If This Isn't Sabotage, Then What Is?

I noted two days ago that one possible explanation for the actions of at least some of those who apparently pressured* Michael Drake to rescind the offer to Erwin Chemerinsky was a desire to derail the new law school. As the LA Times article quoted below notes (Hat tip to Brian Leiter), a delay in the opening of the law school is now a very real possibility. I can't get inside the heads of those who made the decision, but if they wanted to do maximum damage to their law school, they couldn't have done a much better job. From the LA Times article:

Officials said the turnaround on Chemerinsky could delay the opening of the law school — scheduled for 2009 — and so tarnish the institution that it would be difficult to assemble the scholars and staff needed to establish the school as one of the nation's best — UCI's long-cherished goal....

[O]fficials leading the launch of the law school said the decision makes it likely the school will not be ready to accept its first class as scheduled in 2009.

In order to meet the target, plans called for a dean to be in place this fall and for six to eight senior faculty members to then be hired this academic year. The search for Chemerinsky took nine months before a formal agreement was reached, and search committee members said they would now probably start again from scratch.

"We had three other finalists, and one of them would have definitely done it a week ago," said psychology professor Elizabeth F. Loftus, a member of the committee. "If you asked them today, I don't know. I don't think the law school will be derailed, but who knows what's going to happen next?"

*On the subject of external pressure, the same article in the LA Times says:

Loftus said Thursday that the chancellor told the committee during an emergency meeting Wednesday night that he was forced to make the decision by outside forces whom he did not name. A second member of the committee confirmed Loftus' account to The Times but asked to remain anonymous.

"I asked whether it was one or two voices or an avalanche, and the answer is that it was an avalanche."

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. If This Isn't Sabotage, Then What Is?
  2. Incompetence, Cowardice, or Willful Self-Destruction?
slee (mail):
We don't know much about Professor Chemerinsky's skills as an administrator because his CV does not indicate any experience as an administrator, to the best of my knowledge.

Last night, on Which Way LA, 89.9 in Los Angeles, Chemerinsky indicated he still would have made the statements in his Op Ed piece were he the dean at UCI. To me, this is an indication of Chemerinsky's naivete as a future administrator and indicates that lack of administrative skill was, contrary to the statement above, a factor considered in the Irvine reversal.

As a lead administrator of an academic institution, one owes a duty to the institution to do what is best for the institution. Part of that duty includes engaging all factions and constituents of the institution, regardless of their politics. It does not mean that you forsake expressing your own political views period, but that you, as Dean Eastman of Chapman Law School stated on Which Way LA, walk a fine line between expressing your own personal views and expressing the official views of the institution.

If Chemerinsky conveyed to UCI law school that as dean, he would still have made the statements in his Op Ed piece, it would risk too much controversy for a school still trying to attract donors of all political persuasions. Would his statements be construed as the views of the institution or would he need to tack on a disclaimer stating it was not the official view of the institution?

Making such statements as the Op Ed piece after becoming dean would put at risk the process of establishing law school identity and core values. It would indicate, to me, a lack of political skill and administrative know-how that is required to develop strong relationships with all constituents of an institution.

The selection of a more politically astute candidate and one with more experience as an administrator, then, might be more suitable for a new law school in the making. The founding dean of any academic institution would have to be one, INHO (in my humble opinion), that had years if not decades of experience as an administrator.

This does not excuse the ridiculous manner in which UCI handled the situation or diminish my respect for Erwin Chemerinsky as a legal scholar. UCI should have developed a more solid set of criteria in selecting a candidate and not renegged on an offer after having the candidate sign on the dotted line.
9.14.2007 6:51pm
LM (mail):
If This Isn't Sabotage, Then What Is?
Potentially, lots of things, but that's not the point. The question is, "If this isn't sabotage, what else could it logically be?" Again, the answer is, "lots of things."

The sabotage you described turns on the purpose of scuttling the law school project entirely. You inferred this purpose partly from the risk to the school's survival many are suggesting resulted from the mishandling of the Deanship appointment, and partly from the ideological consistency of such purpose with what we assume to be the alleged saboteurs' conservative political philosophy. That's a pretty attenuated inference on the evidence.

Just one alternative that's equally plausible and consistent with the political objectives of the alleged saboteurs is that they would be amenable to a school with a Dean to their liking and willing to kill it off otherwise. In fact, Occam's Razor would make this the more plausible choice.
9.14.2007 8:08pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
Predictions that this incident has permanently damaged the school are reminiscent of the predictions that Bush v. Gore had permanently tarnished the Supreme Court in the eyes of the American people. Seven months later, the Angry Left was still angry, but among the population as a whole the Supreme Court was regarded a tad better than before the election. (Gallup, 2001 Jun 11-17.)
9.14.2007 8:54pm
So now we have confirmation that Drake claimed the firing was political and based on outside pressure. Yet, he is also now claiming that it was not political.

