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Focus on Faculty: Sally Richardson

November 29, 2017 3:45 PM

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 | Jake Ward 

Sally Richardson teaches an Honors first-year colloquium entitled “The Theory of Property.”

Sally Richardson, Charles E. Lugenbuhl Associate Professor of Law at Tulane University’s Law School, teaches an Honors first-year colloquium entitled “The Theory of Property.”  She sees working with undergraduates, especially those in the Honors Program, as an opportunity to introduce her areas of expertise to fresh and inquisitive minds, an opportunity she greatly relishes.

Professor Richardson’s Colloquium, as the name suggests, focuses on property law, which is the main focus of her research, her teaching, and her intellectual passion.  The course is one section of the COLQ 1020 course offering, which first-year students in the Honors Program can take to satisfy their fall semester requirement.  Its basic goal is to introduce young and motivated first semester Honors students to the idea of property law, emphasizing its central importance in the modern world.

The class is divided thematically into four components, which are explored in turn over the course of the semester.  The first is an introduction to property and property law, incorporating older theorists such as John Locke.  The remaining three components address the themes of property as it relates to the individual, the state, and the world.

At each turn, Professor Richardson challenges her students to think beyond the simple upshots of property theory to its broader, perhaps unintended, ramifications.  For example, if an individual owns their body, then should they be allowed to sell their organs?  What does it mean if public housing worsens other problems, like racial segregation?  What is our commitment to cultural sites in the Middle East that are being destroyed by ISIS?  She even encourages her students to think beyond the categories of the course: what would be the meaning of property on the moon, or further out into the vastness of space?  Each of these questions demonstrates how central property law is to our society and encourages students to think analytically about their large implications.

The breadth of academic topics covered by these questions also reveals how interdisciplinary property law is.  The students in her Colloquium reflect this as well: only a minority are pre-Law; majors in Political Science, Economics, Business and the Sciences are well-represented.  Though for students of some majors, the connections to their main areas of study may be less obvious, they are no less important.  For example, decisions on how land property is divided and developed have large effects on the environment and the impact of future natural disasters.

Two years ago, when the Honors Program reached out to Professor Richardson about teaching a Colloquium for first-year undergraduates, she was extremely excited to bring these topics to a different set of students.  She teaches a similar seminar in the Law School, and finds that students there, especially those in their third year, come into courses with pre-conceived ideas about what the law is and what its goals are.  First semester Honors undergraduates, by contrast, have much less well-developed notions of the law, and bring instead excitement, intellectual curiosity and basic concepts of standards of “fairness.”  Professor Richardson says that this helps to remind her, both in her research and her other teaching, to question the pre-conceptions about the law held by her and her students.

All in all, Professor Richardson describes teaching the course as “a blast.”  She is incredibly passionate about property law, and excited to bring it to younger students, who are able to think about it in fun and new ways.  First-year students in the Honors Program bring their intellectual curiosity, interdisciplinary inclinations, and critical thinking skills to create a fun and rewarding environment for all.


All faculty interviewed recommend a book that they find compelling and important.

Professor Richardson’s Reading Recommendation:

Professor Richardson recommends Joshua A.T. Fairfield’s “hot off the press” Owned: Property, Privacy, and the New Digital Serfdom.  The book addresses property and privacy in the digital world, a subject that Professor Richardson says is particularly salient for millennial undergraduates, who grew up in a remarkably technological age.  Once again, she demonstrates, property law is an ever-present factor in our lives.