The Law School is developing plans for returning to Weinmann Hall during the Fall 2020 semester. A Reopening Working Group is meeting regularly to craft a proposal for resuming on-campus instruction consistent with public health directives and University guidance, and we have formed a COVID-19 Dean’s Advisory Committee to gather input from students. See Dean Meyer's Message to Students 5/29.
These plans reflect President Fitts' message outlining university-wide efforts to create a roadmap for returning to campus and the summary of recommendations published for review and comment by members of the Tulane community.
Please follow the links below for information on COVID-19 and the Law School's response.
As previously announced, we will be starting the Fall 2020 semester early (Aug. 12 for 1Ls; Aug. 17 for upper-class students), in order to complete all classes and exams by Thanksgiving. Also as previously announced, classes will be recorded and accessible remotely for any students who are unable to be present on campus because of ongoing summer work commitments.
Following the University’s direction, we are eliminating fall break and non-federal holidays to discourage travel during the semester and minimize any associated risks of viral exposure. As Yom Kippur (Sept. 28) is not a federal holiday, it has been eliminated from the University schedule; however, recognizing that many faculty may need to reschedule classes on Yom Kippur for religious observance, we have predesignated Sept. 26 as a make-up day for those missed classes.
Other than the elimination of fall break and the shift forward with the earlier start, the academic calendar is essentially the same as in other years; classes will meet for the same number of weeks and classroom minutes and will not be otherwise compressed.
As indicated on the revised academic calendar, final exams will run from Nov. 14-25 and closely track the original exam schedule. (1L exams start Nov. 14; upper-class exams start Nov. 16.) We are planning to administer all exams in person and in the building (with necessary social distancing and accommodations for students with a disability that prevents them from being in the building).
Please take note that University policy now mandates that all persons must wear masks while on campus (unless isolated within a closed office). We expect this mandate will continue throughout the fall semester. You may have seen recent reports finding that the wearing of masks drastically reduces the risks of viral transmission (see, e.g., https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2020/06/16/mask-covid), so compliance is essential.
We have received detailed guidance from J.S. Held, an environmental health and safety consulting firm hired by the University. J.S. Held conducted a room-by-room analysis of Weinmann Hall and the Law School Annex (home to the Centers for Energy and Environmental Law). On the basis of a 3-D virtual image of every room, space, and surface in the buildings, they provided detailed guidance specifying building modifications and changes to our operations to maximize safety. We met with the consultants earlier this week and are now in the process of implementing their recommendations. The comprehensive guidance includes:
a. Assessments of seating capacity and allowable occupancy throughout the building to ensure proper social distancing of at least six feet. For classrooms, this works out to roughly 50% of normal seating capacity in most rooms and lower than 50% in some others. For most private faculty and other offices, this allows for no more than two persons. Common areas such as the student and faculty lounges and journal suites will remain accessible, but with sharply reduced capacity.
b. Management of traffic flow within the building. For instance, elevator use will be limited to no more than two persons and the stairway will be divided into “up” and “down” lanes.
c. Direction concerning the installation of glass or plexiglass shields at front-facing reception areas. The Law School has decided to go well beyond the consultants’ recommendations to install shields at every classroom teaching podium, at every secretarial station in the building, and in a variety of locations throughout the library.
d. Direction concerning the placement of hand sanitizer stations at many specified locations throughout the building. e. Limitations on the use of common food facilities, such as coffee makers and shared kitchens. For example, while vending machines, microwaves, and refrigerators will be allowed to remain, they will be subject to a frequent cleaning protocol.
f. Detailed direction concerning frequent cleaning protocols for offices, classrooms, restrooms, and all surfaces throughout the building.
g. Upgrades to ventilation and filtration in both Weinmann Hall and the Annex to meet nationally prescribed standards to prevent viral transmission. Based on an air flow analysis of each room in the buildings, we will be increasing both filtration and ensuring that air in every room is exchanged at least four times per hour. (These are the ventilation standards recommended by national experts.)
In addition to these building modifications, all members of our community will follow the general safety protocols prescribed by Tulane University. These include:
a. Universal Testing: Tulane University is building high-capacity testing sites on the Uptown and Downtown campuses, which will open at the end of this month. All faculty, staff, and students must be tested and receive a negative result before returning to campus. Test results will be turned around in 24 hours. This will ensure a clean bill of health for the entire campus at the start of the semester. The University will then provide periodic surveillance testing thereafter, every three or four weeks. We will get more detailed guidance about testing soon from the University and will share that in time to make plans for your return to campus.
