'A New Mountain to Climb': As the New Dean of UC-Berkeley's Law School, Christopher Edley Jr. Plans to Continue the Civil Rights and Social Justice Agenda Work for Which He Has Become Well Known

By Roach, Ronald | Black Issues in Higher Education, July 29, 2004 | Go to article overview

'A New Mountain to Climb': As the New Dean of UC-Berkeley's Law School, Christopher Edley Jr. Plans to Continue the Civil Rights and Social Justice Agenda Work for Which He Has Become Well Known


Roach, Ronald, Black Issues in Higher Education


Christopher Edley Jr.

Title: Dean, Boalt Hail School of Law, University of California-Berkeley

Education: Bachelor's, Mathematics and Economics, Swarthmore College; Master's, Public Policy, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; J.D., Harvard Law School, Harvard University

Birthplace: Boston

Age: 51

Family: Married to Maria Echaveste, former Clinton White House deputy chief of staff, political consultant and activist. Edley and Echaveste are parents of Zara and Elias. Edley has a son, Christopher Edley III, from a previous marriage.

On July 1, Christopher Edley Jr. became the dean of the University of California-Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law. The first African American to hold the deanship of California's premier public law school, Edley brings to the job an array of accomplishments and experiences few American law school deans can match. Having just departed Harvard Law School where he had been a professor since 1981, Edley intends to further the civil rights and social justice agenda work for which he has become well known. Essential to the civil rights portfolio Edley brings to Boalt Hall is support from the U.C.-Berkeley leadership to establish a West Coast version of the Civil Right Project. The Civil Rights Project (CRP) is the Harvard-based think tank co-founded by Edley and Dr. Gary Orfield in 1996 to conduct research and assess the prospects for justice and equal opportunity under the law for racial and ethnic minorities in the United States.

Edley's political experiences owing to appointments in the Carter and Clinton administrations, as well as stints in the Carter presidential campaign, the Dukakis presidential campaign, and the Clinton-Gore presidential transition team, stand to fortify him for the ongoing struggles and challenges in the post-Proposition 209 environment in California higher education. During the Clinton administration. Edley held a series of positions, including associate director for economics and government at the White House Office of Management and Budget. He served as a senior adviser to Clinton's Race Initiative and led the White House review of affirmative action programs as the president's special counsel Edley is also a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, an appointment he has held since 1999. He is the author of Not All Black & White: Affirmative Action, Race and American Values. Edley's father; the late Christopher Edley Sr., was a former head of the United Negro College Fund.

Recently, Edley took time in the midst o/preparations to move his family from the East Coast to California to speak with Black Issues In Higher Education.

BI: Do you plan to continue your involvement with the Civil Rights Project? How so? Will there be a UC Berkeley-based operation of the Civil Rights Project?

CEJ: Absolutely. In fact, at one point during the dean search process I called to withdraw from consideration, explaining that I was too committed to the work of the Civil Rights Project to walk away from it. Their response was that they already thought about that and were very excited about the prospect of my building a West Coast analog of the project based at Berkeley. As soon as they said that, it seemed like an obvious and ideal fit. Where better to try to help lead the national debate over the future of racial justice than California, which is, in so many ways, ground zero for all the changes sweeping the country? My partner, (Dr.) Gary Orfield hit the phrase just fight: "We expect to be bigger, better, and bi-coastal."

BI: Do you have specific ideas as to how you will organize a West Coast CRP?

CEJ: It's still a work in progress. But as I was doing my due diligence, deciding whether to accept the offer, 1 was frankly overwhelmed by the number of faculty at the law school and around the broader campus who expressed eagerness to work with me to establish a West Coast CRP. …

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