Ritual Sacrifice Is Not Only Fun, It’s Efficient!


It’s that time of year again when the Fall doldrums set in and we start the long, cold march towards Thanksgiving. A time when classes, once really fresh and exciting on a deep intellectual level, have descended into unending monotony. When our casebooks, once impressive volumes that we imagined standing on a shelf behind us while we projected an image of cool outrage and professional competence to the cameras, start looking merely pretentious and extremely heavy. When we start to think that it’s worthwhile to cancel classes on Columbus Day, a monumentally stupid holiday for more reasons than I can possibly enumerate, solely because we really, really want a Monday off.

It’s also a time when the school’s odd quirks, things that at first seemed merely annoying or, perhaps, even charming become increasingly maddening. This makes it a good time to, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, start considering some reforms that could mix it up a little and make the shorter fall days a little more pleasant for everyone. Since my editor gently informed me that my original column, “Some Things That Would Personally Convenience Me,” may not carry the heft I was looking for, I decided on an alternate offering, a proposal that will, if adopted, affect the quality of life for the school as a whole. ( This means that it doesn’t address the fact that undergraduates mob the Hemenway Gym or that the coffee in Pound is always out when I head in for my 10:30 class. Seriously, though, what’s with those things, anyway?) In a moment, I’ll present my modest proposal. But first, some background.

Last summer, in a desperate bid to clear my system of all things legal before school began, I trekked into the Guatemala jungle (read: took a minibus) to see some fantastically impressive Mayan ruins. The stone palaces and temples towering above the trees were great. But what really caught my attention was an ancient ball court where the Mayans played a game that I always picture to be like croquet, but probably actually wasn’t. According to my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook, these games ended in grisly human sacrifices – of the winners, the losers, or captives forced to play against the ruling elite (and I’ll let you guess which one of those last two groups was offered up to the gods). Admittedly, my guidebook appears to be on the archaeologically dubious side, but I think we can all agree that all these outcomes sound like great ideas regardless.

What really caught my attention, though, was the idea of sacrificing the winners. Counterintuitive at first, sure, and perhaps not great for the gene pool. But imagine the sociological implications of offing the healthiest and most athletic segment of your population. They’re fascinating! And it turns out the economic implications are no less interesting.

They’re also why the law school should, effective immediately, begin offering up the highest scorers on the Law Review write-on competition as a gift to the gods of the school’s choice. This would, of course, have all the obvious benefits. The annual ritual would be a great way to bring the school community together and welcome new students to the fold each August (and really, it could hardly be any messier than HLCentral’s annual event at the Kong).

The extra divine will would greatly improve operations in the Registrar’s Office. And if last year’s class registration debacle and the Great Grades Vigil of ’06, of which we will surely be telling our grandchildren 50 years hence, taught us anything, it’s that the small mammals they’re apparently currently eviscerating clearly aren’t keeping things running smoothly anymore.

But there would be additional benefits as well. Most importantly, the elimination of the smartest and most diligent students would lower the curve for the rest of us, allowing us 2Ls to coast through our classes in the lazy stupor we crave. There would be no more waiting till 3L year to tune out completely! The future is now!

I know, I know, you’re saying “Why would people even take the Law Review competition if they knew they had a shot of being ritually sacrificed, much less try to score well on it?” It’s simple really. First, ancient Mesoamerican beliefs hold that those sacrificed gain automatic entrance to the highest level of the afterlife, creating a win-win situation. It would be just like getting a really prestigious clerkship (except different). Second, recent studies show that as many as 97% of HLS students possess a rare genetic deformity that makes them physically incapable of opting out of prestigious experiences due to mere risk to life and limb.

We haven’t gotten to the First Amendment in my Constitutional Law class yet, so I’m afraid I can’t analyze the legal soundness of this plan in light of constitutional guarantees of religious freedom. But if we implement it retroactively, I’m hoping we’ll drop the curve enough that I’ll never have to.

Katie Mapes, 2L, likes everyone on the Law Review and also her Constitutional Law class.