Auction promises festivities, fundraising


Tonight, you can make the 2002 Class Marshals spend a day in your service or have an HLS professor take notes in one of your classes. You can buy guitar lessons, a weekend in Alaska or a night of clubbing with Prof. Brewer. Or, simply watch your classmates bid recklessly indulgent amounts of money on luxuries they wouldn’t dream of buying somewhere else. This is the 2002 OPIA Auction, after all. Everything – even buying an oh-so-unnecessary foot massage – happens for a good cause.

Over the past nine years, the Auction has raised more than $500,000 to fund student summer public interest work. More than $120,000 was raised last year alone. This year promises a similar windfall.

Though relatively new at HLS, the Auction has already become a tradition, with broad student attendance (more than 600 are expected this year), humorous live auction “themes” (audience members will be asked to figure out a mystery using clues given during the auction) and a good bit of partying. There will be an open beer-and-wine bar (donated, of course), as well as a live band to keep things lively.

“We have over 500 items, which is pretty similar to last year,” said 1L James Gignac, one of the Auction’s four co-chairs. “In terms of volunteers, initially we had like 280, which is a lot more than last year because so many more people were wanting to do public interest this year.”

One-Ls must volunteer a minimum of six hours to the auction to receive summer funding; many have given more.

As the Auction has grown, so has its reputation, with increasingly bizarre items donated by an ever-widening cast of students, faculty, parents and corporations. Although a majority of items are sold in the silent auction, which begins at 5:30 p.m. in Austin, the main event is the live auction in Ames Courtroom at 7:30 p.m., where Profs. Kagan and Barron will auction off the most unusual and highest-ticket items.

In the past, some items have sold for astronomical sums. Yearly classics like Prof. Kagan’s poker game and Prof. Warren’s “Champagne and Compliments” have netted thousands of dollars. Last year, Kagan agreed to hold two poker games after two different groups bid $1,900 for the privilege at the live auction.

“I’ve been surprised how easygoing and sociable the professors have been,” said 1L Mike Wernke, the auction co-chair responsible for submissions from students, parents, staff and faculty. “It’s refreshing.”

Wernke added that he was also impressed by parent participation this year – one family even donated an acupuncture session.

The list of hot-ticket items extends far beyond dinners with professors. Students can bid on sports memorabilia signed by the likes of Mickey Mantle and Michael Jordan, fancy dinners at Boston and Cambridge’s finest restaurants, rides to the airport and a signed “West Wing” script. Fame-seekers will be thrilled by a walk-on role in next year’s Parody, or the opportunity to be on a mock cover of the HLS Bulletin. And whether it’s learning how to make homemade fortune cookies, or having real Southern barbecue shipped straight from Alabama, the Auction has food that will interest everyone.

But the auction is about more than simply bidding.

“The Auction serves two purposes,” said Gignac. “One is to raise money, but it’s just a portion of [the total funding] the Law School provides. The other purpose is to be a celebration of public interest – to build community.”

Gignac stressed that students should be sure to attend the silent auction, where most items are sold. Unlike the live auction, no public competition takes place – students write their bids on sheets of paper and put them in boxes for each item. The highest bid submitted for each donation wins.

“If you really want something, you have to bid high,” Gignac said.

But organizers’ most potent Auction message is simple: It’s supposed to be fun. “Of course, it’s for a good cause,” said Wernke. “But aside from that, it’s going to be a lot of fun. Even if this wasn’t being held as a Law School event, it’d still be a fun thing to go to.”

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