, has a reputation as a conservative school with mostly conservative (especially religious conservative) alumni and traditional supporters. A social conservative dean, even a highly controversial one, may appeal to them, and his continuing political participation may please and energize more people than it alienates. Boalt (the Berkeley law school) has a large alumni base that is likely on balance quite liberal. My sense is that it is also seen as an important civic institution in Northern California, and thus draws support from the public at large -- a public that, I'm told, is strikingly liberal. A liberal figure, even a moderately controversial one, may appeal to them, too.

UCI law school has no alumni, and my guess is that it therefore has to largely rely on the legislature and on local Orange County donors. Orange County is much less conservative than it used to be, but it's no Berkeley. It thus makes sense that having a controversial liberal dean might pose some more problems for UCI than for Boalt. I may be wrong -- I'm not an administrator or a fundraiser -- but this at least seems like a plausible position for the UCI people to take.

None of this excuses the poor way this situation was handled by UC, and none of it by itself resolves the First Amendment questions or the academic freedom questions (though I've argued that those matters don't come into play here). But it does suggest that we can't dismiss any possible worries on UCI's part about their dean's being too controversial just by pointing to controversial deans at other schools.

I'm not from the West Coast but isn't Pepperdine private? Might there not be different pressures with a private as opposed to public university?
9.13.2007 3:40pm
Marc :
I was offered a job in another department at UCI. A month after the job was to have started I received notice that the University Committee had denied my tenure. The way they handled the situation was incompetent and unethical. So, I am not surprised by the Chemerinsky story.

I have other friends who have had similar stories about hiring practices at UCI. They have a reputation.
9.13.2007 3:48pm
Problems with these reasons:
-Bren and similar donors don't know squat about legal academics (as Bren's lawyer recently admitted).
-UCI was already gearing up to have a liberal-oriented legal program with globalization and "public service" being two of its major focuses. This was well prior to Bren's $20 mil donation and prior to the hiring of Chemerinsky.

"What services will UC Irvine's School of Law provide to the community?
UC Irvine law graduates will be especially encouraged to pursue careers in public service. As part of their training at UC Irvine, students will provide legal counsel to community members who would otherwise be unable to afford."

"While issues such as intellectual property
and international law represent exciting new business-oriented specializations for a School of
Law at UCI, there is also a recognized public need for training excellent lawyers who are
devoted to public service. A new school of law in the UC-system must recognize the need for
increased legal representation for the average citizen, and must include this objective in the
development of the curriculum and the placement of students. Since many members of
underrepresented groups are dedicated to serving populations who face similar obstacles, a
strong curriculum in this area should contribute significantly to our ability to attract a diverse
group of highly qualified faculty and students."
"We propose to use the intellectual resources
of our campus and the unique strengths of our region to develop a school of law that will
combine broad and comprehensive training in the fundamental principles of the law with
emphases on legal issues related to emerging technology and the globalization of our economy
and culture. These emphases will be reflected in the scholarly specializations of the law faculty,
advanced seminars in the law curriculum, and opportunities for law students to fulfill some of
their coursework in the graduate programs of related units on campus. Coupling these
interdisciplinary initiatives to the multicultural society and high-tech industries of our
community, the School of Law at UCI will, from the beginning, contribute significantly to the
academic strength of our campus, and it will prepare its students to assume a place at the top of
their profession and at the forefront of our state and nation."

Too bad Drake didn't listen to his own law school proposal:
"The founding dean must be a distinguished legal scholar with high visibility in the profession"
"The founding dean and the founding faculty must be of the highest quality in order to achieve
the potential that exists. Every effort must be made to recruit a premier founding dean and
group of senior founding faculty."

The proposal itself explicitly requires a Dean of "high visibility." How can you have a Dean of "high visibility" but not allow him to publish / speak / be controversial? You don't get high profile in the legal community without being controversial.
9.13.2007 4:09pm
Pin Head (mail):
The chancellor has a new statement about the Law School dean appointment how that he has had a little more time to theink about it.

