Dear Hastings Community,
New Year’s is a time of reflection and resolution. Since becoming Chancellor and Dean, I have taken the opportunity of each new year to reflect on the successes of the past year and to set forth my resolutions for the year ahead, often focusing on student outcomes such as bar passage and employment or on alumni giving. On all these counts, 2019 was a very good year.
Our California bar-pass rate for first-time exam takers in July 2019 was 80%, tied for seventh in the State. Our employment numbers for the Class of 2018 improved 11.2% over the previous year (measured 10 months after graduation). And we had our best fundraising year ever, with gifts and grants exceeding $10 million.
In 2019, we also made major progress toward realizing our vision of creating an Academic Village on our campus, with near-completion of our first new academic building in more than 35 years, architectural plans for a new 14-story mixed-use building, and related arrangements for bricks-and-mortar projects as well as key partnerships.
There is much I resolve to accomplish in 2020, working alongside our talented students, remarkable staff, and outstanding faculty.
Foremost, I resolve to sustain the momentum on employment and bar-passage success. As a law school, no two factors are more important indicators of strength. We learned a lot about how to improve our new graduates’ employment prospects over the past year and will build on those lessons to boost our progress further. And while rising to a three-way tie for seventh place among California law schools in bar-passage rate is an important milestone, I aim to secure a firm position for UC Hastings among the top five schools in the State year-after-year.
Second, I resolve to build upon, and expand, our curricular offerings. We will continue to build professional opportunities for our students, such as the new corporate counsel externship, and continue to support the wide-range of experiential courses, from the Refugee & Human Rights Clinic to the Startup Legal Garage. Our Research Centers are already outstanding and world-renowned, and in 2020 we will build out and empower our newest centers of excellence, in the areas of Business, Tax, and Racial and Economic Justice.
Third, I resolve to increase dramatically our efforts to ensure safe and clean streets surrounding our campus. UC Hastings is located in a difficult neighborhood in a city that is challenged by the triple plague of drugs, homelessness, and mental illness. These are systemic ills and UC Hastings alone cannot solve them. But we can be part of the solution. More immediately, we can invest greater resources in improving the quality of life for those living, studying, and working on our campus.
Fourth, I resolve to continue brisk development of the UC Hastings Academic Village, with completion of our new academic building at 333 Golden Gate Avenue early this year, followed in April by the demolition of Snodgrass Hall at 198 McAllister Street and initial construction of a 14-story academic/housing mixed-use building on that site. Through the Academic Village initiative, we will expand our partnerships with other University of California institutions, particularly UCSF, as well as the Bay Area’s business and tech sectors.
Making swift progress across the board requires a confluence of assets, including a bold but achievable vision, dedicated managers, and, of course, financial resources. As an institution of higher education that receives much needed—but proportionally little—funding from the State, we need to attract more philanthropic support. While the $10 million we raised in 2019 through gifts and grants is an all-time record for us, many of our sister law schools, such as those at UC Berkeley and UCLA, raise three times as much annually. So the final goal I will mention as we embark on 2020 is to boost philanthropy by involving more alumni and attracting larger gifts, both for current use and to grow the endowment. Against that backdrop, I am delighted to report that we received news recently of a sizable gift, which we look forward to announcing soon and to celebrating at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new academic building on March 26.
I’ve been on the UC Hastings faculty for 32 years and have always been deeply proud to call this school my professional home. I know that many of you share this pride and that there is a growing current of enthusiasm running through our community. We are at a true crossroads in our history. And I thank all those who have worked so hard to get us here, a moment when opportunity meets resolve to bring the school to greater national prominence.
UC Hastings is the people who study—and have studied—law in its classrooms. It is the students, staff, faculty, and alumni who embody the values of fairness at the core of our legal system and who strive for excellence in the study and practice of law. John Kennedy once said, “The Greeks defined happiness as the full use of your powers along the lines of excellence.” By this measure, 2019 was a very happy year and 2020 looks to be happier still.
Finally, speaking of happiness, I hope you will join me and the broad UC Hastings community in celebrating the College’s past, present, and future on Thursday, March 26, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and dedication of the new academic building and the final Beer on the Beach and farewell to 198 McAllister. Festivities begin on the new Quad at 3 p.m., then move to the Beach, where we will bid a fond farewell to it and, of course, the classrooms, on behalf of the generations the building has served.
Happy New Year, and wishing you and yours good health and good fortune in 2020.