Duke Law School professor Erwin Chemerinsky has accepted an offer to become the new dean of the University of California, Irvine's law school six days after Chancellor Michael Drake abruptly rescinded a similar offer amid political sensitivities.
In a joint statement issued Monday morning, Drake and Chemerinsky said: "We resolved to put recent events behind us and immediately begin to focus on our shared vision of creating a law school dedicated to providing the best education for future lawyers, to producing the finest legal scholarship, and to helping to address the legal needs of Orange County and the nation. The law school, like all great educational institutions, will be a place of great diversity, where differing viewpoints are nurtured, debated and cherished."
The statement said Drake traveled to North Carolina over the weekend to meet with Chemerinsky and clear up "miscommunication and misunderstanding."
On Sept. 11, UC Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake withdrew an offer he had made to Chemerinsky a month earlier because he turned out to be "too politically controversial," according to Chemerinsky.
The UC Board of Regents was scheduled to vote on his appointment at its regular meeting this Wednesday and Thursday.
"He thought it would be a bloody fight within the Board of Regents that, if I got confirmed, would damage the law school," Chemerinsky said. "Some of the opposition was from conservatives on the Board of Regents. Some of its was from the Orange County community." Drake later told him he "had proven to be too politically controversial," Chemerinsky said.
Drake said politics had nothing to do with his last minute decision. "It wasn't his political opinions because those don't differ from hundreds of people on campus," he said. "It was working together with him in building a school."
Nearly 60 faculty from the University of California at Los Angeles sent Drake an open letter on Saturday criticizing his decision, adding that they were "deeply disturbed at the implication that outside political pressure led the Chancellor to reverse his own considered decision to choose an extraordinary and well-qualified candidate following a deliberative process." In the letter, they asked him to reverse his decision and send Chemerinsky's appointment to the Regents.
In their joint statement, Drake and Chemerinsky attempted to deflect faculty concerns in stating the new Donald Bren School of Law, which is scheduled to open in 2009, "will be founded on the bedrock principle of academic freedom," according to the joint statement.