"Dear Colleagues:

Over the past several months, UC Irvine has been conducting a nationwide search for the founding dean of our school of law. Last week, we made an offer to Duke Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, an eminent academician, legal scholar and commentator. The offer was contingent on approval of the UC Regents, which we expected next week.

I subsequently made the very difficult decision that Professor Chemerinsky was not the right fit for the dean's position at UC Irvine. I informed him on Sept. 11 that we were rescinding our offer and continuing the recruitment process. This matter has been the subject of extensive media coverage over the last 24 hours, much of which has been characterized by conjecture and hearsay.

I made a management decision - not an ideological, political or personal one - to rescind Professor Chemerinsky's offer. The decision was mine and mine alone. It was not based on donor pressure or political pressure; it was based on a culmination of discussions - over a period of time - that convinced me we could not effectively
partner to build a world-class law school at UC Irvine. That is my overarching priority.

My decision was absolutely not based on Professor Chemerinsky's political views; they are, in fact, quite similar to my own. Nor was this a matter of "academic freedom." UC Irvine - and I personally - staunchly support and defend freedom of speech and the expression of a wide range of viewpoints on our campus; nowhere is this more
important than at a public university. In fact, there are individuals here with political views far more liberal than Professor Chemerinsky's who conduct research, teach and serve in senior administrative positions.

Independent thinking and autonomy are essential qualities that we seek in our law school dean. As academic leaders in guiding roles, however, we must also strive for a level of objectivity and balance that will inspire open discussion and empower our students to be courageous in seeking the truth. And we must ensure that our broader goals are not overshadowed by issues, personalities and polarization.
My priority is the long-term success of our law school and this truth as fundamental to my decision.

I am confident that our search process will ultimately result in the appointment of a founding dean who will work with my colleagues and me to achieve our vision for the law school. I will keep you updated as the recruitment process evolves.

Michael V. Drake, M.D.
9.13.2007 7:26pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Cliff Notes version: Erwin Chemerinsky: loose cannon?
9.14.2007 12:39am
J234 (mail):
"it does suggest that we can't dismiss any possible worries on UCI's part about their dean's being too controversial".

Well, who in the world was unaware of Chemerinksy's views on a host of issues? He's a prolific scholar and a fairly salient public commenter.

Is the UCI Chancellor really that incompetent/ignorant so as to have been oblivious to who he was appointing as a Dean - a founding Dean no less?!?!?!

I don't know what's worse. A clueless chancellor who finds out about who he appointed a week after having appointed him, or a spineless chancellor who caves in to (actual? anticipated?) political pressure.

In any case, Chancellor Drake must go. Fast.
9.14.2007 9:40am
glangston (mail):
UCI's Law School was born of controversy.

.".the proposed UC Irvine Law School is intended to challenge students to think more deeply and critically about a number of complex social issues regarding: (a) equal opportunity; (b) racial and national identity; (c) minority rights; (d) civil and individual rights; and (e) social justice"

The Regents, though not disagreeing with it's stated purpose, nevertheless felt this school was a waste of taxpayer's money. Local benefactors disagreed and pushed ahead.

One criticism of the law school was that it would further depress salaries of lawyers in the state. Others claimed UCI needed the prestige of a law school to rise further in status. Probably truth in both cases.

UCI has made controversy a part of their history. While determined to have an on site teaching hospital for their Medical School program, Gov. Jerry Brown convinced them to take on UCI Medical Center, off campus. Though they are a Division 1 School they've chosen not to field a football team because of it's inherent controversy (a small irony). Then there's the Anteater as a mascot, which corresponds with their contemporary, UC Santa Cruz and the Banana Slug.

And for those who might not know, Chancellor Drake is black, so firing him has it's own controverial aspects.
9.14.2007 2:13pm