I have to admit that when the enormous textbook arrived in the mail I was dreading the arrival of winter term. However, this has turned out to be one of the more interesting classes that I have taken at HLS. As my professor put it, “food and drug law affects everyone.”
Usually I shy away from classes that involve a lot of student participation but I decided to give it another chance. The best part of the participation requirement is that every student is required to participate in a debate. Topics and positions were assigned and I was “fortunate” enough to be the first in the class to present. Topics ranged from whether the FDA’s authority should extend to purely intrastate activity to whether oral contraceptives should be available over the counter. After the presentations, the class asks questions of the debaters, who have to maintain their assigned positions. Because it is now so easy to cross-register across the university we have people from several schools at Harvard, which makes for exciting conversation. We get to hear the perspective of many non-law students. We have medical school students, public health students, business school students, PhD candidates and even auditors from the Ghanaian equivalent of the FDA participating in the class.
Students are also kept engaged in the class because Professor Hutt incorporates students’ past experience in the class every day. For example, three students in the class have had experience in food processing plants of some kind. He calls on psychology majors for advice on the effects of food and drug labeling in decision-making and political science majors for advice on how proposed policy changes would work out or the reasons why they would fail. Finally, every day he wears a different university tie and points out the students that hold degrees from those schools.
The combination of academic backgrounds and engagement in class is probably responsible for the fact that so many of the final papers written for the class have been published in journals across the country and won prizes every year Professor Hutt has taught the class. It may also be because Professor Hutt makes himself available to students all the time. During winter term his stated office hours are from 2 p.m. to 11p.m. every day. He says the only time he won’t be there is when he is out having dinner with students. I’ve talked about how nice it is to be able to dine with professors in past posts but it’s worth stating again. Students should take opportunities like this whenever they can. His expertise in the field is tremendously helpful when doing research in the field of food and drug law. I’ve decided to write my third year paper on the subject so you’ll read more about that in the future.