Thursday, October 2, 2014

School is IN!

The semester starts here on October 1 and runs through February.  Weirdly the semester runs STRAIGHT through Christmas.  Don't believe me?  Here's the December, 2013 University of Ljubljana schedule:

There's vacation the first week of December and then two days off for Christmas!  And there is class on the 24th and the 31st!  Apparently "some faculty" cancel and reschedule, but among the hardcore, old school folks they teach straight through.  Needless to say I'm cancelling.

I am super psyched to have school back in session.  There was a great energy here in August with tourists buzzing around and daily festivals, and then it got a little quieter in September.  With the students back in town the buzz is back, and even better with that special university town energy.  Here's students milling in the hallway and flowing out of the law school for lunch yesterday:

 Ljubljana's population is roughly 270,000 and the University's enrollment is over 60,000 at full strength, so while it is a capital city with its own business culture, it is DEFINITELY a college town, in all of the best ways.  Lots of coffee shops and bookstores, lots of earnest students studying or thinking deep thoughts, and a million bars.

I am teaching Comparative Law, with a focus on the American system.  I actually know quite a bit about one of those topics, and I'm working actively on the other!  I have ~30 students, all in their last year or two of law school.  They have me in a really nice Seminar room.  Here's the view of the blackboard and the seats:

It's a really nice room, although I miss my trusty 241 at the law school.  It's hard to have everyone face me, the classrooms I use at UT are all more "in the round."

Still, I'm endeavoring to recreate an American experience, with more or less success.  I told the students that I was planning on being extra-American as part of the comparative law experience, threatening to "turn my American right up to 11."  Unsurprisingly no one got my idiomatic reference to a movie from 20 years ago, but I assume that is all part of the Ben Barton comparative law experience.

I think most of the senior people here lecture only, and sometimes for as long as three continuous hours, so I think my sheer weirdness and interactivity will please at least some of the students.  When I worry that I'm going to bomb I remember the statue of Martin Pegius, who was a legal scholar in the 16th century, that sits outside the law school:
I figure it can't be too hard to be more cheerful than that guy.  That said, it turns out that he was a way more interesting professor than I am.  He was apparently a legal scholar but also an astronomer and he and his second wife got very into weird astrology stuff and black magic and fortune telling late in life.  They were both imprisoned and executed for being witches.  Hopefully I will follow a different path in my non-traditional law teaching.

I did a lot of the usual goofy stuff I do in the US, including letting the students vote on policies and procedures and having them introduce themselves and explain why they were taking the class (which I always do in seminars, which this sort of is).  There are no official photos of the students, so I actually took a picture of each of them so I can try to memorize their names.  Here's the model picture of me, actually mid-teaching:
And I share this kind student's enthusiasm.  Glad to be back in the classroom and after day one so far so good:


  1. Ben, I really struggled in my research there (as you know, IANAL) with the difference between US and Slovene law, especially the administrative nature of Slovene law. It was mystifying to this untrained American that it was possible that something could be "not allowed" but still be legal. Different tradition?

  2. Mary-Claire BartonOctober 3, 2014 at 10:09 PM

    A+ Ben......(the only one I have given this week!). To meet a 16th century law scholar...who despite his witch status and execution, has lived on long enough to interest you, is amazing. If only he could return and come upon a world of computers and space stations and a slightly renegade American scholar. Nice continuity. Keep your blogs coming!

  3. Nice! Go enthusiastic student and professor-- The only accolade you have left is to win best Law Professor... in SOLVENIA