Learning to Love the Law

By Terri Coop

In 1995, my engineering career was cut short by mass layoffs. I decided to go to law school. I was 35, ready to downsize, and made what I now know was a really stupid choice.
I decided to live in the dorm.

Quit laughing! It seemed perfect. Newly remodeled, single rooms, parking, dining hall, walking distance to my daily classes, and no bathroom to clean.

Resident Assistants and rules to ensure a harmonious communal living environment.

I said stop laughing!

Never having studied anthropology, I was unacquainted with the sub-species undergradis-idiotus and had spent little time with this odd primate in its natural habitat.

It wasn’t the stereos. As an adult, my system beat anything they could throw at me. I see your gangsta rap and raise you Waylon Jennings (to watch their little hipster heads explode). It wasn’t my upstairs neighbor and her boyfriend (squeak, squeak, SQUEAKSQUEAKSQUEAK, squeak, silence (oops).)

No, it was the inability of these young ladies, these future arbiters of fashion and captains of industry, these mothers of generations yet unborn, to walk like upright homo-sapiens.

There were the horses: “clippity-clomp, clippity-clomp, clippity-CLOMP.”

The buffalos: “STOMP STOMP STOMP.”

The Doppler air-raid sirens: “sssssscccccrrrrRREEEEEEEEEEEAAaaaaammmmmmm.”

Next door was a biology graduate student. She left after scoring a fellowship. It seemed that being on a trawler in the Arctic Circle beat dorm life.

My petition for contract release was denied. So, I learned to love the law while loathing the dorm.  

::cue college memories::

Hearing the usual ruckus in the hall, I stepped out of my room and saw the RAs screeching, “fly little butterfly, be free,” while galloping up and down the hall flapping their arms. The rule-enforcers greeted my gobsmacked expression with sullen muttering.

I was leaving for class when a girl skipped (yes, skipped) past, carrying a laundry basket. I said she might want to slow down. Glaring at me, she said she was in a hurry. I pointed down the hall at the line of laundry that had bounced out of her basket with every skip and told her then she’d better hurry. Cue pouty silence and resentful collection of scattered thongs.

Poor things. They’d escaped to college only to have their mom move in across the hall.

The final straw came at dark-thirty in the morning during midterms. A flock had gathered in the study room (supposedly closed at eleven) and every time they mastered something, they celebrated with a clap/stomp/scream cheerleader routine. Awake now, I gave them the law-student-glare-of-death as I shuffled to the bathroom.

The next day the dorm president summoned me and said the girls had filed a complaint against me for (wait for it) racial discrimination and harassment. Campus hate crimes.

I was told to appear before a student court on Monday. After I stopped laughing, I told her I wouldn’t be there, it was exam week at the real school and to get back to me when they rescheduled. She seemed quite nonplussed that being called a Klansman didn’t seem to bother me.

I never did get another hearing date. However, I did get a letter saying that my appeal (which I had never filed) was granted and I was free to leave the dorm. Next year when the school catalogs came out, they prominently read that graduate students were welcome only in campus apartments.


  1. I never lived in a dorm when I went to college. Husband says it was an experience like no other. Perhaps ignorance is bliss. :) Glad you made it out alive!

  2. Oh Terri! LOL! Sorry, I'm not laughing *at* you. Honestly, I'm laughing *with* you! When I went back to school at age 40, I was the least liked person in most of my classes. I can't imagine having to live in the same building as my classmates. I don't think all of us would have made it out alive.



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