Skip navigation

The Most Corrupt Man In California
Fri Sep 14, 3:00 AM ET

How do you get hired and fired from a prestigious position in the same week?

That is what happened to my friend Erwin Chemerinsky.  He signed a contract to become the first dean of the new law school at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) last week. Then, days later, he was fired because the UCI chancellor decided his liberal opinions made Erwin, one of the most respected, quoted, cited and beloved constitutional law scholars in the country, “too politically controversial” for the job.

Hogwash.

This column isn’t about Erwin. In the world of law professors, everyone who knows Erwin — liberal and conservative — respects him. The outpouring of support for him and the disgust at what was done to him have been overwhelming. It’s about the cowardly fool who is leading his university down the tubes, the one who should be fired by the Board of Regents when it meets next week.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

So wrote Professor Lord Acton, who was the Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge University, even though he had not been allowed to attend Cambridge as a student because he was Roman Catholic. In the same year, 1877, in a famous lecture on “The History of Freedom in Antiquity,” Acton defined liberty as “the assurance that every man shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty, against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.”

By Lord Acton’s standard, Dr. Michael Drake, Chancellor of the University of California at Irvine, is the most corrupt man in California. His job is, or should be, to protect the “liberty” of both students and faculty, the academic freedom that is the cornerstone of great universities.

But Dr. Drake has a twisted view of academic freedom, one that allows Muslim students to engage in open anti-Semitism, to hold rallies on campus attacking Zionist control of the media, equating Jewish support for Israel with Hitler’s Nazis, even (according to campus Republicans) displacing previously scheduled Young Republicans meetings with rallies denouncing Israel’s right to exist. But there’s no room for a liberal, Jewish law professor who is routinely the object of bidding wars between top-rated law schools vying for his services.

Last February, Hillel of Orange County formed a task force to investigate what it viewed as a troubling number of anti-Semitic speeches and incidents on the UCI campus, including complaints by Jewish students that they were being followed and harassed by their Muslim classmates. That was before UCI’s Intifada week this past spring, which included speakers supporting the terrorist group Hamas and a speech entitled “Zio-Nazis.” That was before the infamous Ward Churchill, defender of the 9/11 attacks, was invited to speak on campus.

This past June, at a meeting attended by hundreds of concerned members of the Jewish community in Irvine, Dr. Drake told one parent, whose children don’t want to attend UC Irvine because of the virulent expressions of hatred, not to worry because these incidents “are not every other day. It’s a couple times a year.” Asked why he didn’t exercise his own right to free speech to “speak directly to statements made on campus” (as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers did when he opposed calls for divestment from Israel by terming such actions “anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent”), Dr. Drake ducked. “We have 1,000 guest speakers on campus every year. Could I evaluate them and say this one is anti-Semitic? I could not. What I could say is that as a person and a campus, we abhor hate speech, period.”

On the other hand, we have no room for a liberal law professor — whose views were well known before he was hired, who is squarely in the mainstream of modern constitutional thought — because we’re afraid to take the heat that may be coming from some of Drake’s biggest donors. While Drake told Erwin it was the Regents he was worried about, that was an out-and-out lie. He later admitted he didn’t consult a one of them, and instead pointed to an op-ed Erwin wrote back in mid-August about death penalty procedure — even though he signed a contract with Chemerinsky three weeks after the op-ed was published.

No, this was Drake’s call, and it will doom his law school, if it doesn’t doom him first.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: