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The UC Irvine Fiasco

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Belle Lettre writes:

Prominent constitutional scholar Erwin Chemerinsky (Duke) was hired to be the inaugural dean of the new law school at UC Irvine. . . . UCI began a nationwide search for an inaugural dean, and Chemerinsky was one of the finalists—and up till this week, the chosen candidate. However, within a week of hiring him, Chancellor Michael Drake of UCI flew to North Carolina to personally inform Prof. Chemerinsky that UCI would have to rescind the offer.

. . .

But in the wake of this scandalous, cowardly failure to hire Professor Chemerinsky, ostensibly due to his political beliefs, I am embarrassed for my school. I am unhappy that my school is so shortsighted that it has compromised its own commitment to excellence and academic freedom. I am unhappy that it has allowed politics to infect the selection process for the steward of a new law school that was to be devoted to public service and public education. As an alumna of UC Irvine, I am signing the petition to the Chancellor.

Personally, I have no connection to UC Irvine, although I am at a UC-affiliated law school myself. The whole episode just appears ridiculous, honestly, and whatever reason—politics, ideology, money—it seems silly for a new law school to turn down a scholar of Chemerinsky’s reputation and abilities (his book on the Constitution is currently saving my rear in Con Law).

In the past 10-20 years, conservative academics have attempted (in a post-60s backlash, perhaps) to pretend that the liberal establishment runs the university systems. I think this episode might just point out how limited that view is. (I hope so.)