June 27, 2023

2023 PILP Auction Raises $69,517 and Funds All Summer Award Applicants

Bacon the pig was kidnapped (and later brought home), Professor Oleske dyed his hair pink, and the summer award amount was increased for the first time in 17 years.

The L&C Law community came together for the first in-person Public Interest Law Project (PILP) auction since 2019. We sat down with the 2022-23 President of PILP, Jessie Holmes ’23, for an interview discussing the event and her role in bringing it to life.

What was your role with PILP and the auction?

I was the president of PILP for the 2022-23 school year and loved every second of it. There was a team within PILP that handled the auction, and my job was empowering the different sections within that team. Basically, I was the face of PILP and helped to facilitate conversations with Dean Johnson and the Alumni Board.

What was the theme?

A Night of Masquerade and Mystery! We started getting people excited about the auction by having someone steal Bacon the Pig and asking students to help us solve the great pig-napping case. At the auction, it was revealed that Brooke Mill had stolen Bacon so that she would be the only person with positive energy on campus during finals.

The snowstorm and cyberattack last semester must have complicated some of your plans. How did PILP keep students excited?

When the snowstorm forced us to reschedule the auction, Professor Oleske came to us with the idea to allow the community to donate $10 and vote on whether he should shave, dye, or keep his trademark ponytail. And, let me tell you, students got INTO IT! It helped keep the auction at the forefront of everyone’s minds…and seeing Professor Oleske on campus with neon pink hair was the icing on the cake (but I knew that students would never choose for him to shave his head; his ponytail is too iconic!).

How much money was raised?

$69,517! We were able to fully fund all seven student award applicants and even increased the summer award amount for the first time in 17 years from $5,000 to $5,775…and we still had money left over. The PILP board had a big discussion about what to do with the extra funds and decided to create a fund with the leftover money to be used to guarantee a certain amount of funding in the future.

I really hope that there is one day when PILP doesn’t exist because there is so much funding for public interest that there are resources to pay and compensate people adequately for their work. But, it’s a fine line between accidentally endorsing the status quo with what we do and saying, “We see a problem, we recognize it, we will bridge it, but how do we make sure we are also working to close the gap?” Part of this is recognizing that, on an individual level, in order to be the best public interest advocate, you also need resources. You need it, and you deserve it to make the change you want to.

What was your favorite part of the auction?

Honestly, that it even happened! I had never seen a live PILP auction before, and, between the snowstorm forcing us to reschedule and the cyberattack further complicating matters, I was afraid that we wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But the fact that there was an in-person auction and people showed up (especially when the Barrister’s Ball was the night before the rescheduled auction) shows how amazing the community is.

We were also able to reconnect with the founder of PILP, Jude Pate ’93, now an Alaska Supreme Court Justice. Justice Pate created PILP in 1990 when he was a student at L&C Law. He reminded us that even though the past few years have been rough, we should still have a good time and enjoy each other.

Did you do anything new at this year’s auction?

Yes, we established the “Pillars of PILP,” a new honorary award designation to recognize those who go above and beyond on behalf of PILP and our mission. We believe that it is important to recognize and celebrate those that help us do what we do, in addition to creating more transparency within the public interest space. The inaugural Pillars of PILP are Professor Robert Klonoff, Professor Aliza Kaplan, Reggie Raiford, and Professor Jim Oleske. We also created an honorary therapy dog event, Bruno’s Besties, named after Dean Johnson’s beloved Bruno in recognition of her continuous support.

Who was presented with the Larry K. Amburgey Commitment to Public Interest Law Award?

Becky Straus was chosen to receive the award for her work at the Oregon Eviction Defense Project! She is an alumna who graduated in 2009 and was a recipient of a PILP summer award herself.

Any final notes?

I am so overwhelmingly inspired by the students of PILP and the greater L&C community. When you take this little bit that I have been able to observe during my time at L&C, I have so much hope for the future.