Oral History Interview with Daniel Bernstine (1997)

University of Wisconsin Law School Library
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00:00:00 - Introduction/Early Years & Education

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Partial Transcript: This is Barry Teicher of the Oral History Project, today is July 8, 1997, I'm in the law school dean's office of Daniel Bernstine, who will be taking a job at Portland State.

Segment Synopsis: Daniel Bernstine was born in Berkeley, CA, but grew up in Richmond (in the Bay Area). He came from a working class family with three sisters and one brother. His father was a janitor and his mother was a homemaker. He was the fourth child of the five.

Daniel attended elementary school and junior high in the neighborhood (predominantly African-American), but attended high school outside of the neighborhood. He always assumed he would go to college. Daniel's parents did not go to college, but Daniel had the expectation that he would go, and his parents were supportive of this. Daniel says that he was always on the highest "track" in high school and that the majority of people from his high school attended college, especially those in the higher "tracks." Daniel's younger sister went to college at Stanford, and his brother went to California State University-Hayward.

Daniel attended California State University-Hayward himself for one year (as he wanted to play football, but then decided he didn't want to), and then he transferred to the University of California-Berkeley, where he majored in political science and minored in sociology.

After graduating from college, Daniel was accepted to a number of law schools and to the Ph.D. program in Education at Berkeley, but decided ultimately to pursue a career in law and decided to attend law school at Northwestern. Daniel was drawn to the legal profession because of the upward mobility and not having to punch a clock- it was clean, indoor work.

Daniel says that the whole law school at Northwestern was smaller than some of the classes he had taken at Berkeley, so it was a different experience. He says that he didn't enjoy law school necessarily, but it was okay.

Daniel says that he felt drawn toward labor law when he was in law school, and in fact his first job out of law school was in labor law. He was influenced by faculty members Victor Rosenbloom and Jack Ritchie.

Subjects: Berkeley; California; California State University-Hayward; Jack Ritchie; Northwestern; Northwestern Law School; Richmond; Stanford; University of California-Berkeley; Victor Rosenbloom; labor law

00:17:32 - First Jobs After Law School

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Partial Transcript: When did you start thinking about what you were going to do after law school, what were your thoughts about what you wanted to do after law school?

Segment Synopsis: After graduation, Daniel moved to Washington, D.C. and got a job with the Department of Labor's Office of Legislation and Legal Counsel, where he reviewed legislation and wrote speeches for the Secretary of Labor. He had this job for about a year and a half. Daniel says that this job allowed him to hone his writing skills.

While he was on a recruiting mission for the Department of Labor at the National Bar Association Convention in San Francisco, Daniel met Jim Jones, who then recruited Daniel for a Hastie Fellowship at UW. Daniel's wife (whom he met in law school) did the Hastie Fellowship at the same time as well.

The Hastie Fellowship was a two-year program whose goal was to draw minorities into the teaching profession. Half of this position involved academic advising for minority students and the other half was working towards an LLM degree. Although he learned a lot at his job with the Department of Labor, Daniel was ready to leave, as it was difficult to work there during a Republican administration.

Daniel's first teaching appointment was at Howard University, where he taught from 1974-77, then taught at UW for a few years, then returned to Howard. He was interested in experiencing a primarily African-American academic environment and liked being in D.C.

Daniel taught courses in civil procedure, federal jurisdiction, labor law, and courts. His main research interests lie in the areas of civil procedure and federal jurisdiction.

Daniel was denied tenure at Howard because he didn't wear a tie to class every day.

[long pause in audio]

Daniel then came back to UW and received tenure from UW the next year.

Subjects: Department of Labor; Hastie Fellowship; Howard University; National Bar Association Convention; Office of Legislation and Legal Counsel; Secretary of Labor; University of Wisconsin; Washington, D.C.; tenure

00:32:40 - Tenure at UW Law School & Acting Deanship at Howard

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Partial Transcript: When you came to Madison, you had been here as the Hastie Fellow, so you somewhat knew the workings of the law school-- how did the hiring come about, did they contact you?

Segment Synopsis: Daniel talks about receiving tenure at UW after being denied tenure at Howard University. Daniel initially rejected UW's offer as he wanted to stay in D.C. Orrin Helstad, then dean of the law school, informed Daniel that they would hold the offer open for a year, and Daniel then accepted. Many UW faculty were supportive of Daniel's appointment, including Jim Jones, Frank Remington, John Conway, etc.

