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January 23, 2007

Deans Dish: Prop 2 and Mr. Wolverine

By Nate Kurtis
and Bria LaSalle

In December, Prop 2 went into effect in Michigan, banning the use of gender and racial preferences in public education, contracting, and hiring decisions. While the legal challenges from both sides continue, Michigan’s public educational institutions have been faced with the task of ensuring their policies are compliant with the new constitutional language. The RG spoke with Dean Caminker and Dean Zearfoss about Prop 2, the Law School admissions policy, and, of course, Mr. Wolverine.

Res Gestae: Dean Caminker, while the Grutter decision was a definite win for the Law School’s admissions policy, it was also part of the impetus behind the proposal, and passage, of Prop 2. Would you now characterize Grutter as a Pyrrhic victory?
Dean Caminker: Absolutely not. In a pragmatic sense, the Law School’s successful defense of its careful race-conscious admissions policy preserved the option of affirmative action in higher education for both public and private universities across the country (private because the legal rule applicable to public universities via the Fourteenth Amendment applies as well to private ones through Title VI). The fact that several states, now including Michigan, have enacted popular initiatives prohibiting racial preferences in this and other contexts is (in my view) unfortunate, but the Grutter victory remains of enormous importance. Moreover, in a symbolic sense, the Grutter litigation demonstrated that large and historically conservative interests -- the military and Fortune 500 corporations -- have come to understand the imperative of workplace and governmental diversity in our increasingly multi-ethnic and globalized society.

RG: Looking back on the events between Grutter and Prop 2, were there opportunities to engage the proponents of Prop 2 in a dialogue that might have avoided this Michigan constitutional amendment? If so, could you comment on why such a dialogue did not take place? Was there a sense that, having had the Law School’s admissions practices OK’d by the U.S. Supreme Court, there wasn’t very much weight to the no-preference side of the coin?
Dean C: Unfortunately, it proves difficult to construct a meaningful dialogue on many racial issues, including this one. Some proponents of Proposal 2 were undoubtedly motivated by moral views concerning race consciousness, and it is difficult to hold a collective conversation about moral perspectives. Some proponents of Proposal 2 were undoubtedly motivated by a sense of unfairness; here, I think, there was room for dialogue, as many people misconceive the point of higher education admissions and wrongly assume it should reflect notions of a strict "meritocracy" rather than serve particular pedagogic and professional missions. But these are complicated concepts, and in a society where most political debate today takes place in a 30-second sound bite, it unfortunately can be a struggle to shape an effective popular dialogue about public policy. And in the end, there will always be policy issues about which, even with perfect information, well-intentioned people will disagree.


RG: In light of the recent Appeals Court ruling, do you believe that the admissions policy will have to change?
Dean C: There will likely be continuing litigation advanced by civil rights organizations that will ultimately shape the contours and interpretation of Prop 2. At the moment, the Law School is continuing to evaluate applicants in a holistic fashion, but race is no longer being taken into account as a factor for consideration. The faculty will discuss new, long-term alternatives later this spring, seeking to devise the optimal admissions policy that will continue to admit and enroll a first-year class that has outstanding academic credentials and capabilities and that remains diverse along many different dimensions, including race. We will keep our eye on the courts, following any forthcoming guidance as to the dictates of Prop 2.

RG: Proponents of Prop 2 have said "the color of a person’s skin is a poor proxy for diversity." Do you agree with that statement?
Dean C: Race certainly is not a perfect proxy for many attributes, including political ideology or intellectual outlook (which is what many people mean when they say things similar to the quote you provided). But race still matters in our society, in some obvious and some more subtle ways, and people of different races will often have different experiences growing up that influence they way they think about various problems or challenges. It would seem odd, to me, to teach in my constitutional law class a session on the widespread practice of race-based peremptory challenges to prospective jurors without having a broad range of experiences represented in the classroom -- including students who had served on juries, students who had worked in the criminal justice system, and students of different races, so that a variety of experiences and perspectives could collectively be brought to bear on the topic.


