Go Bananas at YLS

October 29, 2010 - 12 AM

A.R., 1L

Like everyone else who reads this blog, before coming to YLS, I heard a lot about the professors here: YLS has one of the lowest student-faculty ratios in the country, students are taught by legal luminaries from Day One, the small group system is a great way to get to know a professor, and the list goes on.

About two months into my first semester as a 1L, I can happily report that generally speaking, this hype is richly deserved.

Torts is a great example. I’m one of the lucky 1Ls that spend five mornings each week (at 8:30am!) in Guido Calabresi’s torts class. Guido – a former dean of YLS, a renowned torts scholar, and a senior judge on the Second Circuit – insists that you call him by his first name, and the atmosphere of his class follows directly from this nod toward informality. Sometimes, cases are explained with detailed diagrams (complete with the kind of stick figures that assure us we should definitely be in law school and not art school), and Guido can often be spotted running across the front of the classroom as he acts out part of a case. Maybe most interestingly, class is punctuated by fascinating digressions: Guido will tell stories (and he has many!) relevant to a particular strand of tort law, usually with an acknowledgement of a former student or his colleagues on the bench or in academia.

On a recent morning, class was a bit different. Guido turned 78 over our fall break, so our class celebrated his birthday on the morning we came back. Sure, we had coffee and donuts, but several people also brought in toy versions of various things that play a role in our course's case readings. For some reason, bananas are an often-mentioned topic in class, as Guido likes to refer to various issues as having a “theological, sociological, or bananalogical” basis. It was only fitting, then, that bananas played a role in our Tuesday morning celebration as well. Someone brought in an almost full-body banana costume, and without missing a beat, Guido put it on and proceeded to teach a normal class, dressed as a giant banana.

My reaction to class that day echoes a number of other writers on this blog: only at YLS.