Also, he told Chemerinsky that there would be opposition from the Regents, but he now says that is false and several Regents confirm their would be no problem with the confirmation and they were not consulted.

Now that it is clear that Drake has been lying, why has the greater call not been made for him to step down from the powers that be in the UCOP and Academic Senate?

Whether or not you agree with the Chemerinsky appointment, it's hard to agree with the decision to recind a contract. However, it is impossible to accept lying about it, not when so many eyes are looking so closely at Drake and the school.
9.14.2007 9:00pm
LM (mail):
But he's a doctor. He was probably just confused by his own handwriting.
9.14.2007 9:08pm
Daryl Herbert (www):
Kent, your comparison to Bush v. Gore is more apt than you know. Of course the general public doesn't give a damn.

But law profs have not forgotten. And this time, it's their views that matter.
9.14.2007 9:55pm
wb (mail):
Under this administration officers of UC have built a solid reputation of deceit. Why should Drake be any different. The politics of a Regents' vote are well known beforehand through the process of "socializing the decision." Drake likely was either sandbagged or his boss came down on him. In either case you'd expect the kind of commentary that he has given out. UCOP won't fire him; he's only following the moral lead from the top.
9.14.2007 11:50pm
V. Shiff (mail):
Just maybe, Chemerinsky wasn'r doctrinaire enough to exclude those evil conservatives as at the other UC schools.
9.15.2007 12:17am
Drake is black. Are you going to take the word of a Jew over the word of a black man?

If you do you are clearly a racist, and you can no longer be permitted in polite society.
9.15.2007 1:58am
Gaius Marius:
Typical neo-communist liberal dribble from Bombast.
9.15.2007 9:39am
Anderson (mail):
Via Scott Horton and the AP, we see that Drake himself is happy to be "politically controversial," so long as it's right-wing politics; and that
Making Chemerinsky the head of the law school "would be like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security," Michael Antonovich, a longtime Republican member of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a voicemail left with The Associated Press.
9.15.2007 1:13pm
plunge (mail):

"I asked whether it was one or two voices or an avalanche, and the answer is that it was an avalanche."

Methinks that this means there are a lot of conservative scholars who are saying something different about this controversy in public than they actually acted in private.
9.15.2007 2:18pm
Gideon Kanner (mail):
If Chemerinsky were a practicing lawyer (rather than a law professor/ideologue licensed to pratice law) he would understand that a lawyer's duty to his client/employer trumps his personal views on issues of the day, whatever those may be, when the two come into conflict. A law school dean is in an analogous position. He serves the interests of a large and diverse constituency and just because he can't please them all, does not license him to place himself at the forefront of taking public positions on non-law-school-governance issues that are certain to piss off some of his constituents. You can't (or at least shouldn't) have it both ways. He has every right to speak out, but he has no right to be a law school dean.

Also, the Ron George - Chemerinsky exchange reported by the LA Times today, putting in question the accuracy of Chemerinski's depiction of California Supreme Court practices, is something that may be just dandy for a professor, but something a dean should stay away from like poison. There may be great issues touching legal education or law school governance that may require a dean to take a position that is contrary to that taken by his state's supreme court justices, but getting into a gratuitous pissing contest with the state Chief Justice on an inssue central to the operation of the Supreme Court but in no way implicating legal education is not something a dean should be doing. That was just a case of poor judgment.

Personally, I am pretty outspoken and occasionally controversial in my field of law, and I mean to stay that way, so I dig what he is doing. But I would no more consider becoming a law school dean than I would consider jumping out of a high-rise office window. You just have to make choices in life, or, to put it another way, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Finally, someone has to say this, so here goes. If Chemerinsky were a conservative rather than a liberal ideologue, there would be no kerfuffle -- the LA Times would praise the University for taking a courageoys stand in the cause of guarding the minds of students from corruption by right-wing ideologues. Anybody disagree with that?
9.15.2007 6:42pm
Kent Scheidegger (mail) (www):
The LA Times story Gideon refers to is here.

There really isn't any "question" about the accuracy of the facts asserted in Chemerinsky's article. His claim that California does not provide state habeas counsel in capital cases is a flat-out falsehood. If he continues to "stand by" it even after being on notice it has been challenged, by the Chief Justice of the state, no less, that is worse than the original article.
9.15.2007 9:15pm
michael i:
Just shutter the whole gotta-have-another UC law school project. California is already plagued by too many lawyers, especially those of the guilty liberal school of thought. Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown is only one example.

If UC Irvine seeks to serve California's needs for professional education, open a nursing school instead. After all, the Philippines is eventually going to run out of nurses California can import.
9.16.2007 12:50am

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