Dean's Statement of October 28, 2020

It is hard to believe that we are already in the 9th week of the Fall 2020 semester. To those of you who are studying remotely around the country and the world, we miss you! To those of you taking classes in Myron Taylor Hall or otherwise residing in Ithaca this semester, thank you for your commitment to following the campus and community guidelines designed to keep us all safe. Your discipline and diligence have allowed us to remain open for in-person instruction. Regardless of where you are studying, we admire your graciousness, determination, and perseverance throughout this most challenging semester.

Although the University’s plans are not yet final and are fluid due to the unpredictable nature of the public health emergency, we know you are eager for additional information as you contemplate housing, finances and other important decisions. Following are our working plans for the Spring 2021 semester. You should closely monitor Law School announcements as our start and end dates are different than the University’s as a whole due to ABA, state bar, and other requirements. Please note that the Law School must adhere to the University’s policies regarding public health protocols. Accordingly, these academic plans only apply to the Law School and are subject to the University’s ongoing assessment of the public health conditions on campus and in the local community.

Spring Start: All Lawyering Program classes for 1Ls will be held online during the week of February 2, 2021. Spring classes for all law students on the Ithaca campus will commence on February 8th as outlined on the academic calendar. Instruction will then run uninterrupted without a spring break until May 7th. We are mindful of the stresses inherent in attending courses continuously without a break and are working with campus partners to explore the feasibility of scheduling wellness breaks during the term while balancing various accreditation requirements regarding class meeting time.

Spring Classes: Similar to this fall, all law students will have the option of electing either in-person or online instruction for spring courses. Please look for a message from the Registrar’s Office in the coming days to select your preferred instruction modality. Additionally, you will receive a separate message from Vice President of Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi later this week asking about your post-Thanksgiving plans, including whether or not you expect to reside in Ithaca after Thanksgiving as well as next semester. Please complete both surveys.

You will be able to change your preferred mode of instruction until pre-registration opens, which we anticipate will be in early January. After that, requests for changes must be submitted to the faculty Administrative Committee and will be reviewed individually on the basis of hardship due to unanticipated circumstances beyond the petitioning student’s control.

In the classroom, students and faculty will need to observe social distancing protocols, which has the effect of reducing capacity in most classrooms. As a result, classes with historically large enrollments will be offered exclusively online. A variety of courses, however, will be offered in hybrid format (in the classroom for those electing in-person instruction and livestreamed for those electing online instruction). Law faculty have been surveyed and we anticipate that more in-person offerings will be available for the Spring 2021 term than were available this fall. Course modality and capacity will be noted in the course catalog and schedule.

Students must wear face coverings within the building – including within classrooms – and faculty will wear face coverings while teaching or otherwise outside of their offices. Professors will hold office hours and other one-on-one student meetings online rather than in person due to social distancing requirements. Some faculty will host office hours and other class meetings outdoors as the weather permits and as the public health situation improves.

Spring Class Schedule and Attendance: The Law School Registrar is currently building the spring schedule from scratch to incorporate the lessons gleaned from this historic semester. Students electing in-person instruction must plan to return to Ithaca in sufficient time to complete all quarantine, COVID testing, and other public health requirements on or before February 8th. Students participating in upper level courses remotely will be expected to participate synchronously if the class falls between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in the time zone where they are located. Outside those hours, they may choose to participate either synchronously or asynchronously. Per faculty policy and for pedagogical reasons, 1Ls are required to attend all courses synchronously, regardless of where they are located. 1L students with concerns may petition the faculty Administrative Committee for an exception to the synchronous attendance requirement.  In either case, attendance will be mandatory for all students participating remotely.

Study Space: Library services and books will remain available through the contactless pickup processes published by the Law Library. Students will have access to reserve study space in the Law Library and throughout the Law School’s buildings, including space to take an online class if there is insufficient travel time between in-person and online courses. Students also will be able to study in common spaces without a reservation. Seating capacity in common spaces will be restricted, with six-foot physical distancing maintained. We also will designate eating spaces throughout the building for students.

Student Activities: Student organizations will continue to have access to their office spaces, subject to social distancing guidelines. For public health, especially in the winter months, we anticipate that student organizations will continue to be limited to small gatherings or to online events. We remain hopeful that outdoor gatherings will be permitted as the weather and public health situation improve. We will share additional guidance from the Campus Activities Office as soon as we receive it.

Exams: As in the fall semester, we anticipate that spring exams will be administered online.There are obviously many more details yet to be worked out, including the final Spring 2021 course schedule, which we anticipate will be ready for dissemination in late November. We thought it would be helpful for you to get the broad outlines of our plans sooner rather than later, subject to what we all now know much too well: the situation continues to evolve. We will be nimble in our response to maintain the safety and wellbeing of our community. Please feel free to email us at law.dean@cornell.edu or law.dos@cornell.edu if you have any questions.  We are working with the Student Leadership Council to schedule a Town Hall at which we expect questions about these plans and other matters will be raised. We look forward to answering your questions in more detail then. In the meantime, please continue to stay safe and be well.

Best,
Eduardo M. Peñalver
Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law
(607)255-3527
law.dean@cornell.edu

Markeisha J. Miner
Dean of Students
(607) 255-5839
law.dos@cornell.edu