RG: To what do you attribute the 16-point voting spread in favor of Prop 2?
Dean C: It’s probably not irrelevant that many, many people believe that they or someone they know was denied admission to a selective school or denied a job or government contract because of an affirmative action program that favored minority applicants. Of course, for the most part they are wrong in their beliefs. We probably reject over 100 white applicants for every single underrepresented minority admittee whose race made any difference in the admissions process. How many of those white applicants possibly were denied a spot in the class because of race-consciousness? One out of 100. But how many believe they were denied a spot for this reason? All 100 of them.

RG: Thank you Dean Caminker. One last question: Who is your pick for "Mr. Wolverine"?
Dean C: Mark West. Hands down.

RG: Thank you. Dean Zearfoss, do you want to comment on anything Dean Caminker said?
Dean Zearfoss: No, I agree with everything Dean Caminker said. Except for "Mr. Wolverine," I don’t agree with him on that.

RG: Well, if not Mark West, who do you think should be "Mr. Wolverine"?
Dean Z: I think, obviously, it should be someone in a position of authority. And, obviously, it should be someone with great hair. So: Dean Baum

RG: Ok, though come to think of it, I’m not sure either is in the running. Anyway, Dean Zearfoss, do you believe that the admissions policy, as it now stands, will have to be changed?
Dean Z: We changed our policy as soon as Prop 2 took effect. But it was a very minor change. The change is: we use the exact same policy, but race is no longer one of the many factors that we take into account. And we will continue applying that policy at least through the end of the season. As Dean Caminker explained, the Faculty Admissions Committee is considering what to do for a longer term policy. One very possible outcome will be that we continue with this policy because it is a very good policy. We like this policy. We liked having race as a factor; we thought that was important. But even without race as a factor, it is a very good policy that gives us the tools to select an excellent class. So, it is quite possible that there won’t be a completely, radically different policy. But, it is also true that we are considering all options; people are giving us ideas and we are talking to other people to pick their brains. We’ve been thinking about these questions for many, many years, but we’re not taking anything for granted, and we are really thoroughly considering all the possible options.

RG: Is there a sense, then, that the admissions policy --as it stands and has been articulated: the holistic, totality of the circumstances-- really doesn’t require any particular weighting, and lets you admit whomever you want? Would that be an accurate statement?
Dean Z: Well, yes. We can always admit whom we want, but there certainly is a difference following Prop 2. It’s not like this policy, post-Prop 2, will result in the exact same decisions as it would have pre-Prop 2. It definitely will make a difference that race is not one of the factors. It is just hard for me to know at this stage what the precise outcome will be. It may not make a huge difference. I don’t think it will make the kind of difference that Prop 209 seemed to make at Berkeley and UCLA, when the next year they had almost no one in the class who was African-American. I don’t see that happening here at all.

RG: How is it possible to remove race as a consideration from the decision? Even if it is removed from the application, you are rumored to be only human. If you were to learn an applicant’s race, either through meeting them or through an essay, how could you separate that from everything else you would consider?
Dean Z: I do that all the time. I know that people are married. I know that people are disabled. There are all kinds of things I know about people that aren’t factored into the decision process. On the one hand, I’m at the very beginning of employing a policy where race is not a decision-making factor, so I can’t claim to be at all certain how this is going to work out. I’ve been doing this a couple of weeks and in that time I haven’t had a lot of applications that, as far as I know, appear to be from minority applicants. So I don’t know. I understand the exercise: sure, I’m only human. But it doesn’t seem impossible to me to say race is not a factor. I mean, people’s gender, for example, has never been a factor in our process. We’ve never given gender any weight in the admissions process at this law school, and so to not give race any weight seems analogous.

RG: You mentioned possibly finding a more permanent policy. How would that policy be chosen? By committee? When would you hope to have that policy in place?
Dean Z: It is a committee, and we’re in the process right now. Actually, we’ve been working on it informally and thinking about it for some time. We hope to get it done by the end of the semester. As to who makes the final decision, once the committee is done writing and is satisfied, the new policy will go to the whole faculty, and the faculty will vote on it.

RG: Had you admitted anyone before Prop 2 went into effect?
Dean Z: Yes. Probably around 40%, which is typical for that time of year.

