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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Advice for Dean Chemerinsky

Over at Tax Prof Blog, Paul Caron has been gathering words of wisdom for U.C. Irvine's new law-school dean, Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky.  What do people think?  Tenure, teaching, and the first-year curriculum seem to be recurring topics, and also comparative advantage / institutional diversity / (genuine) ideological diversity. 

I thought that (former dean) Dan Rodriguez's suggestion was particularly interesting, and challenging:

[T]he law school should draw together, in a way that deans seldom do effectively, the faculty in the common enterprise of raising resources for initiatives, programs, and infrastructure that will enable UCI to prosper without fleecing their new law students and their families. Faculty members should be encouraged by their visionary new dean to think of themselves as stakeholders, as investors in the preliminary and long-term financial well-being of this law school. Developing programs of value to the region, creating outreach opportunities to help the community better understand law and its imbedded role in modern society, promoting faculty work in the media, nurturing networks of mutual advantage with law firms, corporations, and other universities in the U.S. and abroad . . . all these ideas and others can only be incubated and implemented with the resolve, commitment, and energy of faculty members. The dean is the chief fundraiser to be sure, but the faculty role is critical. Erwin has role modeled this behavior in his own career; teaching the imperative of like behavior in the service of UCI’s financial progress will be time well spent for the new dean.

A good idea?  How would work spent fundraising (or success at fundraising) figure into tenure-and-promotion decisions?   I like the idea of thinking of faculty as being among a law school's (indeed, any academic enterprise's) chief stakeholders, but I wonder what this would mean, day to day, and also what "being a stakeholder" would demand of us.  Would we be willing to do what it would take -- whatever that might be -- to deserve our "stake"?  Thoughts?

Posted by Rick Garnett on October 10, 2007 at 03:06 PM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink

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Rick's kind mention prompts me (several days later, alas) to take a stab at answering his excellent question.
Let me arrange the answers to the practical question "what would be demanded of us" from least radical to most radical:

Least radically, this would mean that faculty members would participate, without abject begging by the dean, actively in alumni relations activities. To be sure, hungry young law profs might be reticent to do meet-and-greets with alums, all of the vast majority of whom, were not their students. But alums of all stripes are enormously grateful for faculty interaction. And the practical payoff for the school in the long run is more than meets the eye.

Somewhat more demanding and complicated would be involvement in real fundraising -- from crafting or reviewing proposals, to meetings with prospective donors, and, albeit rarely, to participating in "asks." Almost always, the dean is peddling ideas on behalf of the law school's other constituencies, including the faculty. Faculty members are enormously valuable components in the machinery of law school fundraising. Largely as a spectator, I watched my colleagues at Boalt ten years ago in making the emerging law & technology program successful mostly through their direct, sustained efforts at securing funds; targeted initiatives in, inter alia, health care, biotech, and entrepreneurship, to mention three high profile, big money policy areas, necessarily draw upon direct faculty expertise & involvement. The dean, however hard-working and shrewd, cannot and should not shoulder all this burden.

Lastly, and more radically, faculty members should be attuned, in configuring their academic agenda, particularly with respect to scholarship (and also what I will call, imprecisely, "outreach"), the application of their work to real-world social, economic, and political problems. This is not meant to revisit the tired "theory" versus "practice" debate; rather, the point is this: Faculty members have before them a large canvas onto which they create their academic portrait through their choice among professional activities. Law journal articles are part of the portrait, but, so, too, are white papers, legislative reform activities, and professional service of various dimensions. This is rightly viewed as supplementary to ordinary scholarship, but the supplements have potentially great payoffs, particularly where savvy deans and other law school administrators are attentive to connecting the work of their productive faculty with diverse audiences.

How law schools are to evaluate such work -- which I take to be the hardest of Rick's sensible questions -- is the challenge. But the promotion and support of this type of work by a law school tasked to raise resources and profile strikes me as an important objective. And the dean's role as the faculty's symphony conductor or sorts is critical indeed to realizing this objective.

Posted by: Dan Rodriguez | Oct 15, 2007 8:05:28 PM

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