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Homework for Undergrads – "SUE THE BASTARDS"
Prof. John Banzhaf is well known for requiring his law students to bring legal actions to pass his course but on Monday [3/4] he will assign homework in which undergrads will have file a real legal document aimed at the problem of food and obesity.
By: Professor John Banzhaf, GWU Law School
In lecturing on Food & Politics, he will discuss how fast foods and sugary soft drinks are a major cause of obesity, and how he, his law students, and others have been so successful in using legal and other governmental actions as weapons against this growing and very expensive epidemic, just as in the past he was able to use legal and other governmental action so successfully against the problem of smoking.
To demonstrate that even undergraduates can likewise have a significant impact on public health problems, students in the standing-room-
Banzhaf will explain how at least ten fat law suits have already been successful, including the one targeting McDonald’s brought by his law students which started the new movement to use governmental action as a powerful but largely untapped weapon against obesity.
In that class action law suit against McDonald's, the fast food chain was forced to pay over $12 million, to apologize to the students, and to make the disclosures to correct the misrepresentations it was accused of making. Banzhaf will also provide examples of other actions by non-law students, including even high school students, which have helped protect the public health.
As a result of the other fat law suits Banzhaf helped inspire or encourage, Kellogg Company has adopted nutrition standards for the foods it advertises to young children; New York City banned all sugary soft drinks, and most fattening foods, from its classrooms; major bottlers like Coke and Pepsi have been forced to agree to virtually ban the sale of sugary soft drinks in schools, especially during school hours; KFC has removed trans fats from its foods, a move which apparently results in fewer fat calories; and McDonald's abandoned supersizing.
The new movement also helped generate public pressure for new legislation:
Banzhaf, who both inspired and appeared in the award-winning movie "Super Size Me," says that asking undergraduate students to undertake a real world project, rather than just writing another academic paper, is consistent with the University's advertised claims: “Your Four years at GWU can Change the Course of History” and "Faculty and Students Don’t Just Study the World – They Work to Change It."
He also suggests that homework assignments to do something in the real world are far better than the typical requirement to simply write a paper. Students are more likely to become interested and engaged by doing something real, and society will be better able to benefit from your new ideas.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418