Daniel returned to Howard for a time and was appointed both Assistant Vice-President of Legal Affairs and Deputy General Counsel, and in 1987, he was appointed General Counsel, and in 1988 served as Acting Dean of the Law School. This began his interest in administration (although he also enjoyed teaching).

Daniel says that one of his skills as an administrator was in conflict resolution. He says that this is motivated by his dislike of long meetings. During his time as acting dean at Howard, he got things done by individually talking with committee members before meetings. At UW, there have been fewer/not many situations with the potential for conflict, although Daniel maintains the opinion that conflicts are not best resolved in meetings, but rather before them.

Daniel received tenure at UW in 1978 and kept it throughout his acting deanship at Howard. Daniel says that UW Chancellor Donna Shalala encouraged him to apply for the UW Law School deanship. He also expresses the opinion that from a legal standpoint, Howard is a more complex school than UW (even though UW is a bigger school).

Subjects: Acting Dean; Chancellor; Chancellor Shalala; Donna Shalala; Frank Remington; General Counsel; Howard University; Jim Jones; John Conway; Orrin Helstad; UW Law School; tenure

00:56:50 - Deanship at UW- Fundraising

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Partial Transcript: What did they tell you about the job here?

Segment Synopsis: Daniel starts to discuss his time as dean of UW Law School. He knew that fundraising and the law school building would be major issues for this job and thinks that these are part of the reason why the previous dean decided to leave.

When Daniel started as dean of UW Law School, there was a concept for the new law building renovation/addition, but nothing concrete yet. This new addition was right away a big issue for Daniel's deanship. He says that the new Grainger building (for the business school) set a dangerous precedent, leading the administrators to believe that private money should match public money for building projects.

The new law school addition was a $16.5 million dollar project, and the law school had to come up with $6.5 million of that money. Daniel talks about some of the donors (including law firm partners) and issues surrounding donors and the rooms they "bought" with their donations (including the Foley & Lardner courtroom and Lubar Commons).

Daniel then talks about the influence Donna Shalala (UW Chancellor) and Ken Shaw (UW System President) had on getting the law school moved up the line for building renovations/additions. Daniel says that the primary motivation for the renovation was that the accreditation agency thought that the law school needed a new building (due to overcrowding, issues with the library, and no air conditioning).

Daniel then talks about how he went about doing fundraising-- he "hit the streets" and did 30-40 events per year around the country, but he says that these events did not raise as much money as did meeting with people privately in their offices. Daniel insists that while he receives much of the credit for the successful fundraising for the new building, it was truly a team effort. The majority of the money for the new addition came from out-of-state alumni.

On the whole, Daniel did not find fundraising particularly difficult, although he insists that lawyers are generally very cheap.

Daniel also mentions how Governor Tommy Thompson (a graduate of UW Law School), supported the new law school addition. Daniel additionally mentions that the law school project received no money from either the Light or Hilldale Foundations.

Daniel says that he concentrated on fundraising for the new addition and was not as involved in other aspects of the project.

Subjects: Foley & Lardner; Governor Tommy Thompson; Lubar; Tommy Thompson; UW Law School; accrediting agency; alumni; donors; fundraising

01:32:07 - Deanship at UW Law School- Aging Faculty & New Hires, Minority Recruitment

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Partial Transcript: ... You had kind of an aging faculty here.

Segment Synopsis: Daniel talks about another issue he faced while dean at UW Law School: aging faculty, retirement, and hiring new faculty. When older faculty retired, he was able to bring in some "new blood".

Daniel also talks about minorities at the UW Law School-- the percentage has gone up since he has been Dean, but he doesn't think that it is solely due to him but due to a welcoming environment from the faculty. About 24% of the UW Law School students are minorities, which is a larger percentage than many other law schools.

Subjects: UW Law School; minorities

01:40:13 - Accepting Presidency at Portland State University

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Partial Transcript: Okay, let's talk about Portland State now.

Segment Synopsis: Daniel begins to talk about how he accepted the presidency of Portland State University. He says that he was planning on leaving the deanship in any case and perhaps taking a sabbatical and then coming back to teaching, but then he was nominated as Portland State University president in February 1997. His first interview for the position was in May, and he was hired by the first week of June. He says that all four candidates for the position were interviewed on campus at the same time, but they were kept separate from each other.

Daniel says that Portland State University is a school that is searching for its identity, but it has an advantage in that it is located in the biggest metropolitan area in Oregon. Daniel thinks that his presidency may encounter some resistance from the faculty due to his professional school training, but believes that his training as a lawyer will be beneficial to the position.

Subjects: Oregon; Portland State University