Of YALIENS and Friends

As I noted before, your year at The Yale Law School will be an altogether transformative experience (see Desperation through Transformation). However, even if, by the end of ten meerkaty months, you may well be a true Yalie, (J)diced and battered, you will still be somewhat of an alien to the JD community.

Combining these two traits you will have become a YALIEN.


(I took this selfie early this afternoon after another attack by the cookie monster. The Grand Cook-I-nquisitor had shoved so many cookies down my throat that, in lack of oxygen, I turned green. If you look more closely, you will also notice that I am wrestling with some cookies trying to make their way back up to where they came from.)

An episode that confirmed that – even after many meerkaty months – it is not always easy to connect to the busy JD-crowd occurred in the wake of another round in the NAME GAME: Pauli Murray, after whom one of the new residential colleges will be named, had been a proud recipient of a JSD (juridical science doctor) degree from The Yale Law School. This small fact stirred a storm of self-congratulation (another WALL candy storm) by some law school officials and students. After the tenth email celebrating YLS for its influential former student, one of the current JSD-candidates, annoyed by the self congratulatory tone, dared to challenge the WALL by asking what in the world this strange “S” in JSD stood for. It sure must have been a typing error. From all she knew, The Yale Law School only awarded JD and PhD degrees.

Hilariously enough, the implicit complaint about the invisibility of the graduate program in the eyes of many JD students didn’t stay unanswered, nor was anyone calling her bluff. Quite to the contrary, one JD, with the earnest eagerness of a choir boy, even did some research and sent around a link to Wikipedia explaining the JSD to be “an advanced research degree, equivalent to a PhD, mostly awarded to non-American raised lawyers”. This piece of research perfectly proved the point: Many JDs don’t take any notice of what else is going on in their law school. To them you will remain YALIENS.

This, however, will not be an actual problem for you. There will be enough LLM, JSD, and MSL students as well as visiting researchers sharing your fate, many of whom you will soon call your friends. This personal closeness is one of the great advantages of being at Yale: Your world-spanning post-LLM-network may not be as impressive as that of a Harvard graduate. However, by the end of the year you will have most certainly found a bustling group of true friends from all around the world. The intensity of the LLM experience at Yale (see YALE’S DRIVEN-NESS) also translates into the personal realm: With the same speed at which people (pre)tend to read here (see THE READING MYTH)

what were mere (Y)ALIENS will soon be your FRIENDS.







While the Yale football team is not famous for exhibiting great sophistication (see The GAME), another game is being cultivated to the highest perfection at Yale:


I have already talked about WALL WARS, Halloween costume scandals, and the perpetual fight for YALEQUALITY. What I haven’t told you is how these debates tend to end. Most fights about intramural justice, fought in the register of inclusion through exclusion, culminate in naming decisions:

How to name new residential colleges? How to label bathrooms (as “men’s”, “women’s” or “gender neutral”)? How to refer to certain college officials? What to print on dollar bills? You should thus expect and prepare yourselves for naming decisions being the epitome of political decisions at Yale.

These recent weeks have seen a new climax of the NAME GAME.

All started with the new 20-dollar-bill being equipped with a portrait of Harriet Tubman, a 19th century Afro-American abolitionist. Although I’m not generally opposed to symbols as a means of political controversy (some people will say that all politics revolve around common meaning and symbols), it tastes somewhat stale to see the fight for more equality being muted by merely symbolic measures. The impression that emancipatory movements are not being taken very seriously is confirmed when one looks more closely at these kinds of decisions: They follow the clearly discernable pattern of trying to appease as many discontent voices as possible by a single decision. Like the “Brave Little Tailor” who slays seven flies “at one blow” Harriet Tubman conveniently covers both, the interests of the Black Community and the women’s rights movement.

This principle is being followed even more ingeniously by the recent decision to name one of Yale’s two new residential colleges after Pauli Murray, a black, queer woman who played an important role in the civil rights movement. Having thus “at a single blow” absolved itself from the moral demands of three persistent disadvantaged identity groups, the University felt entitled to simultaneously settle (negatively) the long disputed issue of renaming “Calhoun College” (named after a glowing 19th century anti-abolitionist and a symbol of the Confederacy) and name the other new residential college after Benjamin Franklin. With this latter decision, the University administration acquiesced to the request of the donor whose 250 million dollar donation (yes, you read correctly) had enabled the construction of the two new residential colleges.

But “Seven at one blow” are clearly not enough. The University administration’s unsurpassed sophistication in playing the NAME GAME becomes even more complete by another decision that was taken last week: The Black Community’s call to officially abandon the honorary title of “master” for the non-academic heads of the residential colleges (for one provocative position in the fight see http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2015/08/28/our-honorable-masters/) was finally heard.

Nevertheless, the discontent over the University’s stand on “Calhoun College” prompted another emotional town hall meeting of the student body. The absurdity of the never ending NAME GAME was achieved by today’s YALE NEWS, delivered by Yale’s President, Peter Salovey, to the Yale student body:

A photograph of him justifying the University’s decision to the student body was subtitled “Salovey listens to student disappointment over naming decision”.(http://news.yale.edu/?utm_source=YNemail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=yn-05-03-16)

What sad state must a debating culture have reached in which it is newsworthy that people listen to one another? I promise: The NAME GAME with all its false and annoying compromises is one of the features of Yale’s culture that will be most difficult to stomach all year. When demands for more diversity and inclusion are met with mostly symbolic naming decisions and the institution of another “diversity committee” (as in the case of Yale Law School), the LLM student as a third party observer cannot but shake his or her head. Absurdity is completed when the underrepresented communities, too, start focusing most of their attention on naming decisions of little consequence.