RG: Do you foresee any strange results from having admitted students both in the pre- and post-Prop 2 world?
Dean Z: No, I really don’t. It’s not ideal to switch systems in the middle of the year, just because it’s hard. We spend a lot of time every summer coming up with our processes. It’s a complex system, and it’s hard to change everything when you’re also in the midst of getting five hundred applications a week. Getting a ton of work done and simultaneously strategizing is difficult. But I think we’ve succeeded in changing our process, and I think it will be fine.

RG: Less than one year ago, you commented in a piece in the Dayton Law Review that, though changes to the admissions policy could be made, you doubted that any would be made for a long while owing to the fact that the Law School’s admissions policy was the only one in the country that was known, absolutely, to be constitutional. Do you care to revise your statement in light of recent events?
Dean Z: Well, I turned out to be wrong; we’ve in fact made changes to our policy. Even though the policy is constitutional within the context of the U.S. constitution, the state constitution is now such that our old policy would violate the current state constitution. But I don’t care to revise my statement, because it was absolutely correct when I made it.

RG: Looking forward, now that the people of Michigan have "spoken," is one solution to sever the University’s ties to the state? Would you support such a move?
Dean Z: No, I wouldn’t. Everyone who knows me knows I wasn’t happy at the outcome of the election. I thought our policy was a really good policy. If I hadn’t thought that, I would have been working to change it without an election. But I also think it is an incredibly important part of the character of this university, of this law school, that it is a public institution. It is one of the things that makes us different from our peers. And I’m proud of its history. I wasn’t happy about the election, but I’m very proud of its history, and I feel confident that we’ll make it work. We will go on being a great law school despite the change in our admissions policies.
Dean C: [Besides, t]he University of Michigan is a public entity by virtue of the state constitution. It would therefore require an amendment to the constitution for the University to change its status.


RG: Alright. But, speaking hypothetically, if the University were to secede from the State of Michigan, there wouldn’t really be much of a reason to keep it in Michigan. Where would you move the University if you could?
Dean Z: [laughs] I happen to love Ann Arbor, and that’s why I live here. If I didn’t work at the Law School, I’d find something else to do in Ann Arbor. Now, the Law School is the best game in town, but I’d figure something else out. And, I’ve got to tell you, at my son’s elementary school, there’s a culture of winter toughness. There is a constant dialogue between the months of January and February about whether it is or is not appropriate to wear shorts and t-shirts to school. I would like to see a little more of that kind of toughness at the Law School. I think it’s character building, cold weather. Look at all the character I have, after all!

RG: I’d be willing to bet you’d have that character even if you lived in a warm weather environment.
Dean Z: I don’t know, where would you move?

RG: I’d move it all to Maui.
Dean Z: Well, you came to Ann Arbor, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. You are obviously drawn to cold weather.

RG: There wasn’t as good a law school on Maui, at least at the time….
Dean Z: You know, it is expensive in Hawaii. And, let me tell you, I read this interesting book over the break about volcanoes and stuff. I don’t know. I don’t know that Hawaii is a good bet these days. You’ve got global warming, you’ve got volcanoes, you’ve got tsunamis. The Midwest is quite safe. I like that about Ann Arbor. It’s a very safe town.

RG: I guess you’re right. But, even if we stay in town, can we at least put a dome over the Law School? That way we’d still be around Ann Arbor and the cold weather, but the Law School could enjoy warm temperatures year-round.
Dean Z: Okay. I’m not really much of an architecture person. But, if it can look good, okay. I won’t object. But I like the cold weather.
Dean C: Look, I’m a born-and-raised former beach volleyball player from Southern California. If can handle it, so can you. Suck it up.

RG: Alright, alright. Dean Zearfoss, you’ve MC’ed the "Mr. Wolverine" competition every year since its inception.
Dean Z: Yeah. Isn’t that weird?

