“Hey There Pennoyer:” Song Parodies and BC Law Culture

Travis here: today I’m hosting a guest post from my friend and classmate, Tong Liu, Class of 2023.

The start of a new experience can always be nerve-wracking, with law school being no different. Diving into a new environment, meeting new people and navigating the complexities of pandemic life each brings a whole host of challenges. Some, like learning how to use Zoom properly, are easy and usually overcome within a few days. Others, like figuring out how best to prepare for classes, can take a matter of weeks. However, one of the most difficult challenges for me is determining how much of myself I can share with others.

Going into law school during a pandemic, I knew that in-person interactions would be limited. Half of my classes were going to be on Zoom, and the in-person classes had everyone masked up and socially distanced. I was also commuting about an hour and a half round-trip for classes, making it difficult for me to meet up with classmates who lived near campus.

Still, the commute ended up becoming a blessing of sorts as well. I was able to have a period of zen before and after classes as I drove, jamming out to an eclectic mix of songs. Safe within the confines of my car, I could take off my mask after a long day in class or at the library, and belt the songs out loud without any shame. 

During one particularly late night session, with the music sticking in my head where my readings should have been, I kept reading about the “Twiqbal Two-Step Test” and trailing off thinking how great it would be if someone wrote a two-step song about Twiqbal. My fatigue-inspired brain went a step further and next thing I knew, I had sent my sleepy musings into my section’s GroupMe group chat. I went to sleep afterwards, ignorant of the Pandora’s box I had opened.

Our group chat, “Section 2: The Squeakquel,” is a haven of sanity and insanity, where my section mates and I share tips, encouragement and, should one be feeling a tad spicy, a couple of memes. Still, I was blown away by the support I got from the chat about my musical crossover idea, with a few requesting I write and record such a song. A better group of enablers I have never met. Within a week, I had written down a chorus for “Twiqbal Two-Step” to the tune of “Wagon Wheel” and, a week later, I shared a draft of the lyrics for a full song-parody to the chat. Each time I shared an update on my songwriting endeavors, I fully expected my section-mates to grow weary of my little distraction. However, their enthusiasm for my eccentric expression of pleadings exasperation did not waver, and, in early October, fueled by the support of my section-mates, I asked Professor Spiegel, my civil procedure professor, if he would look over my song. To my great surprise, he agreed! He even ended up suggesting some slight edits to the lyrics to fit both the rhymes and the law more accurately.  

Twiqbal Two-Step” was only the beginning of my experiments in learning legal concepts through song and in expressing myself to my section mates. I ended up writing another parody song, “Hey There Pennoyer,” this one about jurisdiction to the tune of “Hey There Delilah,” and recorded the two songs on my phone while cooped up inside my car. On the last day of in-person classes, I invited my section-mates to arrive half an hour earlier for a musical surprise. As my section-mates trickled in, I nervously turned on the projectors and tested the audio on a lyric video I made the night before in lieu of my readings. Standing where my professors stood, I told those assembled both in-person and over Zoom that I hoped to be able to give a live performance of my songs and humbly requested those present to join in, at least for the chorus. While my voice wavered initially, I soon found my resolve as my voice was joined by the voices of my section-mates. Being able to sing my songs in front of my law school section was by far the biggest showing of myself I had dared to do and to hear my lyrics sung back to me by them was the greatest affirmation I could have hoped to receive. 

I have now written and recorded a few new law school related song parodies and I dare say that my experience is representative of Boston College’s law school culture. No, I’m not suggesting that everyone at BC Law goes through life as though in a musical, nor am I claiming to lead BC Law’s cultural zeitgeist (yet. . .) But rather, my experience at BC Law, that of being not only accepted but supported in making myself vulnerable and expressing myself, is emblematic of the culture here. At BC Law, I found that I can dare to sing my own tune and count on the voices of my peers and professors to back me up. Who knows? Maybe someday soon, I’ll be there to help sing the chorus of a song you write here as well. 

Tong Liu is a member of the BC Law Class of 2023. Contact him at liuacn@bc.edu.

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