News | Administration

Gillian Lester, acting dean of Berkeley Law School, named dean of Columbia Law School

  • NEW DEAN | Gillian Lester, the acting dean of the University of California, Berkeley, Law School, was named the next dean of Columbia Law School on Wednesday afternoon.

Updated, April 23, 11:44 p.m.

University President Lee Bollinger announced Gillian Lester, the acting dean of the University of California, Berkeley, Law School, as the next dean of Columbia Law School on Wednesday afternoon.

Lester, who will become dean on Jan. 1, 2015, will replace David Schizer, who announced in July that he would step down as dean at the end of the academic year after 10 years—the tenure limit for Columbia Law School deans.

Columbia law professor Robert Scott will serve as interim dean beginning July 1 and serve until Lester takes over in January.

“I’m honored to take on the leadership of Columbia Law School at this pivotal time,” Lester said in a press release. “I’m looking forward to working with its distinguished faculty, talented students and accomplished alumni.”

Lester, who graduated from Stanford Law School and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, focuses on employment law and policy. She began her teaching career at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1994, and joined the faculty at Berkeley in 2006.

At Berkeley, she also served as the co-director of the Berkeley Center on Health, Economic & Family Security and as associate dean for the school’s J.D. program. She became acting dean last year, after then-Dean Christopher Edley Jr. took a medical leave.

“Professor Lester brings accomplished scholarship, admired teaching and first-hand academic leadership experience at a great peer institution to her new role at Columbia,” Bollinger said in a press release. “I believe this is a great appointment for the School, and promises over the coming decade to help Columbia Law School flourish at a time of both challenge and opportunity in the field of legal education.”

Bollinger announced in September the creation of a 12-member search committee, chaired by Scott and law professor Richard Briffault, to find a replacement for Schizer.

Check back for updates.

samantha.cooney@columbiaspectator.com  |  @sammcooney

Correction: An earlier version of this story said Lester began teaching at UCLA in 1999. She became a full professor in 1999, but started teaching in 1994. Spectator regrets the error.

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CU_Alum posted on

"She began her teaching career at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999..."

1999 is when she was promoted to full professor. She'd started teaching in 1994.

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Clayton Burns posted on

The Dean of the law school must recommend an external investigation of the blatant conflict of interest of the Columbia President and Professor of Law Lee Bollinger since he is one of the directors of Graham Holdings Company.

This is one of the worst imaginable conflicts of interest because of Kaplan's depredations in test prep. That Columbia requires the SAT and TOEFL, among other options, is a fatal conflict of interest for President and Professor Bollinger.

It is hard to imagine a more damaging conflict of interest, one that goes to the heart of academic integrity.

I would strongly suggest that he resign from Graham Holdings Company immediately and apologize for his conflict.

Columbia should also trigger an external investigation into the effects of such tests as the SAT. The effects of such slovenly practices are evident at Columbia. Sound admissions curricula would not be difficult to establish.

Clayton Burns PhD Vancouver

claytonburns@gmail.com

604 272 3455

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Anonymous posted on

Bollinger's role on the Graham Holdings board doesn't create a conflict. Even if it did, he could resolve the conflict by abstaining from decisions about Kaplan.

The SAT is owned by the College Board. Neither CU nor Graham Holdings has any financial stake in it. That the SAT matters to both is a good reason for the Graham board to include university leaders, not to exclude them.

Besides, it's not the law dean's job to recommend investigations. Anybody can do that, including you. But there has to be some plausible justification.

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Clayton Burns posted on

Anonymous,

I appreciate your engagement with the matter of the President's conflict.

That you did not notice that your argument is incoherent might be taken as a sign that Columbia U routines are broken.

You propose that even if there is a conflict it could be cured if the President stayed away from votes on Kaplan.

But if there is a conflict, there is a conflict. It could not be saved by considering whether the President formally voted on or made formal, documented decisions on matters with implications for Kaplan, whether at Graham or Columbia or both.

If the SAT "matters" (my point is that it is hard to conceive of any world in which the SAT could "matter" in a comparative sense in promoting learning, if you consider the excellent books that have been produced over the past 25 years, ones that could easily be put to use in a national admissions curriculum, replacing SAT manuals forever), then the President cannot lead a university that requires the SAT and TOEFL, among other options, and be a director of a company a unit of which provides commercial prep for these very tests.

If that were possible, "conflict of interest" would be a meaningless concept.

[The SAT is owned by the College Board. Neither CU nor Graham Holdings has any financial stake in it. That the SAT matters to both is a good reason for the Graham board to include university leaders, not to exclude them.]

This is muddled reasoning. The financial interest of Graham is in Kaplan, a commercial operator in relation to the SAT. The duty of the University is to provide the best admissions processes, ones that will strengthen cognition before admission and give students the best opportunities to adapt to university learning. The SAT is a very poor tool in achieving this goal. As a director of Graham, the President has an implicit incentive to avoid confronting the reality of the comparative uselessness of the SAT and of TOEFL.

Therefore, his conflict is patent. It is a "common sense" one. We would be more likely to become entangled in factitious reasoning about it if we were victims of silly high school programs, the SAT, and defunct admissions procedures generally.

The law school should not allow the President to teach there. He would be setting a bad example if he lectured there from now on.

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Hans Frickster posted on

She was only named dean because she is a woman. At Berkeley a number of staff commented that they are happy to see her leave. More than once she was described in language that cannot be diplomatically quoted but that boils down to a
"backstabbing" b*tch. Good luck Columbia's faculty!

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