RG: Definitely! Especially since January, just after a big application deadline, is such a busy month for you in the admissions cycle. Why do you take the time to MC the "Mr. Wolverine" competition?
Dean Z: I’m going to give you an answer that is not actually smart-alecky, which is against my usual practice. I really love the spirit of this contest --I think it’s a lot of fun! And, it helps remind me why I love this law school. With the exception of Ron Garber’s performance last year, that is…. You can put that in, because he knows how I felt about that. Anyway, I really feel like it shows what a great community we are, and it helps remind me why I love this law school. And, I’ve got to tell you, it kinda invigorates me to do this job. Also, it reminds me that I’ve got to look for good dancers, and good singers, and choreographers when I’m reviewing these applications. I might otherwise forget.

RG: Let me see if I have this straight. The Law School is great -except Ron Garber’s ass.
Dean Z: [laughs] That’s right.

RG: In the past you’ve been known to use a "Mr. Wolverine" contestant’s application against him during the competition. Can we expect similar material this time around?
Dean Z: I only did that the one year. And then last year no one could even hear what I said. I wasn’t using application info, anyway. This year I’m not going to say anything about the contestants at all because Paul Mata is keeping us on the clock. He’s a harsh taskmaster.

RG: Would you support a forum whereby we male law students could hear the dirt on our female classmates?
Dean Z: Well, Nate, the sad truth is: there’s much less dirt on the women. Sorry about that. [laughs]

RG: Why do you think that is?
Dean Z: I’ve got to tell you, there are a lot of public urination charges in the male camp here, and not so much with the women. It’s very rare to see women with public urination charges in their past.

RG: Would you be more or less likely to admit a woman with a public urination charge?
Dean Z: I am required by law to no longer care about the gender of any urinators.

RG: Fair point. And, thank you both very much.

Kill a Tree, But Save Some Cabbage

By Sumeera Younis

I must have spent hours during study week thinking about that warm cashmere sweater: How it would comfort me once finals were finished, how it would look perfect under my new blazer. But who was I kidding? With hundreds of dollars in textbook purchases awaiting me, I knew I couldn’t splurge…. Or could I? I have come to realize that buying textbooks doesn’t have to break the bank.

One reason textbooks are so expensive is publishers keep cranking out new editions. Once a publisher has sold books from one edition, they start losing money because people start buying the books used. Congress has even looked into this issue, though that was back in 2005, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.

While we wait on Congress, I’ve looked into different ways to get your books and how much each would cost. I compared the prices of two books that most people purchase at some point in their law school career: The Modern Law of Contracts by Frier & White and International Law, Norms, Actors, Process- A Problem Oriented Approach by Dunoff, Ratner, and Wippman.

Bookstores
There are several bookstores on campus, and they sell our textbooks at list price. A used copy is generally twenty to thirty dollars cheaper, but those go fast. Most times you’ll be stuck with a brand new copy of the book. It has long been suspected that all the bookstore managers of Ann Arbor meet in a dungeon somewhere and conspire to keep all the prices of books the exact same high price, so there is not much point in shopping around at campus bookstores. Your pocket will take the hardest hit if you purchase straight from the bookstore.

Contracts: $101.00
Transnat: $113.00
Amazon v. Half.com
In the world of online textbooks, these are the two heavyweights: Amazon and Half.com. You can find almost any textbook on the planet on these websites, but there are a few things you should look out for. Make sure you are ordering the right edition. In some classes, the professor spends a lot of time referring to the casebook or asking you to look up something during lecture. If you know this is the case, then having the right edition becomes hugely important. In other classes you don’t notice it at all. If you do decide to buy the older edition of a textbook, make sure you are paying bottom dollar --you can get these textbooks for around twenty bucks.

Also, both Amazon and Half.com have rating reviews for both sellers and books. If the seller is bad at shipping on time or misrepresents his items, it will probably be reflected in his reviews. There is also a description of how much highlighting, writing, or wear the book you are ordering has. The main consideration to keep in mind while ordering online is shipping time. I’ve had problems getting things in a decent time from Half.com, but Amazon’s shipping has worked really well. If you know what classes you are taking before break starts, you can find a list of all your books on the registrar’s website and order them with plenty of time for shipping.

