A New Year's Message From Chancellor & Dean David Faigman: Ringing in the New Year 2024

Dean David Faigman

David Faigman is Chancellor and Dean of UC College of the Law San Francisco.

Dear UC Law SF Community,

I hope that you and yours are healthy and safe as we welcome the New Year.

2024 figures to be an eventful year, possibly more than most as we look toward November. With all that we faced in 2023, and all that might confront us in 2024, one thing is certain. There is a place, and a great need, for a robust and quality legal education that prepares students to handle the myriad issues arising in society and in law. For, as we have seen throughout American history, whether a dispute begins in the boardroom or on the street, it is typically resolved through legal proceedings, in or in the shadow of a tribunal, legislation, or regulation. Indeed, a number of unprecedented developments are now winding their way through our court system, which will undoubtedly continue to shape our world. It is to the singular purpose of an excellent legal education, multidimensional in scope, that UC Law San Francisco is committed.

Over the past several years, our community—students, staff, and faculty—have done much to add to the existing structure at UC Law San Francisco that supports an outstanding educational environment. These efforts have truly been aimed at creating as big a tent, as inclusive a community, as possible. Most prominent, of course, is our ever-growing campus, with the opening of our dazzling new academic and housing facility at 198 McAllister. It officially opened this past August, and its beautiful academic spaces will be in full use this next semester. Great architecture creates space for a community to thrive.

As proud as we are of the ever-improving buildings on campus, they are mere accompaniments to house our mission as a great law school. Henry David Thoreau stated that “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

In putting those foundations in place, our charge is broad and deep, dedicated to providing outstanding educational opportunities that will empower our graduates to succeed in careers of their choosing. This is no small task, as our graduates work in all sectors of society, serving as public defenders and district attorneys, representing the Sierra Club and Exxon Corp., serving in public offices and administrative agencies, and representing consumers in their complaints against corporations and corporations defending against consumer complaints. A great law school lays a foundation that empowers its graduates to serve in the full breadth of legal roles, which means an expansive and deep introduction to full a variety of political perspectives, cultural outlooks, and intellectual beliefs.

And a great law school is what we are. Just a brief perusal of our experiential, concentration, and centerofferings illustrates the point, for they cover the gamut, with subject matters including business, health, innovation, immigration, tax, litigation, indigenous peoples, technology, and racial and economic justice. The broader curriculum similarly boasts both range and depth, complemented by a faculty that places teaching as a priority. It has been suggested that law school is largely a great classical liberal arts education. Though we are so much more, we absolutely must be that too.

In a time of considerable polarization in politics and society at-large, maintaining the core values of a liberal arts education can be challenging. One person’s free speech is another person’s sincerely felt insult. As a public institution, we are obligated to uphold constitutional guarantees, even when they are deeply uncomfortable. Although the line between what is protected speech and what is unprotected speech or conduct can appear indistinct, what is not contested is that the sphere of protected speech is expansive. This fact is well-illustrated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, in which the Court upheld the American Nazi party’s right to march in an Illinois suburb that was the home of numerous Holocaust survivors, a case that has disturbing modern parallels.

What the First Amendment tolerates, however, is not the standard that should guide what qualifies as appropriate speech in an educational setting. Few should aim to be associated with the National Socialists in setting the rules of civilized discourse. Consistent with our Community Principles, our community must endeavor, wherever possible, to engage in respectful dialogue, however disparate our views, even of matters of great moment; indeed, especially regarding matters of great moment.

At the same time, let it not go unsaid that when speech or conduct passes into what is not protected or allowed, the College will take all appropriate and necessary actions. We want all our community members to genuinely and deeply know that they belong at UC Law and that they can teach, research, and learn without fear for their safety or security. Harassment will not be tolerated and, indeed, violates our policies. Discrimination in any form, whether manifesting as racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, or any other form of hate, cannot, and will not, be tolerated.

Although too much speech today violates Marquess of Queensberry Rules, many of the disputed issues of today are well within the bounds of legitimate debate. It behooves all of us to embrace difference. I challenge all in our community—beginning with myself—to engage seriously with views contrary to our own received wisdom. You may not be convinced of alternative points of view, but you will be better educated to defend your own opinions. And you might just learn something that becomes part of your newly received wisdom.

We live in a tumultuous and traumatic time. Global and national crises threaten our families, communities, and, indeed, the very fabric of our constitutional democracy. It is in just such times when our characters are most tested and when strength of character is most needed. I have been encouraged by our community’s resilience, its strength of character, over this past year. Overwhelmingly, our community has demonstrated civility and a commitment to the community values that we adopted this past year to treat one another with respect and consideration. I am confident that that sense of community will continue in the year, and the years, ahead.

I wish you a very Happy New Year and hope that your hopes and dreams for 2024 are fully realized.

Warm regards,



David L. Faigman

Chancellor & Dean

William B. Lockhart Professor of Law

John F. Digardi Distinguished Professor of Law

University of California College of the Law, San Francisco