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SFF Auction Recap

SFF Auction: Dancing, Bidding, and Singing Off-Key, For a Good Cause

By Katie Vloet
March 25, 2013

Law School Economics 101: Getting the dean of admissions to make dinner for you and six friends is worth $1,300. A game of whirlyball with professors is worth $700, while a game of curling goes for $1,100. The lesson: Food is worth more than a ridiculous sport that involves brooms. Both are worth more than a ridiculous game that combines bumpercars, lacrosse, and basketball.

Another lesson: Michigan Law professors are, for the most part, great sports, but terrible dancers (it would be wrong to single out Professor John Pottow here).

Those lessons were on display at the annual Student Funded Fellowships (SFF) Auction at Michigan Law on March 21 (view an image gallery). The student organization raises money to provide grants to 1L students who take unpaid or low-paying public interest summer internships.

During this year's auction, they raised a total of $21,680 during the live auction, and another $18,071 from the silent auction (both were significant increases over last year, which was impacted by a tornado that touched down just west of Ann Arbor an hour before the live auction was scheduled to begin). SFF also awarded the annual A.W. Brian Simpson Award to Law School Facilities Manager Lois Harden, who, said SFF Board Co-Chair Anne Shaughnessy, "has tirelessly dedicated her time and energy to SFF over the years."

The biggest-ticket item was a week in Lake Tahoe, plus $500 in cash thrown in by Professor Robert Hirshon, which sold for $2,500. A week in Kauai went for $2,300, and a week in Manhattan Beach, California, topped out at $1,900.

A one-day Warrior Boot Camp with Professor Len Niehoff was auctioned by Professor Gil Seinfeld, who said, "You get to shoot things! You get to drink! You get to go to biker bars! You get to learn how to kick people's asses!" The item went for $1,050, not including an extra $253 that was spontaneously collected from audience members while Prof. Niehoff broke three boards—with his bare hand—at the front of the room. This is the professor you want to teach you how to be a warrior, people.

A few more highlights:

  • To raise the bidding on their trip to a karaoke bar with a group of students, professors Pottow and Sonja Starr performed "Summer Nights" from "Grease." Prof. Pottow was, it's safe to say, the only renowned bankruptcy expert in the world, on this or any other day, singing "we made out, under the dock" in front of his students.


  • 10:20 p.m.: Unscheduled dance break. 10:21 p.m.: The music stops. The dancing continues.


  • After Prof. Hirshon kicked in an extra $500 for the Kauai trip, Prof. Seinfeld urged the bidders to go higher. They conferred before going up an extra $100 from the prevailing bid of $1,900, with Prof. Seinfeld goading them for not recognizing that they'd actually come out ahead, given the extra money that was added. "We have a failure of elementary mathematics. If you don't go to $2,000 at this point, your professors are all going to give you Fs."


  • Prof. Seinfeld also led the crowd in a "Let's Go Blue" chant after Michigan beat South Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament. Down the hall, meanwhile, many students sang "The Victors" while watching the end of the game in the Kirkland & Ellis Café.


  • A night of laser tag with Dean Evan Caminker and Admissions Dean Sarah Zearfoss, '92, was the final live-auction item of the night. Dean Caminker, whose 10-year tenure ends this year, promised a tough battle. "I've been waiting for 10 years to shoot down Dean Z," he said, "without any repercussions. ...She always says, 'I have so many ways to get back at you.' Well, not anymore!" Sold, for $1,200!

The event occurs during one of the Preview Weekends, and with good reason. Said Brian Holbrook, class of 2013, of his experience before he decided to attend Michigan Law: "During Preview Weekend, the SFF Auction showed me and other prospective students what those glossy admissions brochures had been boasting about. I doubt that the pictures of the deans dancing on the tables will make it into the admissions brochures, but Michigan Law should really consider it: that's what Michigan Law is about."

Holbrook's sentiments were nicely summed up in this assessment of SFF (lifted from an anonymous feedback survey) by one of this year's Preview participants: "Michigan Law is my kind of crazy." Exactly.

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