Amazon-
Transnat: New: $103.96, Used: $74.95
Contracts: New: $101.00, Used: $70.00
Half.com-
Transnat: $80.00
Contracts: $70.00

LawOpen
I will admit I am guilty of this as well, but holy bursting inbox, Batman! How many e-mails for textbook requests can a law student read before moaning about it in the RG? Please use a different forum for next semester, I beg you! Law students everywhere (and by everywhere I mean at Michigan) would love you forever (and by forever I mean the first week of classes when they wouldn’t be getting slammed with book spam). If nothing else, use the Law School classifieds. But all griping aside, some of the best deals I’ve found on textbooks have been on LawOpen. You can make quick cash if you are selling, and get a great price without the added cost of shipping if you are buying. You can really finesse the LawOpen system by waiting for that period when people realize they are going to drop a class but have already taken the shrink-wrap off the book, when Ulrich’s won’t take them back. This is pure money because you get a brand new book for a lot less. Prices vary on LawOpen, but I have been able to get a $114.00 textbook for $25.00 and it was in great shape!

Booktrader
You have probably passed the Booktrader room hundreds of times in your law school life and not quite known what it was, or been slightly intimidated by the gorgeous Grace Lee manning the cash register. Located in the basement of Hutchins Hall, Booktrader is a student -run operation where students can buy and sell books. You can give your books to Booktrader to sell for whatever price you’d like --half the retail price is recommended. Once the book is sold, Booktrader will take a commission and give you the rest of the profit for the book.

Although Booktrader offers a great value, there are a few drawbacks. For instance, it doesn’t open until the first day of classes. Since professors often assign homework before the first class, this leaves you a little behind the game. Still, the prices might be worth the risk of being called on the first day of class and having no clue what is going on. You might also run into a lot of older editions at Booktrader; so, once again, make sure you are getting the right edition if that is important to you.

Contracts: $50.50
Transnat: $56.50
Who really needs textbooks?
Have you ever spent hours going through your reading only to realize the only thing you learned was that Britney Spears has a new man? (And you sure didn’t get that from your textbook.) Have you ever highlighted in every color known to man and not even known the class you were reading for? It makes you wonder if books might be a little overrated. I mean, yeah, everyone’s doing it. You see all your classmates walk into class and put that red, hundred-dollar textbook next to their laptop, and you think: Wow, what a magical feeling. But do you really need it? A great way to save money on text books is not to buy them at all! If you find yourself desperate around finals time, the library keeps our textbooks on hand, and you can just mosey in there and visit them.

Contracts: $0
Transnational Law: $0
(Keep in mind: we have not computed lost income for any variance in grades that might result from using this method.)

Unconventional Methods
If you are not quite ready to go through a semester without books and still don’t want to shell out the big bucks to buy them, there are several options open to you. You could always try copying the book: The transnational law book has 1090 pages, and at ten cents a page you’ll be set back $109.00 with no fancy red binding to show for it. I’m not sure how legal this is either. You could try breaking into your professor’s house and borrowing the book. There are some unforeseeable transactional costs here, such as finding out where the professor lives, buying the right equipment to break in with, and facing the possibility of being barred from the bar.

Contracts: Lockpicking Set: $20,
Digital Camera: $120, Defense
Attorney: $2,000+
Transnational Law: 18-20 years

There is a lot we can do right here at Michigan to make the textbook plight more bearable. Professors can use the same editions for longer periods. (How much CAN Crim Law really change in a year?) Booktrader can open a little earlier so we can get the stellar half off deals and help our classmates make a few bucks. Some students at other universities have even taken to ordering their books from overseas because they are much cheaper, or have directly contacted publishers to get unbound copies which are also substantially cheaper.

There is no quick fix to beating the textbook blues, but there are more options out there than plunging yourself further into debt. If you do well enough in your book search, as I did, you’ll have the additional perk of being able to indulge in a guilt-free cashmere sweater. And, if that’s not your poison, Duby might have another Game Cube up for grabs.

The Better, Stronger, Faster: 138 Hutchins Hall

Hutchins Hall room 138 has reopened after an eight-month remodeling project. The room has been reoriented, and features technological upgrades, a new heating and cooling system, and greater accessibility.

