Since I work as a part-time teacher at UC Irvine, I am taking an interest in the affair over the hiring and de-hiring of law professor, Erwin Chemerinsky. In terms of background, Chemerinsky, a noted liberal law professor, currently at Duke, was recently offered the job as Dean of the UC Irvine Law School, which is in the process of being established. The position was offered by UCI Chancellor Michael Drake. Then, just a few days ago, Drake rescinded the hire, reportedly telling Chemerinsky that certain conservative figures were raising strenuous opposition. (I wish to note that I am in no way speaking for UCI in this posting. I am not a full-time hire, and I teach on a quarterly contract in the University Extension (ESL). I speak only for myself.)
Today, with anger mounting over the affair, Drake under attack, and possible implications for freedom of speech within the UC system, both Chemerinsky and Drake wrote pieces in the LA Times stating their respective positions. According to Chemerinsky, Drake told him that he was being forced to retract the hire due to extreme negative reaction from (unnamed) conservatives (I am paraphrasing.) Drake, in his article, (again paraphrasing) maintained that he made a management decision, which was free of any political influence. Beyond that, Drake did not settle the questions lingering over the incident.
So the question that is hanging out there is this: Who are these "unnamed conservatives" who allegedly put pressure on Drake to drop the hiring of Chemerinsky? I am certainly no insider at UCI, but to me, it would seem surprising that conservatives had so much influence at a UC campus. Outside of me, I don't know many people at UCI that could be truly called conservatives, at least not of my ilk, and I know it wasn't me that put the arm on Drake. I don't even know the gentleman. Besides, what's one more liberal in the UC system? There are other professors far more radical than Chemerinsky, so many, in fact, that there is standing room only. If Chemerinski is correct, then I think it would be fitting if Chancellor Drake publicaly identified the "conservatives" in question who forced him to withdraw the job.
That leads to the next question: Was it right that Chemerinsky's hiring be rescinded because he is a liberal? I know a lot of conservatives like myself who have no sympathy for the man and take the attitude that for once, a liberal got screwed. I have a little bit different take. First of all, I have seen and heard Chemerinsky speak on TV and radio many times. He is certainly liberal, and I disagree with most of what I have heard him say. As David Horowitz described him, he is sort of an Alan Colmes-type liberal. He is certainly no Ward Churchhill. Would he have been my choice for Law School Dean? Obviously not. But that is not the point. In my view, we as conservatives should not engage in the tactics of the far-left; that is to railroad and bring down those with whom we disagree. That means not trying to scuttle someone's job. Doing so should be reserved for extreme cases of people who are not qualified, have misrepresented their qualifications or would bring disrepute to the university. In my view, Ward Churchhill fits into that category, but Erwin Chemerinsky does not.
I hope for the sake of UCI that this issue sees the full light of day. For the most part, UCI is a fine academic school with students that are overwhelmingly serious and a pleasure to be around. In recent years, the school has aroused a lot of negative publicity due to the agitation of the Muslim Student Union and their hate-filled invited speakers. Now it seems that UCI must undergo some further embarrassment. But that's ok. I am the one always saying that light should be shone on our nation's universities when they fail to live up to their own standards.