Monday, October 8, 2007
Natsu Saito's Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Be Honest About the Real Pressures
Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question: What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine:
Natsu Taylor Saito (Professor of Law, Georgia State University College of Law; Board of Directors and Chair, Academic Freedom Committee, Society of American Law Teachers):
Advice for the new Dean Chemerinsky? I was thinking, Erwin, that you’d already gotten too much advice, before even getting the job. “Too Liberal,” you were told, loud enough for all of us to get the message. Too liberal for whom? I’m guessing for those funding the institution. For what? Probably for the school to “succeed” in this political climate. There’s a lot of advice packed into those two words, but mostly it sounds like “remember who calls the shots.”
Could this be one of those fabled teaching moments? Could you, and the rest of us, start honest discussions about who determines what legal education is about, and why? Not in the abstract, but school by school. Who’s giving the big bucks and what strings are attached? Who’s leveraging their political muscle? And just which principles will we, as faculty and administrators, stand on, regardless of pressure?
All students deserve to know about the forces shaping their education; law students also need to know that parallel political and financial pressures are shaping the law. If we can’t address the tension in our own institutions between money and power on the one hand, and academic freedom on the other, how can we expect them to uphold the rule of law in the face of the pressure they will encounter in the “real world”?
[Editor's note: Professor Saito is the wife of Ward Churchill.]
For all the posts in the series, see here.