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Dean seeks to privatize Boalt Hall

October 3, 2004

UC Berkeley's new law school dean launched a multimillion-dollar fund-raising drive Saturday, calling for greatly enhanced private funding for one of the nation's top-rated public law schools.

Christopher Edley, Boalt Hall School of Law's dean since July, said state leaders have "orphaned" the school.

Edley said he might even consider offering favorable admissions treatment to children of graduates as part of his effort help generate financial support from alumni.

Speaking to about 150 alumni gathered for a reunion, Edley said Boalt needs to spend $300 million to achieve world-class status -- even as it must cope with shortfalls in state financial support.

That target is one Edley set even before he left Harvard last year:

"A great public law school should be immediately and powerfully engaged in tackling the toughest problems facing the public sector and private sector in California, the nation and the world," he told the Times last December. "Boalt is poised to play that role in a way that will stand out from the rest of the top law schools in the country."

In order to secure a place among the country's top five law schools, however, Boalt must "privatize," he said. It must push for alumni donations and higher tuition to augment state funding.

Boalt's $80 million endowment is dwarfed by those of other top-rank law schools, Edley said, as are those of most schools and programs at UC Berkeley.

The law school's new strategy could illuminate a path for other schools at Berkeley, Edley said.

"We're going to demonstrate to the rest of the campus how to do a capital campaign the right way."

Money would be used to hire more faculty, fund financial aid programs and a civil rights project, and build a new building for the law school or for the law school to share with UC's Haas School of Business, Edley said.

The law and business schools already plan to collaborate on a new Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy, he said.

Edley noted that in the past Boalt had been slow to ask its alumni for support. On Saturday, he dropped that reticence.

The new building, he told the alumni, "could have your name on it."

Boalt and other professional schools in the UC system have been hit especially hard by cuts in state funding, Edley said.

"In fiscal terms, Boalt has been orphaned."

All UC students absorbed a 35 percent fee increase last year. A proposal to hike student fees at professional schools another 40 percent next academic year is on hold.

Edley said he had little confidence in a deal between Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the UC Regents that promises to boost funding for higher education after the current budget crisis is resolved. That agreement was written on "unbelievably thin tissue paper," Edley said.

"The Legislature is not going to pay for excellence," he added.

A leading civil rights scholar who founded Harvard University's Civil Rights Project, Edley said he was "prepared to revisit the question of whether alumni relationships should carry any weight at all in the admission process."

Talk of considering "legacy" admissions would add a new current to the debate over admissions at UC, which has so far focused mainly on keeping or increasing socioeconomic diversity among undergraduates.

Edley recalled hearing Harvard President Larry Summers deliver a persuasive defense of legacy admissions to more than 1,000 attendees at a civil rights conference. Many in that audience seemed won over by the argument, Edley said.

But he said he had not arrived at a final position on the issue. "My prediction is that we will not change the policy."

Other leading law schools at public universities, including the University of Michigan and the University of Virginia, have already begun seeking substantial private financial support, he said.

At the least, he said, Boalt should be left on its own and not micro-managed by the University of California administration and regents: "If you ain't going to pay for it, stop regulating it."