“Auction 007” – A Success for SPIF


The auction co-chairs present at the evening’s festivities.
The auction in full swing in the Ames Courtroom.

Standing firmly on the foundation of an original Langdell Hall brick, the annual Summer Public Interest Funding (SPIF) Auction, held Thursday April 12, successfully raised money to support students who will spend their summer months supporting others.

The theme, James Bond and Auction007, was a natural product of the year 2007 itself. Past themes have included “Alice in Auction-land,” “Lights, Camera, Auction,” and “Auction Dance Fever.”

Bedecked to approximate something between spy-land and a casino, Austin Hall attempted, for one night, to leave most traces of Harvard Law School behind. Balloons, streamers, entertainment, food, and, of course, the ubiquitous alcohol, all added to this effect.

Some students took full advantage of the night, not letting the rain deter them from tuxedos and ball gowns. Even while others did take a more casual route, practicality did not eclipse fashion in all cases; rain boots paired with cocktail dresses were all the rage that evening.

1Ls design, lead, organize, and staff almost the entire event. The only thing they do not seem to do is bid. Almost all of the 350 1L volunteers will be receiving SPIF funding this summer. 2L and 3L participation is limited mostly to contribution of items and services for the actual auction, though past co-chairs and committee chairs do lend some support.

1L co-chair Josh Goodbaum explained a bit of the process.”Both past co-chairs and OPIA, which is a tremendous source of institutional memory, help us, as 1Ls who’ve never attended the Auction, to understand and avoid the many potential pitfalls in an event of this size,” he said. “I think the Auction gets a little smoother and learns a little more, as an organization, each year.”

Professors also traditionally lend an enthusiastic hand or two. Event co-chair 1L Michelle Schaaf said, “We were happy with the number who donated this year, as well as with the number that showed up on auction night! In particular, Professor Warren has consistently been one of the biggest cheerleaders and supporters of the auction, and we were of course excited to have her participation again this year.”

Shaaf also pointed to the posters that captured much attention in the days leading up to the Auction night, in which various professors good-naturedly played the roles of different Bond characters.

“We were also very appreciative of Professor Mann’s and Professor Rakoff’s willingness to help out by posing for the photos used on posters and program materials,” she said. When prodded for details on the making of these posters, especially on suspicions of photo-shopping, Goodbaum admitted, “The cat [being stroked by Dr. Evil] is real and belongs to the photographer, Kyle Glover.”

Some of the most raucous Live Auction bidding surrounded the brick from the original Langdell Hall, donated by alum Edward Simsarian ’50. Simsarian pulled the brick from a pile of rubble and has been using it as a paperweight. Eventually won by Dean of Admissions Toby Stock for $600, Schaaf commented, while “this wasn’t one of the highest raising items, it was probably the one that sold for the most over ‘market value.'”

When asked about his unusual purchase, Dean Stock said, “Look, it’s all about history, a good cause, and a touch of auction-induced insanity.”

“I’ll display it here in my office, which happens to have been Dean Langdell’s once upon a time,” Stock continued. “I think he’d be proud.”

Several more traditional items came with high price tags of their own. Dean Kagan and Professors Tushnet and Mann won a dinner with Professors Wise and Schauer, for $4,500. In addition, Kagan donated a poker night, and when the bidding became ever more intense, she finally offered a second event, one for each bidder, priced at $2,000 each. Professor Clark, bidding through a student proxy, purchased an a cappella concert from the Scales of Justice for $2,000.

When asked if he had personally gone after any items, Goodbaum said, “I didn’t bid. I was a little busy.”

A pre-auction Poker Tournament had been planned to kick-start the other events. But, according to the Auction web-site, “within the past year, the City of Cambridge has passed a local ordinance banning all poker tournaments,” resulting in the tournament’s cancellation.

Though a final tally has not yet been reached, going into last Thursday’s festivities over $80,000 had been raised in donations alone, from approximately 250 firms, corporations, local business, faculty, parents, and alumni. Each year, parent and alumni contributions continue to arrive for several weeks following the Auction, but last year’s event raised $130,000.

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