UC Irvine has touched off a firestorm, thanks to a particularly gutless move by Chancellor Michael Drake in rescinding a job offer for its brand-new law school. Well known liberal law academic Erwin Chemerinsky had accepted UCI’s offer and contract to become the first dean — but Drake told Chemerinsky that “conservatives” had hounded him into breaking the contract:
Just days after he signed a contract to become the first dean of UC Irvine’s new law school, Erwin Chemerinsky was told this week that the deal was off because he was too “politically controversial.”
Chemerinsky said in an interview today that UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake had flown to North Carolina on Tuesday and told him at a hotel near the airport that that he did not realize the extent to which there were “conservatives out to get me.”
Chemerinsky, one of the nation’s best known constitutional scholars and a liberal professor at Duke University in Durham, N.C., said he signed a contract last week after being offered the job Aug. 16. He said he had lined up a board of advisors for the new school, including the deans of the UC Berkeley and University of Virginia law schools and three federal judges, including Andrew Guilford, a Bush appointee from Orange County. …
He said that “concerns” had emerged from the UC regents, which would have had to approve the appointment, Chemerinsky said. The professor said Drake told him that he thought there would have been a “bloody battle” among the regents over the appointment.
So Drake didn’t have the courage to defend his hiring decision to the regents? That should be a warning signal to anyone offered a position at Irvine. Drake didn’t bother to check with his masters before having Chemerinsky sign a contract — something a lawyer could have told him would be a big, big problem.
Had Drake decided not to hire Chemerinsky because of his political views, that would have been bad enough. It’s exactly what conservatives have rightly decried in academia as well as in government appointments. This, however, is even worse. UCI offered Chemerinsky a contract, which he accepted in good faith. In fact, he had even started to work for UCI in assembling an advisory council when Drake got a case of runny intestine and reneged on the contract.
A state-run school has no business firing people because of their politics. That’s true whether the person is a liberal or a conservative. Conservatives should defend Chemerinsky just as they defend Janice Rogers Brown or William Pryor. Mostly, though, UCI’s community should be offended that a man with as little testicular fortitude as Drake continues to run the school. His contract breaking in order to avoid defending his own hiring decision should be the last official act of Drake at UCI.
I’m not the only conservative defending Chemerinsky, either. (via Hugh Hewitt, who hosts Chemerinsky weekly on his show)