Welcome to the first day of the rest of your semester


“Mr. Smith, is my interminable speech about the attendance policy keeping you awake?”

Good morning. I am Professor Lawreview N. Supremecourtclerkship, and this is Space Law. Welcome. If you’re not signed up for this course, see me after class and I’ll put your name on a sheet of paper I will intend to bring to the registrar, but instead will accidentally drop down the sewer grate.

What I want to do this morning is get all of the procedural stuff out of the way. Then I want to jump right into the first assignment, which I’m sure you’ve all read even though the bookstore hasn’t ordered the casebooks yet.

As far as seating goes, I notice you’ve filled the room starting from the back, meaning that there’s not a seat free in the back two rows, yet the first seven rows have just two people in them. If I were bold enough, I’d tell everyone to move down and fill the bottom few rows; instead, I’ll just act like I don’t notice, and wander aimlessly around the room while I teach.

I’ll expect everyone to be prepared for every class. To that end, I will assign a panel in advance of each session, and those are the only people who will be called on. I’ll assign you to panels based on whether or not you volunteer; people who do not volunteer will very likely find themselves not on a panel. This will not affect your grade.

There are some topics that are particularly dense, that I’ll just have to speed through at a pace too fast for you to learn them. This will waste both my time and yours. Other topics are less doctrinal and more public policy-oriented. For those, I’ll bring in my new mp3 player and open up the floor for discussion while I check out the new John Mayer album. There are a few topics that are so dismal that I will cancel class at the last minute and expect you to learn them on your own.

Attendance in class is mandatory unless you’re not here, in which case it’s optional. Please don’t e-mail me regarding an expected absence from class. I have no reason to care. The final exam will be hard, and hardly read. Your grade will be based exclusively on the ratio of consonants to vowels in your last name.

A few times during the semester, I will print out a new syllabus that is identical to the old one, but I will insist there’s something different about it. On the occasions that I do make a change in the syllabus, I will not tell you and will not print out any copies for you. Occasionally I will provide handouts in class. For these, I will make approximately three-quarters of the number of copies I need, and usually touch them while they’re still hot so the ink smears.

I plan on using the overhead projector a bit, but I will make sure not to plug it in so that I can spend 20 minutes at the beginning of class futzing around with it. On the rare occasion I have a video to show, there is no reason to expect I will actually get it to play, and if I can, more likely than not, it will be a video of my wife and me in a compromising position. In the alternative, it may be a video of me and one of your classmates in a similar position.

The casebook for the class is “Space Law.” I wrote it three years ago and it’s now in its fifteenth edition. Every three weeks, a new edition will come out and you will have to buy a new copy. This is required. Version 8 of the syllabus, which you should all have, goes into more detail.

There is a paper requirement for the course that I will not enforce. There will also be a five-minute break in the middle of class so I can take another anti-depressant before continuing. There’s a sign-up sheet outside my office for anyone who wants to go to lunch with me. I can’t imagine why you would. I’m available for third-year paper advising. My wife just left me. See you tomorrow.

Jeremy Blachman’s column appears weekly. He posts daily commentary at


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