UC Berkeley Web Feature
Students greet Boalt Hall's new dean with standing ovation and great expectations
BERKELEY – Law students welcomed Christopher Edley, Jr., the incoming dean of UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law, with a standing ovation, T-shirts, and flurry of questions at an informal town hall meeting today (Feb. 10).
"Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and I'm proud to say we've found an extraordinary dean," said Boalt's interim dean, Robert Berring, in an introduction nearly drowned out by applauding students.
Edley has taught law at Harvard Law School since 1981 and is a leader in the application of civil-rights law to public policy. A founding co-director of the Civil Rights Project (CRP) at Harvard, he advised former President Bill Clinton on affirmative-action programs and other civil-rights policies. CRP's research and policy papers have played important roles in Supreme Court hearings and federal policy decisions.
"We're all incredibly excited to have someone in academia who also works so directly on policy at the national level," said Marc Tizoc Gonzalez, a second-year Boalt Hall student in the audience. "Edley's reputation and background is just amazing. He makes me think that this law school could actually fulfill its mandate as a public institution, to bring together science and research with practical policy to advance public interest. Maybe that's a lot to put on one person, but that's what we hope."
'This is more than a matter of fixing potholes. It's doing some things that I think are critical to assure the continued excellence at Boalt.'
-Christopher Edley, Jr.
Though he won't officially start as dean until July 1, Edley has already hit the ground running. Taking the podium in a suit paired with white jogging shoes, he turned the standing ovation into a joke. "Yes, I've got an expectations problem," he said, before proceeding to lay out his vision for change at Boalt.
The backbone of that vision is a very ambitious fund-raising campaign to make up for dwindling state support. Edley said that his only moment of "buyer's remorse" since taking the job in December was learning of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to cut funding for higher-education while steeply raising fees for graduate students. "This to me poses a grave threat to the character of this university and this school," he said somberly. "The harsher reality is, this situation is not going away. Even if we get past the next two years of state-budget chaos, the long-term pattern in California is for decreasing public commitment to education, including higher education. I do not see golden days on the horizon."
He noted that Boalt Hall's last fund-raising campaign had a goal of around $14 million, compared with a mammoth $400 million campaign currently under way at Harvard Law School. "I don't know what it's for - Harvard wants for nothing. Maybe it will go for a building to store all the cash," he chuckled.
Edley has already begun seeking advice from Boalt Hall's most loyal alumni about fund-raising strategy. "This is more than a matter of fixing potholes. It's doing some things that I think are critical to assure the continued excellence at Boalt," he said.
As Edley sees it, that excellence has three components: