Search committee for new Berkeley Law dean narrows in on 3 candidates

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The search for a new UC Berkeley School of Law dean is nearing its final stages, with the successor to the position narrowed down to three candidates.

The search committee, chaired by Henry Brady, dean of the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, invited the three prospective candidates to speak with Berkeley Law students on campus on separate occasions in the past few months. The committee is now soliciting feedback, according to Brady.

The three candidates are Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law; Laura Gómez, interim dean of the UCLA College’s Division of Social Sciences; and Kimberly Yuracko, a professor of law at Northwestern University.

“All three candidates seem very qualified, and the students are excited to have them all in the running,” said Alfredo Diaz, co-president of the Boalt Hall Student Association, or BHSA, in an email.

On March 10, 2016, former Berkeley Law dean Sujit Choudhry resigned from his position after his then-executive assistant, Tyann Sorrell, filed a lawsuit against him, alleging that he had sexually harassed her on multiple occasions. Campus law professor Melissa Murray was named interim dean of the law school March 22, about two weeks later.

BHSA is heavily involved in keeping law students informed at each step of the search process, according to Diaz. He said in his email that many students have emphasized that the new dean should be able to raise revenue, maintain and expand programs and support students and their interests.

“Students are … looking for a Dean who will facilitate a diverse and inclusive community so that everyone feels supported and respected, regardless of their background, race, gender, ideology, sexual orientation, or any other metric of identification,” Diaz said in his email.

Berkeley Law student Pedro Viramontes said the new dean should be determined and able to raise the law school’s rankings. Berkeley Law’s ranking fell four places from last year in the 2018 U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Law School” rankings — marking the first time since 2005 that the law school’s rank has sat outside of the top 10.

All three candidates expressed excitement about being considered for the position. Yuracko said in an email that she hopes to bring a collaborative and facilitative work ethic to UC Berkeley’s already dynamic culture, while Chemerinsky said in an email that he would be “honored” to become Berkeley Law dean and be a part of the campus. Gómez said she is humbled to be a finalist in the company of Chemerinsky and Yuracko, adding that she wants to work with campus alumni and donors to combat decreasing federal financial support.

“I want to give deeper meaning to what it means to be a public law school in the 21st century (and) how this infuses every aspect of public service, legal service and education,” Gomez said. “It would be a dream come true.”

Viramontes said he believes Chemerinsky’s popularity would allow him to garner funds for the law school and improve its rankings and that Gómez would be an asset to Berkeley Law as a woman of color. Viramontes added that Gómez’s background in sociology would mesh well with the culture that Berkeley Law aims to develop.

Brady expressed hope that the search committee will have the finalization process underway by May.

Contact Ani Vahradyan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anivahrad.