UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake has issued a new statement on his decision to rescind Professor Erwin Chemerinsky's offer to become the dean of the new UCI Law School. This statement is a lot more substantive than the Chancellor's previous effort. It denies rumors that the Chancellor's decision was influenced by pressure from conservative donors, and emphasizes that the "the decision was absolutely not based on Professor Chemerinsky's political views."
I'm willing to give Drake the benefit of the doubt on the donor issue. We don't really any proof that the decision was based on donor pressure. However, the assertion that it wasn't based on "Chemerinsky's political views" seems to directly contradict Chemerinsky's own account, which claims that Drake told him that "he hadn't expected I [Chemerinsky] would be such a target for conservatives. A lightning rod."
Drake's statement would be easier to credit if he had provided some other, nonideological justification for rescinding the offer. However, neither this statement nor the previous one does so (except to say that it was a "management decision"). Others have speculated that the offer was rescinded because Chemerinsky recently published a controversial anti-death penalty op ed. If so, isn't that little different from rescinding the contract because of Chemerinsky's liberal views? If the op ed were objectionable to UCI, it is because the liberal views expressed there might offend conservatives.
Like Eugene Volokh, I believe that ideology can sometimes play a legitimate role in assessing candidates for deanships. A school can legitimately refuse to hire a dean whose ideology prevents him from enforcing administrative policies he disagrees with or does serious damage to the school's image. However, there is no reason to believe that Chemerinsky's fairly typical liberalism falls into that category. Indeed, Chancellor Drake says in his statement that Chemerinsky's views are similar to his own.
My bottom line: if Chancellor Drake wants to refute claims that Chemerinsky's offer was rescinded for ideological reasons, he could help his case greatly by explaining what the real reason for the decision was.
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- When Is it Permissible for Universities to Refuse to Hire Professors Based on their Political Views?
- Matt Welch (L.A. Times) Roundup on Chemerinsky News and Commentary
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- The Chemerinsky Matter and the California Constitution:
- UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake's New Statement on the decision to Rescind Chemerinsky's Offer:
- Careful with Those Comparisons:...
- Kmiec on Chemerinsky:
- UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake's Statement on the Decision to Rescind the Offer to Erwin Chemerinsky:
- UC Irvine Law School Foolishly Rescinds Offer of Dean Position to Erwin Chemerinsky Because of Fear of Offending Conservatives: