MESSAGE FROM THE DEAN
I am compelled to clear up mischaracterizations in a recent New York Times article about a $10 million gift from alumnus Lowell Milken to endow the Lowell Milken Institute for Business Law and Policy. The story inaccurately portrays the concerns of a few faculty members as an ongoing debate about whether it is appropriate to accept the gift.
In fact, the gift was the product of discussions that began in 2008, and there was broad consultation with members of the business law faculty. Until recently, all of them had expressed uniform and enthusiastic support for the creation of the Institute. In fact, only one faculty member, Lynn Stout, has expressed objections directly to me. Given that the Law School has approximately 70 ladder-rank faculty members, it is not surprising that a few may have a difference of opinion. I respect the right to dissent as an essential element of academic freedom, and indeed I would not have it any other way. However, I do not believe that the disagreement of a few should stand in the way of the flourishing of the many.
We thoroughly weighed all of the issues that Professor Stout has raised, and we came to a distinctly different and well-reasoned conclusion. In doing so, we applied fundamental principles of fairness that are foundational in American law. We looked at all facets of the record, we were careful to refrain from guilt by association, and we assumed that individuals are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Lowell Milken’s life has been marked by accomplishment and service. He has been a brilliant student, an outstanding lawyer, a successful businessman, and a visionary philanthropist. A quarter of a century ago, Mr. Milken was accused of misconduct. However, he was never convicted of any crime, and indeed, there were neither admissions nor findings of any wrongdoing. I do not believe that decades-old, unproven allegations should serve as a basis for rejecting a gift from a person who has made enormous contributions to the betterment of others and now wishes to do even more.
After the public announcement of the gift, I received numerous notes of congratulation from faculty, alumni, and friends. There is good reason for their endorsement. This is a gift that will enhance our ability to prepare the next generation of leaders in the field of business law and policy as well as our capacity to promote cutting-edge research that responds to the pressing need to promote an entrepreneurial economy. This quest for excellence is entirely consistent with our traditions as a great public law school. I am proud of Mr. Milken’s transformative gift; his generous support will strengthen our curriculum, provide scholarships and prizes for students, enable us to expand our outreach in the community through conferences and publications, and support the work of our faculty. There is overwhelming support for the Milken gift in our community, and that support is based on nuanced evaluations that succumb neither to rank speculation nor a rush to judgment.
I also was troubled that the article included gratuitous attacks on Stewart Resnick, another alumnus, and his wife Lynda, both of whom are successful businesspeople and long-time and generous supporters of not just the law school but other units across campus. The article relied on unsubstantiated accusations to condemn a gift to support loan repayment assistance for students who choose to pursue a career in public interest law
I am profoundly disappointed that the New York Times article created a misleading picture about the bona fides of our alumni and the integrity of our law school.