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The Fletcher community recently learned of the death of Alfred Rubin, a retired professor who taught here for many years. One of Prof. Rubin’s former students, Duncan Hollis, F95, who happens to be a professor himself now, made us aware of a lovely tribute he wrote for Opinio Juris, a blog dedicated to discussion of international law. He, and the Opinio Juris editorial board, kindly allowed me to reproduce his thoughts on the Admissions Blog. I hope you find his comments as touching as I did.
Alfred P. Rubin: The Best Professor I Ever Had
by Duncan Hollis
For those of us fortunate enough to end up with a career in international law, we all have our mentors, our guiding lights. Mine was Professor Alfred P. Rubin of the Fletcher School. He died last week. I write to express my condolences to his family and friends and offer a few words on his influence on my life as well as the whole Fletcher community, where he taught for 30 years. Simply put, I would not be an international lawyer — let alone a professor of international law — had Professor Rubin not pushed, encouraged, and inspired me onto my current path. He was the best professor I ever saw grace a classroom.
Truth be told, when I arrived at Fletcher in the Fall of 1993, I had no expectations of a career in international law. I had enjoyed studying it as an undergraduate at Bowdoin with Allen Springer (a former student of Professor Rubin as it turned out). But I’d applied to Fletcher to study Japan, not law; I had four years of Japanese language classes under my belt and had just finished a summer internship in Osaka. To complete my joint degree, however, I still needed four law-related courses. LAW 200: The International Legal Order looked interesting. I was a bit wary of an early morning class 3 days a week, including Fridays, plus an unusual year-long course structure. Still, Rubin’s classes were legendary so I decided to take it during my first semester.
In what was a trademark for his contrarian demeanor, Professor Rubin started off our first class with a simple, but powerful, challenge — insisting that there is no such thing as human rights. An Australian classmate took the bait, and responded that they must exist, to which Professor Rubin pushed back, asking if human rights existed as law or morality. That generated a fairly intense discussion on what law “is”, who should decide the law’s contents and by what processes. Fifty minutes later, I was hooked. LAW 200 became my favorite class. I would actually wake up happy on class days, eager to see what the morning’s discussion might hold — the Trent Affair’s illumination of customary international law, the divine law origins of treaties (which I’ve made use of subsequently), or one of my favorite cases, Mortensen v. Peters. We wrestled with the (in)consistency of the ICJ’s approach to the South Africa question, the meaning of “genuine and effective links” for citizenship, plus older chestnuts like the Lotus case. Along the way, Professor Rubin moved us beyond doctrine to legal theory, asking us to work through various iterations of positivist and naturalist methods in original and neo-formulations. We didn’t just read Hart, we went back to Kelsen (reading Kelsen being fairly atypical in American legal education).
The Spring semester brought piracy and thornier topics like recognition, succession, jurisdiction, and conflicts of law. A few years later, Monroe Leigh (who along with Cynthia Lichtenstein were my other early mentors) took me on as his associate in part because I’d invoked the Fruehauf case from Rubin’s class to advise a client. As the semester progressed, my classmates and I debated whether Professor Rubin’s tears in discussing the legality of the bombing of Hiroshima were real (they were) and marveled at how he cared about the “law” as a concept and detested hypocrisy in any form. None of us will ever forget how Rubin ended the year — re-enacting the scene from A Man for All Seasons where Sir Thomas More responds to William Roper’s call for an arrest even if it means cutting a road through the law to get after the Devil:
Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, And if you cut them down, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!
Two decades later, I’m still trying to figure out Professor Rubin’s secret ingredient — the persistent Socratic dialogues, the deep dives into doctrine, the marshaling of legal theory in concrete cases, or that undeniable passion for his subject-matter. It may have been something as simple as his gentle voice — a slight hesitancy in speech with an ever-present inquisitive tone. I confess that my study group spent hours imitating that voice (one of us who shall remain nameless with much success). We did so without any sense of hostility or meanness — but rather as a mark of our affection for his teaching and our sense that his class was a shared experience. And it was not by any means an easy one — the reading assignments were enormous with Rubin assuming we all knew the material so we could take the class discussion to a more critical level. I still have my notes (the only ones that I’ve kept). I was amazed to revisit them yesterday to see just how much we covered that year in history, doctrine and theory. I’ve never had another class like it.
Beyond the classroom, Professor Rubin was a thoughtful adviser. Conveniently located on the way to the cafeteria, his office door was always open. He welcomed students in to ask questions about class or the oft-discussed career question — “So, exactly, how does one become an international lawyer?” He never rushed students off (even if we’d interrupted one of his many Minesweeper computer games). I treasured those conversations, and the chance to soak in his knowledge, his experience, and his many, many books. I have a shelf-long collection of green volumes of the American Journal of International Law in my office today for no other reason than Rubin had one. In later semesters our conversations deepened and I gained insights into key sources and research methods. To this day, I’m reluctant to cite a secondary source when a primary one is at hand since I picture Professor Rubin watching over me and shaking his head, reminding me he expects nothing less.
