Mounting private and public overtures are being made to law professor Erwin Chemerinsky with the hope he can still become the founding dean of UC Irvine's law school, expected to open by 2009. ... Reached at his home in North Carolina on Saturday, Chemerinsky said he would be glad to talk to Drake any time. I have nothing but the highest respect for Michael Drake and of course I would talk to him," Chemerinsky said. "I really like him as a person. I feel bad about what has happened." He declined to comment on rumors that some people were trying to arrange a meeting between him and Drake but acknowledged that "a lot of faculty and supporters" have contacted him, saying they hoped he would still come to UCI. "That doesn't imply, however, anything about whether I would be willing to come back," Chemerinsky said.
[D]oes being a law school dean automatically mean giving up the academic freedom enjoyed by professors?
Chemerinsky says no. "The whole point of academic freedom is that professors -- and, yes, even deans -- should be able to speak out on important issues," Chemerinsky wrote in an opinion piece Friday in The Times.
[UC-Berkeley Dean Christopher] Edley, who backs Drake's decision not to hire Chemerinsky, argues that a deanship requires a moderate public profile, especially for a dean of a publicly funded law school. "In taking on these responsibilities, one must subordinate a significant measure of autonomy in favor of the interests of the institution," Edley said. "In some respects, this is the antithesis of scholarly freedom and autonomy, and hence these jobs are not for everyone."
Paul Brest, who was dean of Stanford's law school for 12 years, said most deans subordinate their personal views because they speak on behalf of their institution. ...
David Van Zandt, dean of Northwestern University School of Law in Illinois for the past 13 years, said there are two models of deanships: those who are vocal on off-campus and national affairs, and others, like himself, who have decided to limit their public statements to issues of legal education. "Some deans use the office as a bully pulpit to do things they obviously think are morally right," he said. "When you have a dean from a major law school saying this piece of legislation is wrong or this policy is right, it certainly can have a big effect." However, he said he avoids that because he represents the entire school -- students, faculty and alumni. "Some people may say I'm a wet noodle with no views at all," he said. "I have strong views, but it is not appropriate in my role to express them."
But not all deans give up their role as advocates. Robert Pitofsky, a former dean of Georgetown University's law school, said the only limit on a dean's public and political activities should be whether they take up so much time that he cannot properly perform his job.
Two models emerge: the outspoken dean, and the dean who removes herself from the public stage to focus on internal law school matters.
Whether one model or another is the best model for Irvine is no longer the relevant question. They selected a candidate who embodies the model of a public deanship, and it is Chemerinsky's very prominence that would have immediately put U.C. Irvine's new law school on the map. 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.