Monday, September 17, 2007

UC Irvine Debacle - Can We Follow the Money?

I just saw Scott Moss's analysis of the UC Irvine dean hiring-firing debacle, and something jumped out at me, but I wasn't able to nail it down in a quick surf through Google.  This is not by way of justification, but my speculating on how a PR mess of this magnitude (and the missed judgment calls) comes to pass.

ABA Standard 201(a)
, which Scott doesn't cite, is about the money.  I am too recently removing from the domain of lucre not to think about it first off.  "The present and anticipated financial resources of a law school shall be adequate to sustain a sound program of legal education and accomplish its mission."  I suspect the current contretemps at Ave Maria Law School in Ann Arbor is about the money - its major benefactor is Tom Monaghan, and what he wants has some impact on the school.

Here's what I'm wondering.  I wasn't able to find UC Irvine's accreditation application on the internet, and I don't know if it is a public document.  No doubt the promoter of any school has to show pro forma financial statements, and part of that would have to be private sources of funding.  And I have no doubt that UC Irvine, despite its public status, will need an endowment.  (Again, a quick Google search shows that one of Dean Edley's first priorities back in 2004 was beefing up Boalt's then $80 million endowment to a level comparable with other top public and private law schools.)  As much or more than being a scholar or caring for the faculty, a dean, and particularly a dean of a startup school, needs to raise money.  Was there a concern that a high profile liberal couldn't raise money (given that there are no alumni to tap) in conservative Orange County?  Did someone who had already made a commitment threaten to pull money off the table?  This is all speculation on my part, but that's what I'd suspect.

[Jeff Lipshaw]

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My own pure speculation is that Chancellor Drake feared that even if Chemerinsky could be effective at leading the law school (including as to donations, which would have been quite possible given that Chemerinsky's national reach might have been able to make up for any Orange County shortfall), the rest of UCI -- the university, not the law school -- might lose some donors. If I'm right, then Drake essentially protected his existing university by throwing overboard the new law school that a lot of folks I'm sure, worked very hard to plan and establish. Pretty cowardly stuff; standing up to political and donor pressure is a tough call, but it's got to be just part of the job for anyone leading a major university.

Posted by: Scott Moss | Sep 17, 2007 9:18:13 AM

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