I will always be most indebted to Professor Rubin for his willingness to go beyond advice to action. In the summer of 1994 I was (unhappily) a temporary secretary in Suffolk University’s physical plant. The job was in the sub-basement below the actual basement. It was hard to see how this was going to advance my dreams of becoming an international lawyer until I got a call from Jeffrey Bates, a partner at Goodwin Proctor at the time. Another former student of Rubin’s, he needed a legal clerk to do some research, and Professor Rubin had recommended me. Overnight, I transferred onto a large and intensive research project that laid the foundations for all that followed. I have no doubts that the Goodwin clerkship made it possible for me to join Steptoe and Johnson as an associate, which in turn led me to the State Department, and eventually Temple Law. All this from one recommendation by Professor Rubin (a recommendation I’d not even asked him to make). Nor am I alone in this experience. Generations of Fletcher students sought out the Rubin experience and found themselves entering the field of international law in one way or another. From that introductory class alone, four of us spent time in the Legal Adviser’s office at the U.S. Department of State; others ended up at the United Nations, in foreign ministries, and private practice. At least three of us followed his path into the academy to teach international law.
Having been a member of international law’s “invisible college” for a few years, I know that Professor Rubin was regarded by other law professors as an academic, known for his work on piracy and unilateral declarations, and some ferocious commentary from the floor at the American Society’s Annual Meeting. For my part, however, I choose to remember Professor Rubin as a teacher. In later years, we kept in touch until his health began to fail. He’d ask me to call him by his first name, Al. I couldn’t do it. He was and will always be my professor of international law. A gentleman, a scholar, but above all a teacher. May he rest in peace.
Last spring, blog readers met Leila Fawaz through her Faculty Spotlight feature. Today I wanted to bring your attention to a Tufts Now story about her new book, A Land of Aching Hearts: The Middle East in the Great War.
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed the second in a series of event announcements, each of which invited students to come and chat, over coffee, with a professor or fellow student. Great idea! So I contacted the organizer, Ameya, for details. Ameya told me:
The idea for these chats came about from a conversation early last year between some of us who had Prof. Chayes as our faculty adviser. She has, as you know, a wealth of experience; we were all interested in learning more about her career and interests, but it was hard to do this in ten-to-fifteen minute office hour conversations, plus it was repetitive for Prof. Chayes, as well. So we set up a combined chat for an hour or so, which all her advisees attended, and it was a tremendously valuable and informative experience.
Based off that, I started setting up similar chats — maybe once a month — with other professors. At some point, it also became clear there were students and alumni with valuable experience in specific areas, so this year I’ve started alternating between faculty and student/alumni speakers. I’ve consistently found the sessions both valuable, as well as reassuring, in that everyone has had a roundabout path to where they currently are in their careers.
I really love this idea, especially the conversations with students, which formalizes the commonly stated opinion that there’s much to be learned from one’s peers here. Plus, it’s an example of how a student can create a new Fletcher tradition, and I hope that Ameya’s idea will be carried forward even after he has graduated.
Tagged with: Outside the classroom
You might remember meeting Prof. Michael Glennon last year in the Faculty Spotlight series of blog posts. Now, Prof. Glennon has a new book, National Security and Double Government. He recently sat down with an interviewer at The Boston Sunday Globe to discuss “America’s ‘Double Government.’” The Globe also included a nice review of the book. With U.S. elections less than two weeks away, this is timely stuff!
Today I thought I’d highlight a book by a member of the Fletcher community. Prof. Ayesha Jalal is the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Fletcher and the School of Arts and Sciences. She’s also a friend of Fletcher Admissions, and has served many years on the Admissions Committee, always enthusiastically. Her insightful comments are the sort that are still present around the table two years after her last stint with us.
And now, Prof. Jalal has a new book, The Struggle for Pakistan, about which she was interviewed for Tufts Now. A timely addition to the scholarship on Pakistan, and the culmination of Prof. Jalal’s lifelong connection to the country.
A few weeks back, I pointed readers toward the book lists that I had compiled in past years for incoming students. Along the way, I was included (essentially for eavesdropping purposes) in an email discussion among a few professors, who were each considering what books might be included in a list of foundational readings for their corner of the International Affairs field. A more complete list may become a reality in the future, but for now, I wanted to share the introductory list.
Ian Johnstone, Fletcher’s academic dean, recommended this “short list of influential IR books that spill over into international law and organizations”:
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics
Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Power and Interdependence
Martha Finnemore and Michael Barnett, Rules for the World: International Organizations in Global Politics
Rosalyn Higgins, Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use It
Prof. Joel Trachtman noted:
“I would recommend Rethinking Social Inquiry, edited by Henry Brady and David Collier, as an introduction to how we know and argue in social science. For an introduction to international law, there’s Sean Murphy’s Principles of International Law.”
Prof. Michael Klein wrote:
“For a background book, I would suggest Alan Blinder’s book on the financial and economic crisis, After the Music Stopped.”
Finally, for this very short list, Prof. Alan Henrikson said:
“My top candidate for inclusion on such a list now is Robert Gates, Duty, a truly instructive book about American government and much more, including personal ethics and the dilemmas of public policy.”
