After having spent the past couple of posts in the realm of increasing absurdity, I wish to return to some serious business: (In)Equality at Yale in all its facets. Is this a place where people of different color, gender, nationalities, income, or professional backgrounds are being treated on equal terms?
This blog has already featured some of the dimensions of inequality. I mentioned the outrage of our JD student body when confronted with Professor Markovits’s findings on “Distributional preferences of an elite” (see post The Yale WATERGATE and http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.aab0096). HALLOWEEN and its highly political costume customs have highlighted the racial lines and inequities on Campus (see post WALL WARS and http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/16/nyregion/yale-college-dean-torn-by-racial-protests.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0).
So far, I have said nothing about gender dynamics, which – in terms of classroom participation, visibility, representation on the faculty etc. – seem to give much hope for a promising, more equal future. It is, however, a relative equality of an extreme elite. I have no clue of how these dynamics play out outside of the YALE BUBBLE. Be that as it may: Compared to this small world and my reduced perspective on it, German academy has a lot of catching up to do.
I still haven’t said much. To be precise, I haven’t said a thing. That reminds me of one of my classes at the philosophy department. Among other things, the course tries to develop a sense of how unequal states of affairs could reasonably be ranked. What features of a situation make one distribution of wellbeing worse than another with regard to inequality? The analytical method with which this question is being approached produces a brilliant contrast to the classes at the Law School: While the lawyers’ discussions are full of normativity and will force you to perpetually take and defend a position, the philosophy class is beautifully void of content. All the ultra-sober, ultra-serious, ultra-play-less complaining about inequality is replaced by abstract thought experiments that invite us to imagine possible or not-so-possible-worlds and their respective inequality coefficients.
As you can easily see, my restless ascent up Yale’s ivory tower has made me leave the law school’s reality constraints and catapulted me into the world of pure no-ledge. As the conceptual air is getting thinner and thinner, my thoughts freely float lighter and lighter until soon I will be flying all the way up in the air. Free like a bird I will no longer need my plane ticket to get back to Europe.
Why am I writing this? Because I’m sure that the topic of inequality, in at least one of its many faces, will have a grip on your thoughts over most of the year. Because this way of engaging you as a person is one of the great features of Yale Law School and the world around it. Because I want to urge you to take classes outside of the law school – be it only in order to find out what you might appreciate about being a lawyer. In case you’re interested in theoretical stuff, it might also be worthwhile to see how theorizing looks like when it is pushed to the extremes:
No more inequality, only asymmetry at Yale.