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Decision overturned on appeal

UCI Chancellor has been vague on why he changed his mind in re-hiring Chemerinsky as the first dean of UCI’s new law school.

September 18, 2007|By Joseph Serna

UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake and Erwin Chemerinsky — the law professor he had hired, rejected and then re-hired in a week’s time — were reunited at a news conference to announce his re-hiring Monday but both refused to elaborate on why Drake dumped Chemerinsky as UCI’s first law school dean in the first place.

Whether Drake’s change of heart will appease some members of the faculty who have been angered by the decision remains to be seen.

“We still don’t know what happened or what was said with the people he met and gave him advice,” said political science professor Russell Dalton. “It’s like Richard Nixon. What did he know and when did he know it?”

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Several faculty members have issues with Drake last week characterizing his decision to rescind the offer to Chemerinsky as a “managerial” one.

At a hastily put-together academic senate meeting Thursday, some faculty recall Drake sidestepping questions when pressed for more details.

Drake has insisted no one leaned on him to drop the renowned liberal Duke University professor, but he has been vague on why exactly he changed his mind in a matter of days. And Chemerinsky said last week that Drake told him he was too “polarizing.”

Several say they still want to know exactly who he talked to, what was said, and how he accounted for it in his decision to rescind Chemerinsky’s offer only a week after it was signed.

Following a faculty meeting Monday morning, an emergency meeting of educators was scheduled for Thursday to discuss Drake’s leadership and the faculty’s commitment to academic freedom.

When asked if he can continue leading the university, Drake said, “Absolutely. If I didn’t think me being chancellor was in the best interests of the institution I wouldn’t be.”

Chemerinsky is a highly respected constitutional expert who has taken sometimes very public liberal positions on issues. On Aug. 16, the same day Drake made his offer to the professor, the Los Angeles Times ran a commentary by him critical of former Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales.

Chemerinsky in the news conference sought to appease potential conservative critics, saying he intended to “build a law school as diverse as possible in every single way.”

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