Turns out that when Republican real estate mogul Donald Bren gave UC-Irvine’s new law school, home of Chemerinskygate, $20 million this summer, there were a few strings attached.
For starters, the school has to display “Donald Bren School of Law” on its buildings, and the signs are to be “NO LESS THAN TWICE THE SIZE OF THE NAME OF THE BUILDING,” according to an agreement (.pdf) between the school and Bren that Legal Pad (and the L.A. Times) received in response to public records requests.
But more intriguing than the big signs is a little clause that seems like it could solve the mystery of why Chancellor Michael Drake fired liberal legal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky just days after hiring him as the new dean. (He rehired him a few days later). We’ll let you read for yourself:
“As a courtesy, the UCI Chancellor together with the chair of the Law School dean search committee will, during the course of the current and future dean searches, periodically and confidentially consult with a [Donald Bren] Foundation representative regarding the status of the dean search including information on the background and qualifications of the leading candidates being considered by the search committee.”
Sounds like Bren would have had a chance to derail Chemerinsky’s nomination. But according to Bren’s people, the contract term wasn't met: Bren didn't ask to be kept in the loop, and he wasn't. “Neither the Foundation nor Mr. Bren was consulted prior to the hiring, and as we've stated before, Mr. Bren didn't know enough about Dr. Chemerinsky to offer an opinion, and has not offered an opinion on Dr. Chemerinsky in the past or up to this moment,” a Bren representative told the L.A. Times.
Drake wasn’t available for comment Friday. But he's said in the past that he wasn’t bowing to pressure.
And there was lots of pressure. The school also released scores of scribbled phone messages left for Drake the day the news of Cherminsky's firing broke. One note says that a Larry Hershman, former vice president for budget for the UC systems, called. The message, as jotted down by an assistant: “Just called as a friend to say ‘I love you’ – and you’ve done that for him too!” Well, if that’s not a vote of, er, confidence, we don’t know what is!
— Zusha Elinson