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Faculty accepts Drake’s answers

Chancellor had reservations before job was offered, but he rushed to keep the law school on track to open in fall 2009, committee finds.

December 05, 2007|By Joseph Serna

UCI’s faculty is satisfied with Chancellor Michael Drake’s explanation for why he fired, hired and rehired the law school’s founding dean, but now they want to turn their focus to making sure they are kept in the loop the next time the chancellor hires a dean.

The highly charged hiring of Erwin Chemerinsky in September brought to light inconsistencies in the university’s policy regarding communication between the chancellor and faculty when hiring deans. The academic senate, the elected body of educators that represents faculty, demanded a meeting with Drake to discuss the Chemerinsky flap, and they were satisfied with his explanation in a recent meeting, committee chairman Tim Bradley said.

UCI policy mandates faculty ha a voice in hiring a dean, but does not give a specific who, what, where and when, Bradley said. The committee to restructure the school’s policy will begin meeting early in the new year, he said.

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Drake’s misstep outraged faculty and quickly gained national headlines when observers questioned academic freedom at UCI. Some speculated Drake had been pressured by local and state conservatives to rescind the job offer to the openly liberal Chemerinsky, who is a nationally recognized constitutional lawyer. But Drake denied any political pressure played a part in his decision.

On Sept. 20, Drake apologized to the academic senate. While the apology halted calls for his resignation, it did not elaborate on his decision-making process, so the committee was formed.

The three-member committee of professors Judy Stepan-Norris, Diane O’Dowd and Alan Terricciano interviewed Drake Oct. 31 for nearly two hours.

“We’ve always worked well together, and we had a very pleasant series of discussions as we will continue to do. That’s normal business for us,” Drake said about working with faculty. “This is a place where shared governance is really important to us, and I will continue working toward that.”

According to the findings, Drake had reservations about Chemerinsky before the job was offered. But he rushed his decision to keep the law school on track to open in the fall 2009, according to the committee’s report.

Drake told the committee no single event or epiphany occurred between Chemerinsky’s hiring Sept. 4 and firing Sept. 11 that influenced his decision.

But “the committee was given no additional information about the ‘series of small events’ that occurred during the week, to alleviate our concern that rescinding the offer involved problematic judgment,” according to the report.

While questions about Drake’s judgment remain, the faculty is ready to move on, Bradley said.

“The committee was satisfied that [Drake’s actions] were not associated with any kind of outside pressure or academic freedom. We feel like the issue of the law school dean is behind us. It pointed out some inconsistencies in the process,” Bradley said. “Drake admitted some missteps. What we’re trying to do is put some processes in place.”


JOSEPH SERNA may be reached at (714) 966-4619 or at joseph.serna@latimes.com.

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