Students Trounce Faculty in Trivia Contest

Law students teach professors how to prevail at trivia
Sarah Galer
University News Office
April 14, 2010

In a wide-ranging, fast-paced trivia contest at the Law School, the student team dominated their faculty opponents 60 to 26 in a spirited competition of wit and composure.

The contest, always a highlight of admitted students weekend, usually favors student teams as faculty members struggle with the pop culture questions. This year, though, the student team - named Ann Rand McNally's World Atlas Shrugged - had a secret weapon that led to the demise of the faculty team Cert. Denied: first- year law student Ross McSweeney, who garnered 43 of the student points.

"The trivia contest is supposed to show admitted students that our faculty and students are smart, fun, and accessible, and that this is the kind of place they want to be," said Todd Henderson, Assistant Professor of Law. "However, this was embarrassing."

Trivia questions ranged from the number of white keys on a piano (52) to what movie Tom Cruise was promoting when he famously jumped on Oprah's couch (War of the Worlds). In one dramatic moment, the students edged out the faculty in a lightning round about Supreme Court cases, leading faculty team member Marsha Nagorsky, Assistant Dean for Communications and Lecturer in Law, to comment proudly, "We teach them well."

McSweeney, when asked about his strategy, said he didn't really have one, although to audience members the students had one big advantage over the faculty members - beating them to the buzzer, much to the faculty players' hilarious frustration.

"It's mostly thanks to a mega-dosage of television as a child, so high it likely altered my genetic makeup, combined with an inveterate laziness that too often results in having to shoehorn ungodly amounts of info into my brain at the last minute before exams," said McSweeney, whose teammates and fellow first-years, Neal Sarkar, Nathan Viehl, and Chris Wall, supported him throughout the game.

The faculty team included Henderson; Nagorsky; Daniel Abebe, Assistant Professor of Law; and Douglas Baird, the Harry A. Bigelow Distinguished Service Professor of Law.

Henderson, a former UChicago law student, was inspired to participate on the faculty team this year, having once witnessed the polymathic command of trivia that Richard Epstein, the James Parker Hall Distinguished Service Professor of Law, displayed in an earlier contest.

"I didn't quite live up to his standards," said Henderson. "However, as a recently tenured faculty member, I now will have a lot of time to practice. I have two more chances to beat McSweeney in the coming years and he better watch his back. Until then, I would like to challenge him to the 1986 version of Trivial Pursuit. I could hold my own against him then."