Careful with Those Comparisons:

People have asked why Erwin Chemerinsky's political activism might have been seen as troublesome by UCI when Ken Starr's activism -- including continuing public commentary -- isn't seen as troublesome by Pepperdine, and Chrisopher Edley's past activism hasn't been seen as troublesome by Berkeley.

My sense is that different schools make these decisions with an eye towards their different donor bases. The makeup of these bases turns on many factors, including (1) the general ideology of the school's alumni and traditional supporters, (2) the political makeup of the school's geographical location, (3) whether the school is an old school with lots of alumni or a new school with few, and (4) whether the school is private or public (since in the latter case the public, through the legislature, is a big "donor").

Pepperdine, for instance, has a reputation as a conservative school with mostly conservative (especially religious conservative) alumni and traditional supporters. A social conservative dean, even a highly controversial one, may appeal to them, and his continuing political participation may please and energize more people than it alienates. Boalt (the Berkeley law school) has a large alumni base that is likely on balance quite liberal. My sense is that it is also seen as an important civic institution in Northern California, and thus draws support from the public at large -- a public that, I'm told, is strikingly liberal. A liberal figure, even a moderately controversial one, may appeal to them, too.

UCI law school has no alumni, and my guess is that it therefore has to largely rely on the legislature and on local Orange County donors. Orange County is much less conservative than it used to be, but it's no Berkeley. It thus makes sense that having a controversial liberal dean might pose some more problems for UCI than for Boalt. I may be wrong -- I'm not an administrator or a fundraiser -- but this at least seems like a plausible position for the UCI people to take.

None of this excuses the poor way this situation was handled by UC, and none of it by itself resolves the First Amendment questions or the academic freedom questions (though I've argued that those matters don't come into play here). But it does suggest that we can't dismiss any possible worries on UCI's part about their dean's being too controversial just by pointing to controversial deans at other schools.