Friday, December 12, 2008

Lessig Moving from Stanford to Harvard

Law professor Lawrence Lessig has accepted an appointment at Harvard University and will also become director of the Safra Center. The move is, in part, so that he can focus on his Change Congress initiative. Required Reading: News (Lessig Blog)
It is with a complicated mix of excitement and sadness that I make the following announcement.

In November, the Provost of Harvard University invited me to become the director of the Safra Center. Last week, I accepted the offer. In the summer, I will begin an appointment at the Harvard Law School, while directing the Safra Center.

This was a very difficult decision to make. Stanford is an extraordinary law school, and I have loved my time here. The students are brilliant, yet balanced. The faculty is brilliant, yet surprisingly humble. The Dean has an amazing vision of the future of legal education, and is redefining the law school in ways that I completely support. I am endlessly proud of the Center for Internet and Society and the Fair Use Project. I have the very best assistant in the world (and she promised at least 5 more years if I stayed). I have written four of my five books while here. I'm almost finished with my 6th, the book I am sure I will be most proud of. This is a place that has given an enormous amount to me, and from which I have benefited greatly.

On a personal level, too, this was a difficult decision. California has become our home. My wife is strongly attached to everything Californian; we both have very close friends here; I hadn't ever imagined raising my kids in anything but the social and political environment of San Francisco. I still find it hard to imagine that I won't, if not now, sometime. And the enormous beauty of the environment here still takes my breath away. A year into my time at Stanford, I was certain I would never leave. After a blissful weekend with my family last week, it still hasn't registered that I will be leaving.

But in the end, it was impossible for me to be committed to the project while turning down this opportunity. It is not just the institution, nor the (partial) freedom from teaching. It is the chance to frame a large-scale project devoted to a large, important and complex problem. Once we saw it like this, my wife and I decided that returning to this old home was the right thing to do. And so in June, we will pack up the car for a cross country trek, back to Harvard.

Of course, I have no objective cause to complain. Harvard too is an extraordinary law school. As anyone who knows me knows, some of my closest friends in the world are at Harvard, including the Dean (or at least until Obama steals them all away). Harvard has grown and changed in wonderful ways over the past eight years. It will be an enormously exciting place to teach and learn.

But I regret deeply doing anything that is hurtful to those I respect and like. Worse, I hate doing anything that can be misunderstood. When Dean Sullivan recruited me, she said Stanford was paradise. I thought that was just a slogan. It isn't. I consider the 8 years I have had here to be the most important and invigorating in my career. And I will miss everything about this place.

Some things won't change. I will continue to work with Joe Trippi to build Change Congress. And I will continue to explore how best to incorporate this space (the Net) into this research. But I will do all of this, and my work, in the context of Harvard's Safra Center and its Law School, and of old friendships, revived.

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