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How does Charlie Sheen help business law students understand contracts?


3 October 2012

Giuseppe Carabetta: "If you can give the students a topical example they can relate to, it means they will remember the legal principle and understand its actual relevance too."
Giuseppe Carabetta: "If you can give the students a topical example they can relate to, it means they will remember the legal principle and understand its actual relevance too."

What do actor Charlie Sheen, comic strip star Ginger Meggs, the Big Brother reality TV show and Luna Park have in common? University of Sydney students who are currently getting to grips with the complexities of business law will be able to tell you.

Giuseppe Carabetta, a senior lecturer in business law at the University of Sydney Business School, uses all of the above to explain contract conditions and warranties as part of the 'Foundations of Business Law' (CLAW 1001) unit of study he teaches.

"If you can give the students a topical example they can relate to, it means they will remember the legal principle and understand its actual relevance too," says Carabetta in explaining his use of pop culture examples to contextualise complex legal issues.

This is just one of the teaching techniques Carabetta employs to engage and inspire his students. He also draws heavily from his own research and student-day experience as an award-winning music DJ and pro soccer player.

For example, he was willing to risk losing the treasured vinyl turntables he still uses as a DJ to help illustrate a legal concept in the classroom. Despite receiving more than 400 offers in response to an advertisement to sell the turntables, he was able to reject them because he was not contractually bound by the advertised price, instead it was an 'invitation to treat'.

Although music provides an outlet away from the classroom, Carabetta is confident he has found his dream job as an academic and teacher, for which he recently received a national award.

"There is academic freedom here that you don't get in the commercial world. I get to help people by changing public policy and by influencing the lives of students," he said.

One of those students is Alex O'Neill, an arts and commerce student in the CLAW 1001 unit of study.

"Giuseppe brings a lot of energy to the lecture and a commanding presence. It makes lectures exciting and motivating," says Alex.

So while Giuseppe is inspiring today's generation of students, who in turn inspired him? Carabetta points to his master's thesis supervisor, former Sydney Law School dean Emeritus Professor Ron McCallum, as a key influence.

"He made me realise you can take risks in teaching and in life. I remember he used to play his flute in some of our lectures. We loved it. He is a leading labour law academic who is also very modest, funny and a genuinely lovely guy who cared about his students," says Carabetta.

Giuseppe Carabetta's passion for teaching has been recognised with the 2012 National Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning. The citations are awarded annually by the federal government's Office for Learning and Teaching to recognise quality teaching practice and contributions towards student learning.


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Enquiries: Sally Sitou, 9351 8647, sally.sitou@sydney.edu.au