Following the Unexpected

BY JEFF JAMISON

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Following the unexpected closing of the Office of Student Life two years ago, members of the progressive coalition began working with the law school administration to help increase input from students on matters that affect the HLS community. Overall, there has been tremendous progress, including increased dialogue, changes to various policies and the recent focus groups on the curriculum. While the progress has been positive (or else it would not be progress right?), a recent addition to the Hark demonstrates just far we still have to go. I am not referring to the fancy new shallow pond, I mean, ice skating rink. Nor is my attention focused on the flat panel TV screens that provide as much entertainment as the TV Guide channel. Ladies and gentlemen, the change that I am alluding to is much more fundamental, which may speak to greater changes on the horizon. I am sure that the administration thought they could sneak this change past us, so as to avoid public outcry. There was no e-mail from Dean Cosgrove heralding this fundamental change to the Hark infastructure. Nothing in Flashmod or the Advisor either… Yes, I am speaking of the ground-breaking toilet flushing technology recently installed in the men’s restroom in the Hark. Note that this columnist can not speak authoritatively about the women’s bathroom, despite repeated “research attempts” and new restraining orders. It is unclear how many nuclear scientists or engineers/soon to be patent lawyers it took to develop this technology, but it has to be the greatest advancement bathroom technology since urinal cakes (mmmm cakes….).

For those of you unfamiliar with this breakthrough in bathroom technology, here how it works: If there is liquid waste and/or “light paper waste” (like my FYL memos) in the toilet, you tilt the handle up and if there is “solid waste” in the toilet, you tilt the handle down. Apparently, this magic green handle can then control the amount of water that is actually flushed. This researcher was afraid to test tilting the handle in other than the prescribed manner. What if, instead of tilting the handle up or down, I got reckless and did something crazy like twisting the handle or pushing it forward or back? Would a hole in the wall open, revealing the mythical faculty bathroom of Narnia, complete with gold-plated urinals and toilets?

Could this be Dean Kagan’s next major HLS renovation project? There have been hints at a major bathroom renovation. Recently the combination locks on the bathroom doors in Austin were disengaged (that combination was one of the most important things I learned during my first month at HLS — that and don’t kick someone with a leg made out of an eggshell). And now this.

What is next? My vote is flat panel screens in the bathroom (those would be more useful to some of us than the screens on the fitness equipment in Heminway), or at least double ply toilet paper-Dean Kagan, if you are reading this column…you really should be doing something more important with your time. Afer all, Yale has had two-ply toilet paper since like 1999.

As the Harvard police escorted me out of the bathroom for “lingering,” the line between lingering and research being very thin sometimes, I caught the carefully laminated sign from the facilities department explaining how to flush the toilet and encouraging the use of this new magical invention. They asked that we flush properly to “protect our most valuable resource.” At first, I assumed that the resource was water and that this new flush system was a major victory for the environmental groups on campus. I understand that in exchange for this concession these groups are canceling their planned protest of the ice skating rink– an asphaltcapades in the ILS parking lot. What if the resource is not water? I mean the handle is green… Water is not green… And if it is, you should flush twice.

The sign was reminiscent of the signs I remember seeing in hotels during flyout week-hourly rates available. Note the signs that encourage you to re-use your towels and sheets to help protect the environment. First off, I have seen those specials on hotel cleanliness and I want my towels and sheets washed as often as possible, Second, by only washing the sheets on my bed at home only 3 or 4 times during the nineties, I did my part already.

As Judge Posner will tell you, it is all about the economics of it all (see forthcoming journal article, “The Law and Economics of the Hotel Industry: How to Never Buy Shampoo Again”). The hotels do it to save money on labor, supplies and water bills. If they were truly concerned about the environment, they would not charge me for “recycling” the items in the mini bar (a tip, water and vodka look incredibly similar, and no one can tell the difference between Evian and tap water, which is why Evian spelled backwards is naive).

Okay, far be it for me to suggest that HLS is being cheap with its resources, except when it comes to my financial aid package. So the big question is what is the resource that we are protecting? If it is the environment, why are these toilets only in the Hark? Perhaps it is to stem the spread of the Bird Flu? The green handles on these toilets are “anti-bacterial.” Aren’t all toilet handles anti-bacterial? And if not, well that is just a little something for you germ-phobes to dwell on. Maybe these toilets are part of a secret experiment to test our concern about the environment as a correlative to whether we need more environmental law courses? Could this just be a 3L paper gone awry? Perhaps this is prank perpetrated by those wacky Yallies who taunt use with their two-ply toilet paper.

My point to all of this? Perhaps a cry for help? Or an attempt to fill column space in the Record? No, my friends, I contend that there is important message here…Give me a second, oh yeah. We should not simply accept changes as presented to us by the HLS administration. We should not be lulled by better facilities, free coffee, that great slip and slide outside the Hark and those delicious cream cheese brownies (mmmm…. brownies) that they hand out at events like “$10,000 casino chips” in Jack Abramoff’s office. Were we consulted on this change? Is this another office of student life incident? We cannot accept important changes to our community without being heard. We must rise up and be heard! Of course, finish “your business” before standing up.

Jeff Jamison is a 3L with clearly too much time on his hands and avoiding his 3L paper, which he promises is not related to the green handled toilets.

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