To my firmest conviction this amounts to taking the bait of the NAME GAME.


In absence of any dragon glass to fight the white walkers of FINAL FINALS (Shame on you, readers of this blog! I would have expected some help and solidarity) I had no choice but to flee as fast as my short legs could carry me.

This flight was quite the plight, given that my legs are sadly fattened by the preposterous amounts of pizza, cookies, and brownies that I have been eating over the course of the past ten months. Yes, you should prepare yourselves for a year of few vitamins, paper plates, and plastic cutlery during which you will distractedly ingest large amounts of not too healthy food while being absorbed by various lunch lectures or other events at the law school.


(These are the miraculous items called “non-plastic cutlery” which you will rarely be seeing during your LLM year.)

While the constant bombardment with IDEAS is very thrilling (see “How to be a meerkat”) it takes your mind off the small details that usually make up a healthy life. But don’t worry: The time here is more than worth any absence of abs (not that there would have been any before coming here…).

It is, however, somewhat questionable whether the daily study breaks during FINAL FINALS, sponsored by various YLS entities (e.g. student groups, Career Development Office aka CDO aka Calorie Development Office), are really a good IDEA. It is certainly not very ORIGINAL to serve the same sweet stuff every day. Moreover it is counter-productive by threatening to stuff the poor student body’s brain capillaries, much needed during finals, with insane amounts of greasy dough. Since students at THE YALE LAW SCHOOL cannot be expected to make responsible choices for themselves, this amounts to luring them into a deadly trap: Slowed down – or worse: immobilized – by cookie dough we will not be able to escape the terrible white walkers of FINAL FINALS. Cookie breaks thus must be understood as being part of a well-orchestrated, epic, and wicked conspiracy against the wellbeing of Yale law students.


(These are the instruments of torture that will be mercilessly applied to your intestines until you cannot move any more.)

cookie monster

(This is the grand inquisitor administering the torture, a representative of the Calorie Development Office.)

Thanks to the COOKIE CONSPIRACY there will thus be no escaping from the white walkers of FINAL FINALS. In order to cope with this fact your only choice will be inner emigration. You will have to use the powers of your inner eye (these inner powers tend to be much better developed among Yale LLMs than their abs) in order to resuscitate the happy days of mid-April, when spring was finally conquering the streets of New Haven. This faint and far-removed memory of cherry blossom may hopefully carry you through the plight of FINAL FINALS.


With “Game of Thrones” returning to the long-deserted TV-screens of its fan community we LLMs are beginning to realize that this year approaches its end. Alas, they were turbulent times full of tears and tiredness!

As for the latest and most devastating development: The BRAZILIAN PALACE was burned to the ground by a legendary prom-after-party (our few remaining brain cells refer to it as the “red wedding”) and is now uninhabitable. The feudal landlord of the Brazilian dwellings declared a permanent ban on joyful festivities on his lands.

Tearful we’re now fearful for the fate of all our future feasts.

These feasts will indeed be numerous in the weeks to come, while our deeds become less. While we selfishly petition for the reinterpretation of Yale’s ORIGINALISM in order to dispose of our duties with minimal effort, one end-of-the-year-celebration chases the next. Picture day chases prom chases graduate luncheon chases law school picnic chases graduation banquet chases spring fling chases end of class chases bling bling.


This marathon of farewells has caused tears in some of us:

One of our Brazilians seemed quite moved by every picture that we took; maybe this was only the distant repercussions of her pain of being expelled from her Brazilian dwellings; maybe, however, cameras are conceived as frightening and magic objects in Brazil; this latter theory seems to be one that fits very well with Yale’s PRIDE IN PREJUDICE; I will not ask her to confirm, since this could defeat my theory.

While having inspired tears in some, this marathon of farewells has most certainly tired all of us. The academic year had already been sufficiently meerkat-y (see “How to be a meerkat”) and reading-intensive (see “The reading myth”) in order to exhaust us all. Now the crazy pace of Yale (see “Yale’s Driven-ness”) has added to the menu an impressing and breathtaking battery of celebrations.


(Announcement by the chef general: In order to not waste food and to use the vastly available resource of battered LLMs the dining hall has recently changed the menu from “(J)diced LLM in its own jus” to “battered LLM with a side of fries and cole slaw”.)

And for the most shocking news: In the midst of all this agony of celebrations evil powers have been resuscitated: I’m not talking of John Snow (uncontested winner in the category of “epitome of annoying boringness”) but of FINALS (runner-up in the category “epitome of annoying boringness”). Already on the first day of exam period playless-ness and seriousness have crept up from their deeply dug tombs, singing their devastating song of “NOBODY WANTS TO PLAY WITH YOU, Johannes!”. I do not know whether I will be able to contain these wicked White Walkers. If we do not fight them, most likely they will soon have subjugated the entire LLM class. I am deeply troubled by these prospects for the days to come.

Somebody please

give me dragon glass;

so I can drink in peace

with my LLM class!