Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Erwin Chemerinsky as Billy Beane?

Bill Henderson has a fascinating post on the Moneyball implications of the Chemerinsky-UC-Irvine saga.  Bill asks whether Chemerinsky could be the Billy Beane of Law Schools and revolutionalize the law school world:

I suspect a large number of deans would love to play his hand: (1) the UC brand and faculty benefits, (2) a public tuition subsidy for students, (3) a spectacular geographic location adjacent to a vibrant legal market, (4) the ability to select an entire faculty based on a unique institutional vision, and (5) seed money from private donors.

If law schools -- during the course of three years -- can add substantial and persistent value beyond raw aptitude, the innovators (and I hope Chemerinsky is one of them) could get a huge competitive advantage, at least until the elite schools are pressured by market forces to learn and apply those same innovations. And this would be far from a "marginal impact".

Update:  David Bernstein has an op-ed in today's L.A. Times:  What About Larry?   Compare Chemerinsky's Tale with Academia's Bashing of Ex-Harvard Chief Summers:

The saga of controversial liberal law professor Erwin Chemerinsky's on-again, off-again deanship at the new UC Irvine law school was highly unusual in two ways. First, the pressure to enforce political orthodoxy at Chemerinsky's expense came from the right, not the left, and second, academic freedom and 1st Amendment values won a resounding victory when Chemerinsky was ultimately rehired. A more typical example of how academic freedom remains in jeopardy across the country is the UC Board of Regents' treatment of Larry Summers, the former president of Harvard. University....

The Chemerinsky episode, disturbing though it was, should not distract us from the primary challenge facing academic freedom in American universities: the rise of an academic far-left establishment that seeks to use universities as a base for political activism, and is perfectly willing to violate accepted standards of academic freedom to achieve that goal. Anyone concerned with the future of American higher education has the duty to defend the values of scholarship and open debate against authoritarian political correctness. Unfortunately, by disinviting Summers, the UC regents failed miserably.

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