Undergrads should not be allowed in the law school library.
Bold? Maybe. Unpopular? Definitely, considering that UF is primarily an undergraduate institution. This is not a statement I make lightly.
But here in the law school, we only have finals once per semester. There are no midterms and no extra credit. We need the lawbrary — and an Olympic pool-sized supply of coffee and Red Bull — because everything’s riding on finals week.
The problem is, undergrads often have finals around the same time as law students. So right when law students need a quiet library the most is when the squawking flocks of undergrads inhabit its every corner, taking up space, filling the parking lot with scooters and walking up and down the aisles looking for empty seats.
I understand the lawbrary has a reputation as a quiet place to study. Unfortunately, when droves of undergrads — clad in tank tops and clutching iced coffees — descend upon the lawbrary, silence becomes a myth that makes a law-school 4.0 seem attainable by comparison.
The unwanted visitors may feel their exaggerated stage whispers are sufficiently silent, but when hordes of undergrads mass in the lawbrary hissing gossip, it sounds like a thousand screaming demons rising from the depths of hell to our stressed-out ears.
For the law students trying to wade through endless Scalia dissents, each cough feels like the blow of a ball-peen hammer. Pro tip: If you’ve recently been diagnosed with tuberculosis, please feel free to study at home.
The many cellphones, set to silent but vibrating vigorously throughout the study area, are like tiny jackhammers disrupting the smooth pavement of my concentration. If you don’t understand that turning off your ringtone doesn’t sufficiently silence your phone, I’m afraid that no amount of studying will help you sprout some common sense.
No matter how quiet they are, it’s not hard to spot the usurpers. The neon red, blue and green of class cheat sheets unmistakably distinguish the undergrads from the library’s rightful inhabitants. True law students yearn for the days when the keys to any class could simply be bought from a storefront in Midtown. But that simply adds to the resentment we feel when we see the disciples of Study Edge spreading their gospel in our lawyerly sanctuary.
And the bathrooms after the undergrads have passed through? It’s as if some enterprising undergrad filled a spackling bucket with rotten eggs, Cantina fish bowls, Italian Gator pizza and several strands of used toilet paper, then dumped it on the bathroom floor and left it to fester for a weekend. The horrors are unspeakable.
Since there’s really nothing we can do, law students are forced to glare meaningfully at the encroaching undergrads.
“She doesn’t even go here!” is a common refrain.
Perhaps it’s unfair to suggest that all undergrads be banned from the lawbrary. It’s likely just a few people who are responsible, so why punish everybody? I agree. If everyone could dredge up the amount of self-control necessary to maintain a peaceful study environment, I would have no complaint.
Since we don’t make the rules, these problems will no doubt continue.
But next time you decide to have a 20-minute conversation in the lawbrary, you’ll know why law students always look so angry.
[Andrew Steadman is a second-year UF law student. A version of this column ran on page 7 on 3/24/2014 under the headline "Law student speaks: Undergrads, stay out of our lawbrary"]