Author Archives: ntr11

“Obnoxiously Optimistic”: A Conversation with SBA President Sandor Callahan

 It seems unnecessary to introduce our SBA president, because you probably already know who he is.  I’ll do it anyways. Sandor Callahan, a 3L, is everywhere: outside playing soccer on the quad, working at the Office of Residence Life at Gewirz,  hanging out in Hotung lobby, shouting a hello to you as you come through the revolving doors at Sport & Fitness (Do you know him?  Doesn’t matter.).  Sandor, who describes himself as “obnoxiously optimistic,” is standing at the helm of an award-winning Student Bar Association and frames his service as the highlight of his time at Georgetown. I believe him.  As last year’s Vice President, he’s familiar with the SBA’s capabilities and has several overarching goals that shape his presidency.  Chief among them is the development of a forum for students to participate in an ongoing dialogue regarding current events and concerns within the community.  The SBA’s form and function make this and other goals attainable possibilities.

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SBA Open Forum Discusses Faculty E-Mails

While a substantial portion of last Tuesday’s SBA meeting covered topics such as staplers next to (or within!) printers,  the upcoming expiration of our resident Subway’s contract, bike racks, and not the least, a resolution on diversity and inclusion, a bit of a shadow seemed to loom over the first segment of the agenda as the representatives awaited the inevitable.  In the wake of the recent spate of e-mails following the death of Justice Scalia, the agenda was split between reactions to the faculty’s use of the GULC e-mail as an appropriate forum for the discourse and the SBA president’s public response to the discussion.

The debate regarding professors’ use of e-mail to publicize their reactions to both Scalia’s death and GULC’s subsequent press release seemed to reflect an even split.  Many questioned the policies in place for obtaining permission to e-mail the entire student body, remarking on the difficulty of securing permission for the most mundane of announcements, while others voiced concern that student exclusion from such a dialogue would be a grave wrong.  This in turn generated a discussion regarding the availability of other platforms of debate, such as town halls that have taken place in the past on the main campus (such as last year).  Several representatives brought up the need to preserve the Law Center’s reputation in the eyes of incoming students and donors, but the room was divided on whether the e-mail chain did in fact do so, or just the opposite.  To this end, many felt that their constituents were marginalized by Dean Treanor’s statement, and that Professor Peller’s e-mail, were uniquely positioned to articulate their displeasure.  Others countered that the back-and-forth represented a petty melodrama best kept private.  One representative bemoaned the implication of student impressionability underlying several of the e-mails.  The overwhelming theme that permeated the debate was the valuation of civil discourse: it was the form that discourse might take that provided the fodder for debate.

Due to the discussion’s relatively wide coverage, SBA President Rachel Morris crafted a message to be included in the organization’s weekly e-mail update, which provided the substance of the second half of the debate that evening.  It lauded Scalia as a “brilliant … disciplined and principled jurist who held the Court, our Constitution, and this great nation in the highest esteem.”  In a nod to the parties outraged by Dean Treanor’s original press release, Morris reminded the student body that “whether we agree with another’s thinking or they challenge our own thinking, we are fortunate to attend an academic institution whose strength in part derives from the respect for diversity of thought.”  She then referenced the friendship between Justices Scalia and Ginsburg as a parallel for the discourse that’s swept the campus over the past few weeks.

This latest iteration in a discussion that seems to be gaining force as it becomes further chronologically removed from its genesis proved a step too far for several members of the Association.  One representative stated that because Morris was elected as representative of the student body, her choice to speak decisively for the community was inappropriate.  Another retorted that precisely because  Morris is president, she is entitled to speak for the students, and urged any student feeling underrepresented to cast his or her vote for SBA president next year in a manner that would reflect this disenchantment.  An overwhelming majority of the representatives at the meeting pointed to the address formulated by the Black Law Students Association as an appropriate and commendable response to the discourse.

