June 4, 2004

Inside Seton Hall.

I'm here in Newark for the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics Annual Health Law Teachers Conference (as mentioned here). It's at Seton Hall University School of Law which has a beautiful modern building with a spectacular atrium. This is just a slice of the huge space:

I gave my talk--about federalism, medical marijuana, and assisted suicide. Here's what the view from the speaker's position looked like:

You try talking about drugs and suicide while looking into such an alienating space! It felt like a scene from a Terry Gilliam movie. From the speaker's perspective, the people look like disembodied heads lined up on shelves. But teachers make great audiences, usually. They know how helpful it is to smile and nod.

Students usually keep a poker face because they don't want to be called on. It can be unnerving. So a word to all the law students who read this blog: just smile and nod occasionally. It won't make us call on you. Now, frowning and shaking your head: that's asking to be called on. I once had a student who constantly frowned and shook his head, and I always had to say "Is something wrong?" I had to call on him to find out if I'd said something wrong or if there was a point he wanted to disagree with me about. But he just didn't like what the Court was doing (and didn't mind talking about it in class--he was a terrific student). I sometimes feel that students attribute the cases to me: if they don't like the outcome or the reasoning or think they are complicated and confusing, they appear to be mad at me. This is another reason for students to speak in class. Or just do that nodding and smiling thing once in a while.

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