Perhaps the most obvious change is the reorientation of the room to a short, wide space. Although the capacity of the room decreased from 100 to 60 people, and reorientation necessitated an additional exit, the new design is a response to professor requests. Past lecturers had felt the previous configuration distanced them from their students. Now, no student is more than four rows back, so no more sleeping through Jurisdiction. Sorry.

The new front row of tables can be turned around to form an oval with the second row, or combined with the teacher’s desk to make a conference table that seats sixteen, making the room suitable for both full-sized lectures and smaller seminars. The new energy-efficient air-handling and air-conditioning system independently manages the front seminar space and the full room. The new multi-level ceiling design partitions airflow and provides a closer feel for seminars in the front of the otherwise cavernous space. Additionally, the front row of tables are high enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

The new room 138 boasts all-new audio visual equipment including a projector, a document camera, and an image camera. This equipment is all built into the room, an improvement that the Law School’s AV team can appreciate as they rush past to set up projectors and such for professors in the still-ancient 150 Hutchins. The new gear, along with the projector screen, lights, and two kinds of window shades, are all controlled by a Crestron unit at the teacher’s table.

A welcome upgrade for students are the electrical outlets at each seat. Over Spring Break, these will be joined by computer data ports to provide Internet access. It is not yet known whether Internet access will be disabled during class times.

There is still work to be done before 138 Hutchins will be finished. The teacher’s table is currently too low, a new carpet will be installed in a few weeks, and further electrical system upgrades are required. Still, it looks good so far, and we welcome the opening of the new room 138 for lectures, seminars, and lunch-time events.

MLK Keynote Delivered to Appreciative Crowd

Professor Bryan Stevenson of New York University and the Equal Justice Inititive in Montgomery, Alabama, delivered the keynote address for the 2007 MLK Day Celebration on Monday, January 15. For those unable to attend, Professor Stevenson’s speech may be found at the following address until February 15, 2007: http://students.law.umich.edu/avlaw/Academic_Affairs_Services/Martin_Luther_King_Day_2007.htm

Drug Dogs Bust Brensike's Class

On January 19, 2007, Professor Brensike’s Criminal Procedure class hosted Sarge and K.P., two drug sniffing-dogs from the Ann Arbor Police Department. The dogs, named after officers who have died in the line of duty, came to class as part of a unit on the 4th Amendment, and the ramifications of drug-dog searches. No students were busted, though Professor Brensike had warned her class earlier in the week to leave their drugs at home. Officer Kevin Harding, who accompanied the dogs to class, demonstrated their abilities with the aid of a rather large bag of marijuana.

Beyond the Quad: Mini-Seminar Program Enters Its Third Triumphant Term

By Malak Hamwi

Students looking to speak to their professors outside the ivy-covered walls of Hutchins Hall are often unsure how to engage their favorite faculty member.

“At most law schools you’ll hear people say, ‘It would be really great to see faculty outside of school,’” Dean Baum said. “But faculty aren’t going to show up at bar night.”

To address this reality, and encourage more informal student-faculty interaction, the Law School has developed the Mini-Seminar Series, where participating professors host between 3 and 6 discussions per semester in their homes or at non-classroom venues for as many as twelve students.

The program is the brainchild of Dean Caminker, who got the idea after numerous conversations with alumni. Many older Law School grads spoke highly of classes they had taken in professors’ homes during their three years at Michigan. Many years ago, it was more common for professors to hold seminars at their houses given the slower pace of their jobs and household demographics, Dean Caminker said.

Some alumni also lamented that they had not taken a course with a certain professor they admired, since they either did not have the time or were not interested enough in the professor’s area of expertise to take a 3-credit course on the topic. Dean Caminker decided that mini-seminars would afford students the chance to acquaint themselves with faculty members they may not otherwise encounter.

“Students really want to get to know their professors, and this gives them bits of exposure to faculty,” he said, adding that Michigan’s suburban environment, where most professors and students live nearby, is an asset that should be exploited.

The pilot program launched last winter with four mini-seminars. All participating professors were volunteers, receiving only a small stipend to provide refreshments for the students during the scheduled meetings. Thirty-one students enrolled last winter, and their glowing evaluations, coupled with positive faculty feedback, encouraged administrators to try the program for the entire 2006-07 school year.

