Saturday, September 15, 2007

Politics: Let's Not Claim to be Surprised

I do not know Erwin Chemerinsky personally. In fact, based on what I have read, I may be the only person who does not know him personally. I know of his scholarship and based on what people have written he sounds like an all around good person. The handling of the situation so many have written about sounds like there is no other interpretation than Irvine blundered.

But Pleeeeze, no more claims of being outraged that politics entered into the decision. I have seen decanal hiring, faculty hiring, tenure review letters, teaching evaluations, and tenure decisions affected by the political leanings of the candidate. I have watched while one candidate has his or her resume and scholarship dissected while another candidate gets a light look all based on political philosophy. I've seen the bottom of the class become "outstanding" and top of the class become not so good.I have seen one very liberal decanal candidate go down in flames when, evidently on the basis of one or two rumors, he was determined to be "insufficiently sensitive to race." A minority faculty candidate was nailed because he was not the "right kind of African American." The persistent obsession with hiring people with elite credentials with no verification that they are better scholars or teachers than other top grads is yet another political decision that defines the profession. If this does not go on at your own school, that's nice but, come on, our profession operates under a huge anti-intellectual cloud and claims of outrage and surprise are disingenuous.


Blogger Belle Lettre said...

Hi Jeff,

I didn't mean to come off as surprised that politics infected the decision. I was writing to express my intense displeasure that it did in this case though. I was hoping that Chancellor Drake would have more backbone. I was excited about his election when I got the alumni newsletter a year ago.

This was a huge blunder on the part of UCI, and it just doesn't make sense to me in the context of Irvine politics and UCI's institutional and academic character. And seriously, did they not google Chemerinsky as at least a stab at vetting?

Then again, there are boneheads in Orange County--but why, oh why are they so influential considering that OC is not so bad as the nation now thinks it is based on comments like this:

"Making Chemerinsky the head of the law school "would be like appointing al-Qaida in charge of homeland security," Michael Antonovich, a longtime Republican member of the county Board of Supervisors, said in a voicemail left with The Associated Press"

9/15/2007 2:28 PM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

Actually, I guess my timing was bad. I was not responding to your post, specifically, as much as I was the grousing about "politics" entering into the decision found in many others. I read yours to be more of the "What boneheads" variety.

9/15/2007 2:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is another more charitible interpretation that I prefer. Chancellor Drake has an outststanding reputation for integrity, and he may be as uncomfortable with the political pressure he faces as Prof. Chemerinsky was uncomfortable with the same.

By orchestrating a response with Prof. Chemerinsky, Chancellor Drake killed three birds with one stone. He showed that he was willing to defer to the interests of those who pull his strings, he proved Prof. Chemerinsky to be a man of high integrity, and he got proved his opposition to those same interests the error of their ways.

From what I have read, there is no indication that Drake actually acted under anyone else's influence, only that he told Chemerinsky that he was.

I think the whole thing was set up, and the Drake/Chemerinsky move was brilliant.

9/20/2007 12:44 PM  
Anonymous J. R. said...

This caught my eye because of its pithiness:

"Our profession operates under a huge anti-intellectual cloud."

I think much of that cloud could possibly be lifted if law schools offered a separate PhD in law for those who wanted to enter academia. One possible way to make it work would be to have the first two years be the same for both JDs and PhDs, and then in the third year, students would choose to either receive a JD in three years, or continue study and receive a JD and PhD in five or six years.

The idea of a PhD in law has been bandied about before; the devil is in the details, of course. But a PhD in law could create an intellectual environment equivalent to those found in MSTPs (Medical science training programs) in medical schools.

9/21/2007 6:19 AM  
Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

J.R, I like the idea. Part of the problem is a lack of a serious research and writing effort in J.D. programs.

9/23/2007 9:23 AM  

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