A Message from Dean West

Many Voices, One Michigan

Michigan Law always hosts a rich array of speakers and activities. This semester has been exceptionally vibrant. In recent weeks, the Law School welcomed alumni home to the Quad for the second African American Alumni Reunion. We hosted the biennial Environmental Law and Policy Program Conference, which this year brought together all seven former chiefs of the DOJ’s environmental crimes section (as well as the current chief) to discuss environmental criminal enforcement. We hosted dignitaries from around the world for the biennial Colloquium on Challenges in International Refugee Law, in which participants drafted the Michigan Guidelines on the International Protection of Refugees. And we welcomed the justices of the European Court of Justice for two days of discussions with our faculty and students, both in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

These events happened, of course, in concurrence with the cornerstones of our semester: the 39th annual Student Funded Fellowships Auction, which raised a record amount this year; the 92nd annual Campbell Moot Court Competition; the 39th annual Alden J. “Butch” Carpenter Banquet; the Juan Luis Tienda Banquet; the Origins Banquet; and so much more.

In the midst of all these events, we launched the Problem Solving Initiative (PSI). This exciting new curriculum taps into the University’s unparalleled breadth of excellence, and tasks students with finding interdisciplinary solutions to complex global problems.

As one professor put it, the instructors do not sit back hiding the answers because they don’t have the answers. The professors are hands-on facilitators, conveners, and project leaders, but students ultimately are the ones gaining experience as problem solvers. Student response has been very positive, and our expanded offerings for fall filled quickly. Read more about PSI here.

In January, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Susanne Baer, LLM ’93, of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany visited Ann Arbor to headline the first President’s Bicentennial Colloquium. During their visit, both justices talked about the dynamics within their respective courts. They stressed that even justices with polarized beliefs and a lot on the line can maintain personal friendships because they are bound together by a common love of country, and their discourse is grounded in respect. Justice Baer garnered a huge round of applause when she said, “Be forceful in your argument, but respect the other as a legitimate voice—even when it seems that voice comes from another planet.”

That ideal is essential to being a good citizen and a good lawyer. At Michigan Law, I am proud that we are training both.

Mark D. West
Nippon Life Professor of Law

The Psurfs Sing

Members of The Psurfs, the vocal group at the Law School in the middle of the last century, could do more than carry a tune; they also could explain the group’s origin with wryness and wit. “Early in 1941, a small band of law students, seeking diversion from the tedium of legal study, organized an outing association named: ‘The Ann Arbor Surf-Board Riding and Mountain Climbing Society.’ Almost from its inception, however, it appeared that the society would be frustrated in its purpose due to geographic location. To avoid an early stymie a revised charter was therefore adopted incorporating singing as the main activity,” state the notes on the jacket of the vinyl record produced by the group in 1955. The “p” at the beginning of the group’s name stands for “pseudo,” the record jacket also clarifies.