Dean Caminker sent out another feeler e-mail over the summer, and about 30 faculty members volunteered.

“So many faculty signed up that all couldn’t be accommodated,” Dean Baum said.

Last semester, nearly 80 students signed up for one of the 10 mini-seminars offered. Professors Michael Barr, Daniel Halberstam, Ellen Katz, Doug Kahn, JJ Prescott, Steve Ratner and Joseph Vining all hosted not-for-credit mini-seminars in their homes on myriad topics like how to get a job as a law professor, eugenics, and poverty in America. Although no classes during the pilot semester were for credit, some professors – like Richard Friedman, Don Herzog, Chris Whitman, Becky Eisenberg and Rechel Croskery-Robert – opted to make their seminars worth one credit. All one-credit mini-seminars are mandatory pass/fail and do not fulfill either the seminar or upper-level writing requirements for graduation.

Professors are allowed considerable freedom in choosing their seminar topics, which are not required to strictly pertain to legal matters. Last semester, for instance, tax professor Douglas Kahn and assistant professor J.J. Prescott hosted a seminar on classic and modern plays, where students read aloud from “The Wild Duck” and “The Merchant of Venice.”

This semester, some students will finish the second half of their mini-seminar (half of last semester’s offerings straddled the fall and winter semesters) while other will sign up for one of the five new picks – including Professor Omri Ben-Shahar’s “Private Law in the Information Age,” Eve Brensike’s “Anatomy of a Criminal Case,” and Richard Friedman’s “Rules of Play.”

Given the popularity of the series, only 2Ls and 3Ls are invited to register for the mini-seminars and are limited to one seminar per year. Although the program is still somewhat of an experiment, administrators are optimistic that the series will become part of the regular curriculum and a selling point for prospective students.

“It’s off to a great start,” Dean Baum said.

The deadline for requesting a mini-seminar this term is today at 5:00 pm. Interested students should send an e-mail to Amy Bishop (albishop@umich.edu) with “Mini-Seminar” typed in the subject line. The message must include: the student’s full name, uniqname, Emplid number (listed on your U of M ID card), the mini-seminar number (400M11, 400M12, etc.), mini-seminar title, professor’s (or professors’) full name(s), and the order of requests 1 through up to 5, 1 being the highest.

Come Back, Sinks! Come Back!

As half of you know, and the rest have heard, the sinks disappeared from the men’s bathroom on the first floor of Legal Research. This was no prank. Mid-December maintenance on one of the sinks revealed a plumbing problem, so all three were removed. Once off the wall, the beloved basin sinks were found to be rusting badly, and were retired from service. The good news is that, once finished, the men’s bathroom will sport all new sinks and faucets.

Before those new sinks can be installed, all new plumbing and a counter must be installed. Plant Operations is responsible for general maintenance, for which the Law School pays a yearly fee. But plumbing upgrades and the installation of new counters and sinks are jobs closer to “building enhancements,” which the Law School handles and pays for itself. Ultimately, Lois Oerther, the Law School Facilities Manager, negotiated a deal whereby Plant Operations would pay for the plumbing services and the Law School would purchase and install the new Corian® countertop.
The timing certainly could have been worse, since the work was supposed to be finished over winter break. “I told them I had to have it done by January 10,” recalls Oerther. “Obviously that didn’t happen.” The sinks and counter were delivered in early January, and a plumber is standing by. The hold up has been funding from Plant Operations. That was resolved last Thursday, and construction is scheduled to be finished this Friday.

Despite the lack of sinks, the men’s bathroom remains open for business. In place of soap and water was a while-supplies-last box of a dozen or so bottles of Purell® Instant Hand Sanitizer (whose commercials carry the disclaimer “not a substitute for soap and water”). Whatever help they were, those bottles were gone in a few days, leaving some men to bemoan their shitty hands over LawOpen. It apparently never occured to these guys to use the bathroom by the lockers, the bathroom in the library, or the unisex one on the first floor of Hutchins, which all sport working plumbing.

PDF of entire January 23, 2007 issue