A New [or is it?] Affinity Group: Donors Against Academic Freedom

Most interesting in the New York Times article about how Erwin Chemerinsky was appointed, then unappointed, then reappointed as dean of the new law school at University of California at Irvine are the paragraphs reading:

[Irvine Chancellor] Dr. Drake denied yesterday that he had been urged to withdraw the
appointment by conservative donors. “There was no pressure to withdraw
the offer,” he said.

But he indicated that he had at least
listened to some critics. “Since Professor Chemerinsky is a public
figure, people have different opinions,” Dr. Drake said.

Sure: but which "people" get listened to?

Prof. Chemerinsky was presumably chosen by the Chancellor with the guidance of a faculty search committee (perhaps, in the case of this as-yet-unopened law school, one composed of faculty from the other law schools in the UC system), because that’s the way things are done in academe.  As Chemerinsky is well-known and widely published as a liberal public intellectual, it can hardly have been a surprise to chancellor or committee that their dean-designate was, well, a well-known and widely published liberal public intellectual. 

The only people who could possibly have been surprised by this fact are outsiders, while the only people whose surprise could somehow influence the school’s decision are insiders.  And the only outsiders who get treated like insiders are donors.

It’s a shame it took a nationwide outcry to make things right, but let’s be grateful that when the dust settled Irvine’s law school still had the dean of its choosing–that for once those who have the gold didn’t get to make the rules.


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