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Answers sought in UC Irvine mess

September 27, 2007

Re "Chancellor admits error in firing," Sept. 21

The choice of the UC Irvine law school dean was the culmination of months of intense work by a search committee, which forwarded final candidates to the chancellor. After presumed careful review, Chancellor Michael V. Drake offered the position to Duke law professor Erwin Chemerinsky, who accepted. Within days, Drake rescinded his offer, stating that "Professor Chemerinsky was not the right fit for the dean's position" and that he was reopening the search.

Chemerinsky complained about political interference; Drake denied that claim. After an outcry from the UC Irvine faculty, other universities and the media, Drake resurrected the offer to Chemerinsky, and they again reached an agreement.

What happened? Was this a brave gesture by a chancellor admitting a mistake, or was this a pattern of domineering and self-serving actions? Why did Drake not appropriately consult before rescinding the offer? Was he twisting in the winds of political pressures? Are there other unknown facts?

Apparently in a spirit of forgive and forget to protect the UC Irvine campus, the Academic Senate failed to reach any consensus on sanctions or a statement about Drake and has tabled the issue for further committee work. The university and the public deserve clear answers to these questions in a forthright and unbridled statement from the Academic Senate.

Peter H. Breen MD

Orange

The writer is an associate professor of anesthesiology at the UCI Medical Center.

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Drake's chief error was that he moved to silence an important public voice. This is the most worrisome part of Drake's bungling: that he sought to chain up Chemerinsky at UCI and deny the American public the benefit of Chemerinsky's opinions in his area of considerable expertise, constitutional law.

Our national conversation needs the benefit of such expert opinions at this time of great threats to constitutional government, threats attempted by a self-aggrandizing federal executive branch.

Drake has a responsibility not only for the university but for the public good.

Cherie Rouse

Loma Linda

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