Naturally, I’m still not assigning reading for blog readers, but I wanted to share what I had learned.
Tagged with: Professors suggest
A few pieces of news worth sharing have passed my way recently.
First, Tufts University’s news service recently highlighted the thoughts of two Fletcher faculty members. In a recent “Tufts Now” newsletter, we read Dean Bhaskar Chakravorti‘s ideas regarding the future of money, and also Prof. Kelly Sims Gallagher‘s views on how the U.S. could take a lesson from China on competing in the clean-energy market.
For that matter, and this is actually BIG news that I have neglected, I should also note that Prof. Gallagher will be on leave from Fletcher in 2014-15 to work in The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She is serving as Senior Policy Advisor and will be working on climate change and energy policy, as well as international climate policy. You can read more here.
This week, I heard from two continuing students whose writing has been picked up by major publications. Emily Cole wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times about health care for Peace Corps Volunteers, a topic the Times has been covering lately. Ameya Naik wrote a column for Mint, the Indian edition of the Wall Street Journal. He pointed out that one hyperlink in the piece (“modern terrorism”) takes you to a Huffington Post column by another continuing student, Tara Dominic. Ameya also has a blog, which is a combination of his own writing and compiled writing of other people.
Blog posts have a short shelf life, and most readers don’t dig too deep into the archives. For that reason, I thought I’d share some of the most “liked” posts of this past year, as generated by the button below each post. Click on the photo below to take you to the original blog post or the feature series that it was part of.
First, and probably the blog post that has received the greatest number of “likes” ever, was Devon Cone’s report on her five years after Fletcher. It’s a lovely story that has drawn several particularly warm comments. If you enjoy reading about Devon’s post-Fletcher path, consider scrolling through all of the Five Year Updates.
Each of the posts in the Faculty Spotlight series was well received, and I couldn’t possibly choose among the professors, so I invite you to read all of their self-introductions. Click on Prof. Klein’s photo to the left, and then scroll through the posts I collected in 2013-2014. More to come this fall!
Incoming students have told me that they appreciated reading the stories of current students, and everyone was happy for Roxanne when she received the Presidential Award for Citizenship. To catch up with everything that Roxanne, Mirza, Scott, Diane, Liam, and Mark wrote this year, check out all the Student Stories.
Also informative for prospective students have been the updates from students in their first year post-Fletcher. Given the favorable response, I was proactive this year — I lined up a big bunch of students who graduated in May and who volunteered to write about the post-Fletcher career they hadn’t yet started. I’ll begin collecting the posts at the end of the fall. (As I write this, Margot’s post has exactly 100 likes.)
I enjoyed reading the posts students wrote about their activities during the academic year. I learned about things I had never even heard of! In addition to the post on the Human Rights Practicum, the one on the International Criminal Court Simulation was particularly well liked, but go ahead and check out the complete collection of Cool Stuff posts.
Finally, there were lots of likes for a few stories about particular students or alumni — posts that weren’t part of a blog feature series.
I don’t do it too often, but sometimes I can’t resist a nice wedding story. And with a Fletcher professor officiating at the ceremony, they don’t get much more Fletcherish than Megan and Sebastian’s event last summer.
The common element in nearly all these most-liked posts is that they were written by students, alumni, or professors. The few that I wrote myself tell the stories of students or alumni. That gives me a strong hint about areas on which to focus blog posts in 2014-2015!
Though summer reading is no more required this week than it was last week, I wanted to share some recent books by members of the Fletcher community, both faculty members and graduates. I can’t ensure that the list is comprehensive, but with topics from brand management to grand strategy, the new publications provide a nice picture of the breadth of interests at Fletcher.
Books by faculty
Kelly Sims Gallagher, The Globalization of Clean Energy Technology
Robert Pfaltzgraff (with Jacquelyn K. Davis), Anticipating a Nuclear Iran
Joel Trachtman, The Future of International Law: Global Government
Jeswald Salacuse, Negotiating Life: Secrets for Everyday Diplomacy and Deal Making
Books recently or soon-to-be published by recent graduates
Benedetta Berti, Armed Political Organizations: From Conflict to Integration
Nathalie Laidler-Kylander, The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity
Alison Lawlor Russell, Cyber Blockades
And two others
Finally, a less recent graduate, Bill Richardson F’71, has published How to Sweet-Talk a Shark: Strategies and Stories from a Master Negotiator. Prof. Salacuse also wrote a review essay of the book for Negotiation Journal. Check it out for a nice description of Ambassador Richardson’s career.
Tagged with: Supplementary reading
I was asked last week whether the Admissions Blog would feature a list of recommended readings for incoming students this year. As it happens, I wasn’t planning to gather a new list, but I’m happy to be able to point you back toward suggestions provided by our professors in previous years. I’ve gathered all the posts, dating back to 2007, in a cleaned up Professors Suggest tag.
Though no reading at all is required in the summer before you enroll, you might want to pick up a book to get your mind around upcoming coursework. Or maybe you just want to see how many of the listed books you have already read. Not all the suggestions are heavy — at least one of the posts includes a few fiction options.
Tagged with: Professors suggest
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