James Schneider: The More We Learn, The Less We Know

*SPONSORED CONTENT: Ultra Vires contributed a personalized profile to this year’s law school Promise Auction. James Schneider was the generous winner.

I am twenty minutes into my interview with James Elliott Tiberius Schneider before he will speak to me on the record. “May I write that you are obsessed with keeping things off the record?” I ask. “Okay, you can put that in. It’s honest,” James replies.

On the morning of our interview, James shows up late. He is tall and slender, with boyish good looks. His green-brown eyes are twinkling with mischief as he slides into the seat across from me. He is wearing a hoodie over a t-shirt, with grey shorts and sandals. It’s the middle of February and probably 4° outside.

Right away, I am intrigued. Why wouldn’t this man wear pants to an interview for a profile in the law school newspaper? Why would he force everyone to look at his bare toes when it’s actually really cold outside? Further research reveals that others have the same questions. “He wears boat shoes without socks in freezing weather,” close friend Zachary Parrott reveals to me. “He loves to wear clothes that are wildly inappropriate for the weather,” Brendan Bohn confirms.

James tells me that his 2018 is all about training—he has qualified to compete in the Boston Marathon in April, even though it’s the day before his Admin exam. “I’m going quick… Real quick. I don’t want to put a number on the record in case I don’t meet it. I don’t want people to be disappointed.” Sports and athleticism are incredibly important to James: he loves to climb, hike, cycle, mountaineer, and especially to run long distances. “Tell people to check me out on Strava!” he says, before telling me that his dream is to become a better mountaineer so that he can climb Mount Logan. “But that won’t be for a long time. Maybe like five years… And then, last night, I had this dream that part of my leg came off. But that’s not a dream like something I want to do, it’s just a dream like something that happened when I was asleep.”

Most of us know James as a Social Affairs Committee Co-Chair on the Students’ Law Society. “I ran unopposed,” he tells me. “I wasn’t even acclaimed, I was just there. I feel I owe nothing to any students at this school. I’m interested in the 1Ls though. I mean, I don’t care. But I do care.” James was also the architect behind this year’s wildly successful OCI-themed haunted house [Editor’s Note: Maud Rozee was involved in the haunted house as the spooky werewolf recruiter.] “Was making this haunted house a cathartic experience for you?” I ask. James gives a coy look. “Maybe there was a deeper meaning,” he says.

As I speak to James, a pattern emerges. He is evasive, answering questions by asking me what I think he should say, or telling me the real answer but insisting I keep it off the record. He deflects serious questions with humour, keeping his inner thoughts unknown. “It’s like ‘Who is he? Is he vain or is he not?’ Even the fact that I pose the question is kind of interesting. Like, who would say that?” James says. I comment that there is an interesting duality between his vanity and self-deprecation, and between his humourous exterior and his deeper self. “That’s really powerful stuff,” says James, laughing nervously. He sips on his plain Earl Grey tea—the simplicity of the drink contrasting with his complex and mysterious spirit.

Eventually, of course, I have to mention the elephant in the room. When I ask about rumours of a potential Valedictorian campaign, James acts surprised. “Oh wow,” he says. He tells me the truth, off the record. “Write that I gave another coy look,” he instructs me. “And tell people to vote for me because it would be funny. But don’t really vote for me. But it would be funny. But I don’t actually want to do it.”

James is a man of eclectic tastes. Zach tells me: “His favourite song is ‘Boys of Summer’ by Don Henley, which is honestly an insane favourite song to have as like a twenty-five-year-old in 2018. I also randomly asked him about another Don Henley song (‘The End of the Innocence’) and he seemed more familiar with it than a normal person should be. He said that it was a good political song that called out George Bush Sr. He’s very clearly well-versed in Don Henley’s discography.”

This enthusiasm is classic James. “One time I ran into him at the Distillery District, totally unplanned, and he got so excited that I think he spilled his drink all over his mittens and shoes,” Zach continues. Still, his deepest love—for adventure—he takes completely seriously. “There’s nothing funny about rock climbing,” James insists. “You’re taking on nature. You’re making love to a mountain. It’s… incredible.”

Overall, James reveals very little of his innermost thoughts. When I ask him how old he is, he spends about five minutes trying to decide what he will tell me. “Write down ‘probably twenty-six’… On the record, it’s twenty-six.” “He told me to tell you he’s a creature very much in flux,” says close friend Amani Rauff.

I can’t help but ask James why he wanted this profile. “Maybe I wanted people to know who I am…” James muses. “And I thought it would be funny.”

“Will people know who you are though?” I ask. “No,” says James with a wink. “They won’t know anything!”