I wasn't there, so I don't know the tone of the question. Greenhouse gives the context the student presented — "the Guantánamo population has shrunk even as urgent human rights crises that place many more people at risk have erupted in other parts of the world" — and characterizes the question as "deliberately provocative and not entirely rhetorical." Greenhouse informs us that the class was provoked to "lively" "conversation" that "quickly" produced "consensus."
Of course, the intense activity of devoting a law school semester to one legal problem needs to make sense in the end. Simple human defensiveness could explain the quick trip to consensus. Why did we take this course instead of Information Privacy Law or Law and Regulation of Banks and Other Financial Intermediaries or whatever else might have captured our hearts on Yale Law School's rich menu of course offerings?
Here's how Greenhouse, in her NYT column, phrases the consensus:
We care because the Guantánamo saga isn’t only about the 162 men still held there, or the hundreds who have come and gone. It’s about the health of our own institutions, our own commitments. We look in the mirror of Guantánamo and see ourselves.From "isn’t only about the 162 men" I gather that the students got weary of caring about those 162 men. If they are the 162 who are left, they are there for a reason. Bush put them there, but Obama has kept them there. Must we really go over and over the question of whether it all was done precisely right? And then you see it: the place of refuge from this nagging doubt about whether these 162 men deserved all this elite law study.
And that place is: ME! This is about ME! This is US! This is WHO. WE. ARE. Ah, relief. So I haven't been staring for months into the dismal stories of 162 shady-but-perhaps-procedurally-abused characters. I've been staring into a mirror at myself. Ah! The relief! It was about me!
That was where the elite students quickly found relief from provocation. I suspect that practically any particular legal problem can support the claim that it's really about the legitimacy and principle of the entire legal system, so the quick consensus position — to me, seen from a distance — feels more like evidence of the students' desire to free themselves from the anxiety of having paid a semester's worth of attention to something they believed they would care about, because they liked the idea of being the sort of people who do care when others do not care, but then they saw that they did not really care at least not quite that much.
And then the relief comes, and it has sufficient resonance with the original choice of what to study: I am studying myself caring about the people I wanted to believe I cared about. I've been looking into the mirror to see if I care, and I must now see that I care, or it doesn't make sense to have chosen to stare for months into a mirror to see if I care. I do care. I care about me caring.