Open Letter to Chancellor Drake

  • Author:
  • Send To:
    Chancellor Michael Drake
  • Sponsored By:
  • More Info at:

September 12, 2007.

Chancellor Drake:

We find deeply disturbing the many reports now circulating regarding the hiring and firing of Erwin Chemerinsky as the founding Dean of the UC Irvine Law School because he is too politically controversial, and not least regarding your role in this unfortunate debacle. We are disturbed because of the deep violation both of the integrity of the university and of the intrusion of outrageously one-sided politics and unacceptable ideological considerations into a hiring process that should be driven by academic excellence, administrative expertise, leadership capacity, and personal integrity. By your own admission, Professor Chemerinsky exhibits all of these qualities in very considerable measure, which is why you sought to hire him in the first instance. Thus to withdraw the offer even after it has been formally accepted confirms that it is for reasons that should play no role whatsoever in the process, as even self-professed conservative deans of law schools have been quick to point out.

We are deeply concerned because this action places UC Irvine once more in the spotlight for the most negative and debilitating of reasons. One commentator has ridiculed your action as rank amateurism, and we cannot help but agree. It makes attracting to UC Irvine administrators, faculty, and students of the highest quality so much more difficult, and will all but torpedo the appointment of a Dean of the new Law School of Chemerinskys quality.

But perhaps above all we are deeply concerned that, if the reports are true, as our institutional and intellectual leader, and as our representative, you have failed to defend the integrity of the university, its recruitment process, and the sanctity of academic freedom you have given voice to supporting in the past. We have no idea what pressure you came under from those promising to support the university financially or politically, but we have heard nothing of your public undertaking to stand up for the intellectual independence of the university, its hiring processes which werent allowed as a consequence to run their course, of academic integrity and of the principle of reasonable independence. It is this that disturbs us most deeply.

We urge you in the strongest terms to reconsider your position, and to reverse your decision thus to reinstate the process for Professor Chemerinskys appointment. Anything less is an attack on the integrity, reputation, and morale of faculty, staff, and students alike at the University of California, Irvine.