Mitchell N. Berman

Mitchell N. Berman
  • Leon Meltzer Professor of Law

Contact Information


Past Courses

  • PHIL4360 - Sports As Legal Systems

    Formal organized sports - from the NFL to NASCAR to the LPGA - are either genuine legal systems of a specialized kind or close analogues to legal systems. Like ordinary legal systems, they use general rules, promulgated by rule-making bodies and enforced by impartial adjudicators, to facilitate or incentivize desired behaviors and to prevent or deter undesired behaviors. As such, sports are proper subjects of study by legal scholars and philosophers. A standard course on "sports law" examines the regulation of sports by law. This course, in contrast, examines sports as legal systems in their own right. A small sample of the topics to be addressed includes: (1) What are sports, and what is their relationship to games? (The IOC has determined that bridge and chess are sports. Is this correct? Does it matter?) (2) What form should the rules take? (For example, should sports rules contain "mens rea" terms? Should they be more "rule-like" or more "standard-like"?) (3) How much discretion do and should officials have? (Chief Justice Roberts said that "judges are like umpires." Is this true? In what ways?) (4) Should on-field decisions be appealable and, if so, what should the procedures and standards of appellate review be? (For example, is the "indisputable visual evidence standard" of review in the NFL and NCAA football justified?) (5) What is cheating? (Did the badminton players at the London Olympics who tried to lose "cheat"? Do baseball players cheat when they falsely claim to be hit by a pitch?) (6) What should the rules of eligibility be? (Should women be allowed to compete against men? Should MTF transgender athletes be allowed to compete against cisgender women? Should double amputees like the South African Oscar Pistorius be allowed to compete against non-disabled runners?) In exploring questions like these, the course will, where appropriate, draw upon, and examine possible lessons for, ordinary law. The course is therefore both an in-depth and rigorous investigation into sports and a vehicle for deepening one's understanding of law. It is appropriate for law students and for non-law students seeking an engaging and accessible introduction to legal systems and legal analysis.

  • PHIL5560 - Topics in Phil of Educ

    In this course, we will examine problems in contemporary philosophy of education, including: how much control over a child's education ought to be allocated to parents and how much to the state; what role, if any, ought religion to play in education; how do race and gender impact individuals' educational experiences and how should such issues should be addressed in the classroom; what sort of (if any) civic education ought to be taught in schools (especially in wartime such as in the post 9-11 USA); and how should schools be funded? We will deal with a number of case studies, mostly recent, but some crucial historical cases as well. Our readings will be primarily philosophical texts, supplemented with those from other fields, such as psychology, history and sociology, in order to provide empirical context to the theoretical problems facing education today.

  • PHIL5561 - Justice in Higher Ed

    Higher education has recently been a topic of intense discussion and attention. While many more people are entering colleges and universities, these institutions have come under scrutiny for perpetuating and entrenching inequality even as students turn to them as sites of social mobility. In this class, we will look at empirical and philosophical work on higher education to consider questions such as: What are the aims of higher education? How should we conceptualize the role of universities in colleges in promoting (or undermining) justice? Who should universities serve (and who have universities typically served)? Are universities sites of upward mobility or do they entrench existing inequalities? Do elite universities have special civic or political obligations? How should we balance academic freedom and inclusivity on college campuses? We will read recent work from Sigal Ben-Porath, Harry Brighouse, Anthony Jack, Amy Gutmann, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Michael Sandel, Gina Schouten, Nicole Stephens, Paul Tough, among others.

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