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&region=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.

The Ultimate Writing Boot Camp

Future people of Yale Law School: Prepare for the moment when, a couple weeks into the second semester, everyone will freak out. With fellowship-, JSD-proposal-, and other deadlines approaching, you and your classmates will start to resemble the poor JD-population in their perpetual driven-ness. In order to escape this unhealthy dynamic and to not let the Yale penguins steal your last drops of sanity, you should make your class representative (which you will have to call “El Presidente”) call into being an Ultimate Writing Boot Camp.

Ultimate Writing Boot Camp aims at breaking the ever-tightening chains of procrastination (it is common knowledge that there is a strong positive correlation between workload and affinity for procrastination) by locking most of the international students into a seminar room and not letting them out before at least some work has been achieved.

This is what El Presidente will do to you:


Be careful: Don’t let yourselves be tricked by the tons of cake, cookies and coffee, supposed to be waiting for you: They only serve as a bait in order to lure you into a trap of diabolic evilness, where relentless drill instructors will take away both, coffee and food, and devour them in front of your hungry eyes.

(This Tantalean torture is brought to you by one of Yale’s ORIGINALSTS – in both, the conventional and the Yalie, senses – in an effort to make you grasp the meaning of “cruel and unusual punishment”.)


So much for the theory behind Ultimate Writing Boot Camp. How did it look in practice?

The following is an excerpt from the classe’s WhatsApp thread during Ultimate Writing Boot Camp:

A: Come people, we can’t eat all this cake!

B: Or can we???

A: I was just typing that.

C: Hahaha…I think you guys will manage.

A: OK, we don’t need help with the cake. Come for the love and wonderful company.

Meanwhile in a personal thread…

E: You look very enthusiastic. Shouldn’t be on Whatsapp.

A second later…

G: I’m workiiiing!!

Voilà a performative contradiction…

E: I understand: “This statement is false…” Just saying that you look very enthusiastic about it.

G: How do you mean?

E: You look bored out of your mind.

Meanwhile in the common thread…

D: You still boot camping?

One second later…

A: Yes.

Another second later…

E: Obviously we’re not. All doing WhatsApp.

Another ten seconds…

Graduate Tutor: People doing the boot camp shouldn’t check their phones for messages.

F: Gosh. Don’t judge us. We’re very productive.

G: http://media.giphy.com/media/xT0BKvIDgNYugS3m3C/giphy.gif

B: I wish! Haha.

At this point I chose to do something worthwhile. Guess where I’m writing this blog post…

The Yale LL.M.: Benjamin Button Baby Blizzard

Thank you, Jonas, says the panda.

Which Panda?

This Panda:


But who is Jonas?

Jonas is a blizzard. In fact, he is a baby blizzard. The baby blizzard that two weekends ago brought the east coast to a halt. It may have been an actual blizzard at Washington or New York.

However, from the perspective of Yale, which, as we have learned over the last semester, is the perspective of the objective truth, it was only a baby blizzard. This is somewhat strange, because the blizzard reached Washington and New York before it hit New Haven. So it regressed from monster storm to blizzard to baby blizzard. I therefore name it BENJAMIN BUTTON BABY BLIZZARD.

Benjamin Button Baby Blizzard finally brought some snow to New Haven and made me very happy. Beautiful thick snowflakes animated by a mild winter wind called for an extended walk through the snowfall.

But guess what?

NOBODY WANTED TO walk WITH ME. All of New Haven hid in their homes. So I proposed to imitate that panda, have a snowball fight and roll around in the snow.

But guess what?


So I too headed home to hide in my bed and have some delicious canned food that I had shopped in preparation of the giant storm. How could I have known that the storm of the century would turn out to be a BENJAMIN BUTTON BABY BLIZZARD?

Once the storm had passed and the sun came out, all of New Haven looked very beautiful. Beautiful enough to lure people from their heated homes into the winterwonderland.

So finally we had our long longed for snowball fight and even went sledding. The latter was due to the initiative of the Yale Law School Sledding Society (YLSSS). Thank you for this brilliant IDEA. Our Brazilian friends, despite being new to this serious business, did wonderfully. I, too, enjoyed the sport the habit of which I had lost long ago. I guess the baby blizzard and the snow-rolling panda brought out our childish side. This is not at all surprising, given the fact that, for the first time in around a decade, we’re part of an actual “class”, mostly hanging out with the same bunch of randomly selected people. So you should know: When at YLS, you will have these moments where you’ll feel like being back in school. This is certainly something Harvard can’t match.

As for the whole blizzard business (which you will have to deal with when spending a winter in New Haven): Don’t let the Americans scare you too much. They’ll hype every baby blizzard into a monster storm. This is surprising: Given the frequency of blizzards and the notoriously cold winters one would expect New Englanders to know how to deal with some snow. My theory is that baby blizzards are intentionally hyped in order to have an excuse for bringing life to a standstill and stay home. An extra day of vacation. Given the few days of paid vacation per year (around 15 on average) this is legitimate self-defense.