Sunday, September 16, 2007

Erwin's Enemies

Los Angeles Times blogger Matt Welch provides an excellent round-up of factual information about the hiring and firing (and potential re-hiring) of Erwin Chemerinsky as Dean of the University of California at Irvine's law school. [Welch links my earlier post on this subject - I wonder how he ran across that, given that my traffic here is so small.]

It seems that about two dozen Republicans organized by Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich got hold of UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake's private cellphone number and expressed their displeasure with Chemerinsky's appointment just before Drake told Chemerinsky he would not be dean after all. Apparently, none of those involved are members of the U.C. Board of Regents, the state legislature which funds the university, or Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's office.

Did their pressure change Drake's mind? He says no. Did that pressure cause Drake to reconsider the advisability of the appointment of a high-profile activist dean once he realized that every time the dean wrote or said something he would be inundated with calls? Possibly. The Los Angeles Times has an excellent article on something I wondered about in my original post.

As Welch says,

What does it all mean? What the hell was Antonovich thinking? And did the Republican anti-Chemerinsky lobby actually have any power over Drake's decision? Who knows!

Better yet, I'll give the last word on this subject (for now) to Mary L. Dudziak, Judge Edward J. and Ruey L. Guirado Professor of Law, History and Political Science, University of Southern California, and Member, School of Social Science, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton:

Chancellor Drake seems to have suffered buyer's remorse. He selected one kind of dean, but now wants another. Having selected a high-profile dean, whose national visibility comes from his public advocacy, the Chancellor has now expressed a desire that Irvine's first dean retreat from a national public stage. The Chancellor certainly could have selected a less visible dean for U.C. Irvine. But he didn't do that. If Irvine moves forward and tries to put the Chemerinsky Deanship back on track, a condition cannot be putting Chemerinsky in a muzzle.

It was a brilliant move to recruit Chemerinsky in the first place. His very prominence would give UC Irvine's new law school wide exposure, in California and nation-wide, from its founding. The Chancellor can expect that the Dean will make the law school's interests his first priority, something Chemerinsky has pledged to do. Deans can use their public role to enhance their law schools, especially a new school trying to create a national reputation from scratch. What the Chancellor cannot expect is to take one model of deanship, embodied by the Dean he hired, and after the contract is signed, morph it into another.

1 comment:

Internet Ronin said...

All's well that ends well, or so it would appear. I thought I'd note for the record that UCI Chancellor Drake and Professor Chemerinsky have come to a new agreement and Chemerinsky will become dean after all.