Tuesday, September 18, 2007

In Fairness to Pepperdine

Robert Pushaw, a highly-regarded federal courts scholar in the law school at Pepperdine University, has written to take me to task for my off-hand remarks in the course of discussing the Starr-at-Pepperdine/Chemerinsky-at-Irvine comparison; he writes:

I was disappointed by your negative and factually incorrect comments about Pepperdine.  First, you claim that Ken Starr was "a good fit" as dean because Pepperdine "has an explicit institutional identity as a conservative religious school."  Although Pepperdine indeed has a religious foundation, it does not have an "explicit" conservative identity.  Rather, Pepperdine welcomes faculty, students, and speakers from across the political and ideological spectrum. 

Second, you assert that Pepperdine is not "an academically ambitious school," whereas Irvine's Law School is "part of an academically serious institution."  Admittedly, it's hard to take life too seriously when you're located next to the beach, it's always 75 degrees and sunny, and you keep running into Britney Spears and Pam Anderson.  Nonetheless, the evidence suggests that few law schools are as academically ambitious as Pepperdine, which has recently made many impressive faculty appointments to add to our core group of scholars.  For instance, this year we hired Grant Nelson, a distinguished professor at UCLA, and Robert Anderson, a gifted entry-level scholar who was being pursued by several "Top 15" law schools.  The year before, we hired Ed Larson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and prolific scholar from the University of Georgia, and Tom Stipanowich, a nationally renowned ADR scholar and practitioner. Our most recent distinguished visiting professors have been Akhil Amar of Yale, Tom Rowe of Duke, and Larry Waggoner of Michgan.  Furthermore, Pepperdine has also had many prominent law professors give lectures and participate in symposia, with the most frequent guest being none other than Erwin Chemerinsky.  Others who have graced us with their presence over the past academic year include Janet Alexander, Barry Cushman, Amitai Etzioni, Beth Garrett, Heather Gerken, John Gotanda, Ariela Gross, Neal Katyal, Doug Laycock, Mike Paulsen, Eric Posner, Eugene Volokh, John Yoo, and Kim Yuracko.  They strike me as a pretty serious group of intellectuals.
But don't take my word for it, because I'm biased.  Instead, why don't you come to Pepperdine and present a paper?  Of course, you might have to speak slowly so that we can understand you.  However, I'd say the worst that could happen is that you'd get an all-expense paid trip to Malibu, preferably in the dead of winter.  Just give me a date, and I will make all the arrangements.  I hope you will take me up on my offer, and at least mention in your blog some of Pepperdine's academic achievements.
I'm going to decline the kind invitation, since careless remarks should not be rewarded with a trip to Malibu!  I am happy, however, to provide a forum for Professor Pushaw's apt rejoinder to my original posting.


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