CHICAGO (CBS) — President Barack Obama returned to the University of Chicago on Thursday to push his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, an Illinois native.

Before appearing at the event, Obama made a surprise stop at a law library reading room that was serving as an overflow room for students to watch

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“Aren’t you supposed to be studying?” he joked as he walked in.

“Who knows, I may come back and teach a once a week seminar … in which I have no papers to grade,” Obama said. “Which I’m sure will be very popular. We’ll just hang out and talk.”

At the same university where he once taught constitutional law, he then met with students and faculty to make his case for why Garland, currently the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, should be confirmed to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Obama lamented that the Senate Republicans “have shut down the process” by not even meeting with or holding hearings on his choice. “Our politics have become much more polarized. Positions have become hardened.”

Garland was born in Chicago, went to elementary school in Lincolnwood, and graduated from Niles West High School in Skokie.

Republican Senate leaders have said they will not hold confirmation hearings for Garland or allow a vote on his nomination – or for any Obama nominee to the Supreme Court – and many Republican senators have said they will not even meet with Garland, who was confirmed to the D.C. Circuit by a 76-23 vote during the Clinton administration.

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Only two Republican Senators openly support having a Senate vote on Garland’s nomination, including Illinois U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk. Last week, Kirk met with Garland in D.C., and he has said it’s part of his constitutional responsibility as a senator to provide advice and consent to the president on Supreme Court nominations, and has his GOP colleagues should “man up” and vote on Garland.

“By leading by example, I’m showing what a rational, responsible guy would do that really wants the constitutional process to go forward,” Kirk said.

Kirk is facing a tough re-election battle against Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, who has a slight edge over Kirk in a recent poll conducted by the Kirk campaign.

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine also has said the Senate should vote on Garland’s nomination.

Illinois’ senior senator, Dick Durbin, also has met with Garland.

University of Chicago law student Christian Myers said he is eager to hear directly from the president about the Senate impasse on Garland’s nomination.

“At least hear out this nominee. You know, advise and consent; you don’t have to consent, but you have to at least take into consideration the nominee from the president, who is still the sitting president until January 2017,” he said.

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Obama flew back to D.C. later Thursday evening.