Statement to Students on Public Health Compliance

As the first week of classes draws to a close, we wanted to reach out to encourage your continued partnership in this joint effort to remain open for in-person instruction without interruption through the end of the semester. We commend the vast majority of you for following the established public health protocols. Your adherence to those protocols last semester allowed us to offer in-person instruction and to complete the fall term without interruption. Many thought it could not be done but you did it! Because of your diligence, many of your classmates and colleagues who initially elected online instruction chose to study in-person this term. We made the decision to expand building hours to allow you greater access to study in the building. Additionally, we designated indoor spaces where you could consume food and beverages safely. This increased flexibility was a direct result of your fastidious adherence to the prevailing public health guidance.

We must, however, share our concern about a few instances where those protocols have not been strictly followed. Our building care and library teams have reported, particularly after evening rounds, that chairs and other furniture have been moved, study room maximum capacity has been exceeded, and some students have not worn face coverings in the building. These departures from the proven public health protocols jeopardize our community’s health and safety. Furniture has been carefully measured and placed to comply with physical distancing guidelines and moving tables or chairs places others at an unsafe distance. More people studying in small, closed spaces than indicated in the reservation system compromises contact tracing efforts. And, a failure to follow face covering requirements—at a time when Cornell alum Dr. Fauci encourages the public to consider double masking—poses an unnecessary risk to fellow students, our faculty, and our staff who are working tirelessly to ensure you have an opportunity to attend classes in-person as well as study in the law buildings.

As future members of the legal profession and our future colleagues, you do not need us to stress to you that our entire legal system rests on the public’s confidence that lawyers and future lawyers in the best sense will abide by established rules. Keep in mind that all Cornell students are obligated to comply with the Behavioral Compact as a condition of enrollment. Any member of the campus or local community may anonymously report COVID-19 related concerns here. Individuals who do not comply with the campus and community public health guidelines may lose their access to Law School facilities. If there continue to be instances in which those guidelines are not followed, we will have no choice but to consider other measures such as, but not limited to, reducing building hours or limiting building access to academic instruction only, which would negatively impact all students, including those who have consistently complied with the guidelines.

We bring these instances to your attention now as we have faith in your ability to rise to the occasion as you have in the past. We acknowledge that pandemic fatigue is real. We all look forward to the day when we can safely gather with classmates and colleagues for activities and events we previously took for granted. In the meantime, we cannot afford to let our guard down. We must continue doing all we can to keep one another safe. Our first priority is protecting your health and wellbeing, and that of the entire community. Thank you for your continued commitment to that shared goal.

Ofer Leshed, Associate Dean for Finance and Administration
Markeisha J. Miner, Dean of Students
Kim Nayyer, Edward Cornell Law Librarian and Associate Dean for Library Services