November 5, 2006

A Harvard Law School seminar: "What to Wear in Winter Climates."

Seriously:
The seminar, requested by a student from Southern California, drew 62 participants, including students from Iran and India. Hot cider, hot chocolate, and snowflake cookies were served.
At the same link: Middlebury College, with funding from two anonymous donors, is naming a professorship for Chief Justice Rehnquist. There's some controversy over this, naturally:
"After all of Middlebury's talk of wanting to be more friendly and more aware of the needs and rights of minority rights, naming this chair was a big step backward, said Tamara Vatnick , a senior and co president of the Open Queer Alliance, one of several student groups that has protested. Rehnquist, while on the court, opposed affirmative action and supported the dismantling of school desegregation orders.

But:
President Ronald D. Liebowitz defended the professorship, funded by two anonymous donors, saying, "As a jurist, he was conservative, and his politics are not my politics, perhaps, but we are recognizing his great service."
And those great donors.

13 comments:

Mortimer Brezny said...

I read this article last night. I found odd that many opponents of the chair recognized that Rehnquist was a legitimate scholar in theory worthy of an eponymous chair (i.e., they accepted he was more than just a Chief Justice), but feared that it would send a signal to certain groups that they are unwelcome. I just think that's ridiculous. The worst part is any member of one of those groups who thinks Rehnquist was a great CJ probably now feels unwelcome at his/her own university. It's also tacky to speak ill of the dead, and Rehnquist wasn't even the most conservative member on the court in recent memory.

Dave said...

I'm sorry but if you're smart enough to get into Hahvahd law school you're smart enough to figure out what to wear in cold weather. Yet more evidence that law school is a fool's errand.

Balfegor said...

I'm sorry but if you're smart enough to get into Hahvahd law school you're smart enough to figure out what to wear in cold weather. Yet more evidence that law school is a fool's errand.

And these students have eyes haven't they? They can see their classmates bulking up with the sweaters, cardigans, pullovers, and peacoats, and the corduroys and the heavy-weight wools. The only thing they can't see, I suppose, is the long underwear, but I can't imagine young people wearing that nowadays anyhow.

Roger Sweeny said...

People who agree with Rehnquist's judicial philosophy or who are "culturally conservative" are no doubt minorities at Middlebury. Naming an endowed professorship after him may make the place more welcoming to them.

Ah, but I forget: places like Middlebury care about making (some) ethnic minorities feel welcome but don't feel the same about a lot of intellectual minorities. Quite the opposite ...

Ann Althouse said...

"'...if you're smart enough to get into Hahvahd law school you're smart enough to figure out what to wear in cold weather."

There are different kinds of intelligence. Many people who can score high on the LSAT fall short in ordinary common sense. But I think they're just trying to help the students feel happy about their environment. It's not so much that they can't figure out how to dress warmly, but they need to have their mood adjusted so they won't get depressed about it. You can start to freak out when it first snows in November.

Roger Sweeny said...

I think the seminar is a darn good idea.

1) Students from warm climates may not learn much but they will learn something. E.g., the idea of "dressing in layers" not obvious.

2) It was a response to a request by a student. It shows the Law School being responsive to student concerns and caring about more than what they put down in an exam book. At a high-powered law school, where the professors have damn little time or concern for students, that means something.

3) A good deal of the seminar will no doubt be social, sharing concerns and experiences with similar people. But what's wrong with that? Cold weather, to people not used to it, can be quite a shock and pretty unpleasant.

The seminar is at worst harmless. It comes off pretty well when contrasted with another way some institutions try to make foreign or minority students feel comfortable. They get them together and tell them how oppressed they are, how most Americans won't understand, but how various university special offices/special centers will be their advocates and protectors--along with the corresponding special student organizations.

Balfegor said...

1) Students from warm climates may not learn much but they will learn something. E.g., the idea of "dressing in layers" not obvious.

Isn't it? I come from Texas by way of California. It seemed pretty obvious to me when I moved up to the northeast. And I'm not exactly the exemplar of "common sense," here. If I can figure this out, I'd imagine your average law student can too.

Cold weather, to people not used to it, can be quite a shock and pretty unpleasant.

On the other hand, I've a sister at university now up in the NE, and she seems to get depressed every winter, on account of the cold and the dark, to which she is still unaccustomed. So yes, perhaps there's a reason to have this kind of seminar.

altoids1306 said...

Having recently moved from somewhere very sunny to some place very cold, that seminar would have been useful.

I didn't know what a "peacoat" was until I got here - and fitting a coat is utterly different from fitting a shirt or jacket. It's not just about keeping warm, but looking good while doing it. And if you're going to invest in 2-3 coats at 150-300+ USD, of different thicknessess and styles, it seems like a good idea to get some orientation first.

Zeb Quinn said...

In Southern California November is one of the warmest months of the year, and let me tell you, if you're one who was born and raised strictly in warm sunny climes, your first winter in a place that really has winters is a bit of a shock.

Joe Baby said...

The cold weather seminar sounds like one of those law enforcement ploys where they invite all the uncaptured felons to a Super Bowl party.

A routine rounding-up of the idiots, etc.

Freder Frederson said...

Oh come on, I had a friend undergrad who was dumped off a plane in Chicago in January from Singapore, where he had spent his whole life. He was a chemistry major, which takes a whole lot more brains than law. He had no idea how to dress. A lot of people who grow up in cold climates don't even realize the dangers of hypothermia, especially the cold damp of the northeast, let alone those who come from warm ones.

And its obvious from the comments that many of you don't take cold weather seriously either. If you participated in winter sports you would know that dressing correctly for cold weather is more than just "common sense" and that in fact sometimes it is counterintuitive (e.g., if your feet are cold, put on a hat).

Wade_Garrett said...

Professor Althouse, it will be a glorious day when law schools start making common sense part of their applications for admission. Students who lack common sense might need to be told what to wear in the winter, but, more importantly, their grades dont bear much relation to how they actually perform as lawyers.

Knowing what questions to ask a witness, having enough street smarts to know when a witness is being evasive, and knowing when your opponent in a negotiation is bluffing or exaggerating are all important skills. But of course its not as easy to determine who has them as it is to just admit the top LSAT scores, so this wont change anytime soon. Medical schools, business schools, and PhD programs have admissions interviews, but not law school, despite the fact that common sense and face-to-face communication skills are more important in the legal profession than in any of those other ones. Color me perplexed.

Ann Althouse said...

Terry: You have to consider the effect of the US News ranking system, which gives a lot of weight to the LSAT scores of the incoming students and no weight to completely soft things like common sense. The fact is we do look at the whole file and look for evidence of complex skills, but aggressive, rank-seeking schools will just take the highest LSATs they can get. Of course, in doing that, the schools are displaying some common sense, so it's kind of ironic.