The letter (which can be found here), states that “while we support an individual student’s choice to mourn, it must also be acknowledged that Justice Scalia’s legacy affects us in vastly different ways. As a result, some of the viewpoints expressed in the email exchange were disheartening for many in our membership. It is our hope that we can be candid with our community in this letter regarding those sentiments, and as a result, foster an environment of greater inclusiveness at Georgetown Law.”  The address went on to examine Professor Rosenkranz’s and Barnett’s depiction of 1Ls who might be “traumatized, hurt, shaken, and angry” following Professor Peller’s e-mail, and pointed out that many Black Students would fit the same description following the “callous, ill-formed analogy to the legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall in [Rosenkranz’s and Barnett’s] email response.”  It also referenced comments made by Justice Scalia months prior to his death regarding  affirmative action, concluding that “in the same spirit of understanding and empathy called for by professors, and given Justice Scalia’s often polarizing, offensive and intolerant stances, we ask that an individual’s decision of whether or not to mourn be equally respected.”

While it’s difficult to say if any conclusions were reached by the close of meeting, what was abundantly clear throughout was the overarching sense that SBA representatives take their positions as the student body’s voice very seriously.  While the conversation was at times heated and sometimes colorful, the diversity of viewpoints and the respectfulness of the commentary perhaps reflected the civil discourse that the students seem to be requesting of their faculty.

Audio recordings of SBA meetings are available on their website.  

 

EJF kicks off fundraising with Wonderland Auction

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On Thursday, February 4, the Equal Justice Foundation held its annual auction in order to raise funds for students who will be dedicating their summers to public service.  On Friday, February 5, several pockets were lighter– here’s to you, $1,200 donor for a game night with Fran DeLaurentis– but the overwhelming majority of attendees were innumerably richer.  In funding, perhaps, but in spirit, certainly.  Not only were participants treated to whimsically-themed baked goods, chicken wings and sangria, but they were also serenaded by the dulcet tones of one Marty Lederman: professor of Constitutional Law, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, and most notably, Taylor Swift aficionado.

The Equal Justice Foundation is a student organization that provides guaranteed funding for Georgetown students that are spending their summers in unpaid public interest positions.  The proceeds from this annual fundraising event bolster the funds that students receive.

As attendees filed into Hart Auditorium early that evening, they were given the opportunity to enroll in a door prize drawing which included several Barbri prep course coupons and one all-inclusive Royal Caribbean Cruise.  Bidding paddles were distributed and refreshments provided for the arduous journey downstairs, all of which (aside from perhaps the chicken wings) were in keeping with the Alice and Wonderland theme that permeated the night.  Much like Alice, I did in fact feel that I was growing as I finished my fifth baked good, which I can only speculate was the intention of the planning committee.  And O!  The baked goods!  There were brownies, there were miniature pies, there were cookies of all shapes and sizes.  After sampling the smorgasbord, participants reluctantly made their way from the refreshments to the auction hall, née Hart Auditorium, ushered in by the harmonies of EJF member Joel Nolette.

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A Chat with Leslie de Leon, Director of Business Services

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct the link to the survey that GULC students and staff may use to provide feedback.  If interested, take a look at the survey here. 

Although you may not know her, you certainly know her work: the new patio complete with herb walls and a fountain, new furniture in the Market Café, the implementation of several notable food delivery innovations, and perhaps a few e-mails regarding EMV transitions.  As Director of Business Services and Auxiliary Operations, Leslie de Leon is behind the scenes of most of the major changes that have taken place within dining services over the past year.  Clearly passionate about her work and serving the students at Georgetown Law, Leslie sat down with me a week ago to discuss these changes and the forces behind them.

GULC  has contracted out its dining services to Bon Appetit Management Company for the past 14 years.  De Leon notes that as Bon Appetit, based in Palo Alto, California,  services companies such as Amazon and Google (not to mention numerous other universities, museums, and corporations), “the values are there.”  She’s right– Bon Appetit’s food is made from scratch and sourced locally, while individual chefs are given the freedom to create and serve at their discretion.  This discretion, however, is tempered by the company’s long and exacting list of standards that must be met by the chosen ingredients; one such standard, for example, requires chefs to source at least 20% of their ingredients within 150 miles.  De Leon points out that while Bon Appetit’s commitment to sustainability and local sourcing is admirable, students’ exit surveys and wish lists over the past year indicated that changes were necessary, and she took action.

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