Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Barack Obama's Years at the University of Chicago Law School

The NYT published an interesting profile of Barack Obama’s years at the University of Chicago Law School in Teaching Law, Testing Ideas, Obama Stood Apart. It chronicled the 12 years that he spent as a lecturer, offering classes on constitutional law, voting rights, and campaign finance law, and a seminar on racism. (Click here for statement regarding Barack Obama from the University of Chicago Law School website). Obama’s wife Michelle recently criticized the law school experience as narrowing instead of broadening one’s perspectives. (Click here to read the full interview). From everything that I read, it doesn’t appear that was the case in Barack Obama’s classroom.

From the article:

At a formal institution, Barack Obama was a loose presence, joking with students about their romantic prospects, using first names, referring to case law one moment and “The Godfather” the next. He was also an enigmatic one, often leaving fellow faculty members guessing about his precise views.

Of particular interest, the article includes links to a syllabus and several exams from his classes.

My hat is off to Obama for being offered a tenured position without meeting the University of Chicago’s strenuous tenure requirements. Chicago has a reputation of being a hardcore legal academic institution that doesn’t offer tenure lightly, particularly to a candidate who hasn’t published any legal scholarship. Given that Obama published nothing whatsoever and was offered tenure upon hire is feat indeed.

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