Thursday, September 13, 2007

Erwin Chemerinsky & The O.C.

Yesterday came the announcement that UCI terminated the contract of Duke Law Professor Erwin Chemerinsky, who had recently been announced as the founding dean of the new UCI Law School.

First is a disclaimer. I teach at Chapman Law School, located about 12 miles from the UCI campus. Chapman may be severely impacted by the opening of UCI. I should therefore be excited, but I’m sad.

Similarly, as a conservative I should be pleased to see a liberal denied a deanship, but I’m sad.

As to the creation of the new law school at UCI, its presence will serve as a competitive impetus to further improve Chapman. The goal is to have a Boalt-Stanford, UCLA-USC, Chapman-UCI rivalry which benefits both institutions. Our strengths and their projected emphases will serve to complement each other to the benefit of the Bar, Orange County, and California. We need UCI to succeed so that we can succeed. This County of 3,000,000 people is big enough to support both law schools.

The report that Erwin was too liberal for the County hopefully is not true. Conservatives understand that political litmus tests in the Academy will disadvantage them in appointments, promotions, and tenure. McCarthyism ruled the 1950’s with great universities such as Berkeley, Michigan, Washington, and some of the Ivy’s firing liberal professors. Academic Freedom and tenure did not exist then. We worry about the left-wing equivalent of McCarthyism today.

Liberalism rules the Academy. Most law schools have no more than one or two registered Republicans on their faculties. Very few law schools publicly project a conservative image. Even liberals may be insufficiently liberal on some campuses, as Harvard’s President Lawrence Summers discovered.

Quality should govern – not politics. Deans and faculty should be judged by their teachings, scholarship, and service – no more, no less.

I also worry about the image of Orange County if the reports are true, or even widely believed. Once upon a time, not so long ago, Orange County was widely known to be the conservative heartland of California. Senator Berry Goldwater’s 1964 Presidential Campaign received its impetus in Orange County. Both Nixon and Reagan based their California elections on the conservative Orange County vote. The County even acquired the nickname of “The Orange Curtain.”

Just as Hollywood funnels millions in campaign contributions to Democrats, Orange County entrepreneurs return the favor with Republican candidates. Many of these self-made millionaires are on the Chapman University Board of Trustees and have no relationship with UCI, other than being proud of its presence in the County. These entrepreneurs are the product of, and believers in, the free market and competition. Chapman itself does not have a litmus test for Trustees. For example, Wylie Aitken, one of the nation’s great trial attorneys and former chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, is an honored member of the Board.

The demographics of the County have changed dramatically in the past 15 years. While still Republican, it is hardly politically monolithic as it once was. We elect Democrats to Congress, the legislature, and county government.

The younger generation knows little of the County’s political image as recent years have brought us “The O.C.,” Laguna Beach, Arrested Development, and the Real Housewives of Orange County. Even if these TV shows do not depict the lifestyles of most of us in the County, they served as a pleasant diversion and as an advertisement for the tourist industry.

And now we risk reacquiring the old image.

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