Stop Asking Questions, Part I: How a Group of Intellectually Engaged Students Started the Biggest Brawl in U of T Law History

Franklin Crewson is folding his laundry. For Franklin, it’s a nice break from the readings he’s been doing earlier this morning. Yes, even on a Sunday, Franklin wakes up at seven and does homework. Doing laundry gives his brain a chance to wander after a few hours of complete focus, he tells me. Lately, though, that focus has been starting to falter.

I’m visiting Franklin at his rented apartment, about a five-minute walk from the U of T campus where Franklin is in his second year of law school. His apartment has the transitional look of many professional students’ apartments, not as grungy as an undergrad’s, but without the finished decor of someone who has the resources to make an apartment their own.

As Franklin is folding one of seemingly countless button-down shirts, he notes a small tear.

“This is from Question Day,” he tells me. He pauses, staring thoughtfully at the shirt. “I honestly thought they were going to tear it right off me,” he says. “I keep asking myself, ‘Why were they so angry? Why?’”

It’s this question that is interfering with Franklin’s ability to concentrate. Franklin says that’s funny to him, in a dark sort of way, because it was asking questions that started the trouble in the first place.

*  *  *  *  *

“That stupid moron knows exactly why we were angry. Friggin’ dink wouldn’t shut up, that’s why. Him and all those other nerds.” This is Kermit Steingart, a third year at the law school who’s known to be a bit of a wildcard in the school community. It’s long been rumoured that, as a first year, he played a role in sowing chaos during what came to be known as the IRAC War, although he denies this outright when I ask him about it.

What is known for certain is that three weeks ago, Steingart was at the centre of the biggest brawl in U of T Law history, popularly referred to as “Question Day.” In the ensuing weeks, while rumours have flown, very few students who were present that day have been willing to go on the record. It is widely believed that the administration is carrying out an investigation into the matter. This was cited by many students as an explanation for their reluctance to comment, fearing that any connection with the event could damage their potential future prospects. A source within the administration told us that “for a class with over sixty students in it, an awful lot of people claim to have missed class that day.”

Steingart, however, seems to have no such qualms talking about his version of what happened. “Look, let me put it this way. If a bunch of nerds are gonna interfere with the free time of their classmates, people are gonna be angry. That’s all there is to it.”

Steingart is clear about the basics of what happened, although the details become fuzzy when it comes to the extent of his involvement. According to Steingart, it was the first class of the semester. The professor, Benjamin Feversham, gave a short lecture, but was prepared to let the class go an hour early. First, though, he asked whether anyone had any questions or comments.

“Instantly, like seven hands shoot up,” Steingart says. “And already I’m looking at people next to me and we’re all like, ‘What, did we accidentally show up at the annual keener convention?’” Steingart says that these students then asked so-called “wanky” questions that the prof spent considerable time answering because, in Steingart’s words, “That man’s most-played track on Spotify is a recording of one of his own lectures.”

Worst among the offenders was Franklin Crewson, who Steingart claims asked a total of eleven questions. The result of all those questions was that a class that was set to end an hour early grew increasingly close to going late. And with each new question, the anger within the classroom grew. “At first it was kind of funny,” Crewson says, “but then it just kept going. I don’t really know who started it, but suddenly everyone was yelling at Franklin and his pals to just shut up already. And that’s when the fights broke out. People pushing and shoving, throwing punches. And then someone, I couldn’t really tell who, puts Franklin in a headlock. It was crazy, man.”

*  *  *  *  *

“It was him. It was Kermit who put me in a headlock. That neanderthal’s a liar.” Franklin is visibly angry at what he sees as Steingart’s completely mangled version of what happened, although he admits that the basics of Steingart’s story are correct. Franklin says he had no clue that other students were getting angry at the students who were asking questions. “We were just interested in the subject is all.”

As Franklin begins to grow emotional talking about the persecution he’s received for being an engaged student, I receive a text message from a blocked number. The message contains a screenshot of an email that appears to be from Professor Feversham to Franklin with the subject line “It Worked” followed by the body of the email saying:

“Great job, Franklin, our plan worked perfectly. I just got out of a meeting with the investigative committee and I’m positive they bought our story hook, line, and sinker. Let’s give it a few more days and then start enacting phase two.”

I interrupt Franklin and show it to him. His face darkens.

“This interview is over,” he says. Then he tells me to leave immediately.

End of Part One