b. Symptom Monitoring: All faculty, staff, and students will also be required to self-monitor for any symptoms of illness each morning before coming to campus. The University will send daily reminders to check temperatures and report any symptoms (such as sore throat, cough, etc.). Anyone experiencing such symptoms should stay home and self-isolate until they can be tested or otherwise be assured they are not infected. Because every class can be accessed or taught remotely, this should facilitate students or faculty working from home whenever necessary.
c. Mandatory Face Coverings: As previously announced, University policy strictly requires the wearing of masks whenever on campus, unless you are alone in an office behind a closed door. (Professors will be allowed to remove masks while teaching behind the glass shields.) The combination of face coverings and social distancing reduces the risk of viral transmission to a minimum, which is why the policy must be strictly enforced.
d. Response to Exposures and Infections: The University has a robust response plan for cases of infection, including contact tracing, medical treatment and isolation, and notifications and testing for any persons who may have been in close contact.
Library Access and Services: The Law Library will be open to law students and faculty, but will be closed to others to maximize access for our community while allowing for social distancing. Evening hours may be limited by the availability of staff and student workers. The Library will continue to offer a wide range of references and other services remotely, and patrons will be encouraged to use remote access whenever possible to limit the need for in-person contact. The Library is also installing self-service book check-out stations to eliminate the need for over-the-counter contact while checking out materials. Some carrels will be marked off limits to ensure adequate social distancing from active carrels, and open study spaces will be adjusted to limit the number of users. Other limitations are being considered to ensure safe passage through the double-door entrance on the third floor.
Like almost all other law schools this year, we plan to adopt a “hybrid” model that combines in-class and remote instruction. This will take several forms:
For students who must participate in classes remotely for some or all of the semester, steps are being taken to ensure a high-quality learning experience. First, the Law School is assessing and upgrading all classroom technology and adding cameras and microphones as necessary to maximize access for those not in the classroom. Second, the Law School is offering training for faculty this summer on both technology and pedagogy to maximize learning in the new hybrid classroom environment. Finally, for selected larger-enrollment courses, student “classroom assistants” will be hired to assist the professor in facilitating equal participation by remote and in-class students.
As previously announced, students may elect to take all of their coursework remotely because of health and safety concerns. Students who make this election will be excused from certain campus fees (see Dean Gaunt’s previous e-mail for details). There is no deadline by which students must make this election, but we ask you to let Dean Gaunt know as soon as possible so already so that we can plan accordingly. Students who elect in-person instruction may decide later to switch to remote participation (although the fee waiver may not apply). Consistent with the rationale for the ABA’s health and safety exemption and the waiver of campus fees, students who opt to participate remotely will be expected to remain off campus for the Fall semester.
We have managed to minimize changes to the original exam schedule. For students studying in person, exams will be administered in person. For students electing remote participation for the semester, exams will be administered remotely. For remote exams, we will use a proctoring service that will require students to take their exams on camera under secure conditions (and so remote students will need a laptop equipped with a camera). The proctoring service is the same kind used for bar examinations and other high-stakes testing and is highly effective in ensuring the integrity of exams. /p>
The Financial Aid Office is working with students to adjust their aid packages and to advise on available resources. While the deadline to modify federal loan packages for the 2019-2020 academic year has passed, financial aid resources remain available for graduates and continuing students:
The Financial Aid Office can also assist you in applying for emergency grants or loans related to COVID-19. Law students may apply for emergency assistance from a variety of sources:
Students facing significant hardships occasioned by the crisis should consult with Dean Gaunt for advice about available support.
Information on the status of the bar examination in other states continues to emerge daily. The latest information, updated continually, can be found at this site: http://www.ncbex.org/ncbe-covid-19-updates/july-2020-bar-exam-jurisdiction-information.
Graduates planning to take the bar exam in New York or Massachusetts are likely aware that those states have adopted rules that will give priority seating at the exam to applicants who graduated from in-state law schools. Dean Meyer joined with dozens of law school deans from other states across the country in urging the Chief Justices in New York and Massachusetts to consider alternative arrangements that would make more seats available to test takers from other states, including Tulane.
Based on extensive and ongoing discussions with employers both nationally and regionally, Tulane’s On-Campus and Off-Campus Interview programs, usually held in late summer, will be rescheduled for January 2021. This is in keeping with the preferences of most employers (both law firms, public interest, and others) and with what other law schools are doing, both in Louisiana and nationally.
We are confident that this shift will maximize job opportunities for all students. The delay will give employers the time they need to hire with greater confidence, both because rising 2Ls will have the benefit of two semesters of graded work and, even more important, because employers will have more time to assess their hiring capacity and gain confidence in the economic recovery. Forcing employers to make hiring decisions in the late summer or early fall would likely lead them to hire more conservatively, given the present uncertainties.
While the bulk of interviewing will move to January, we will work individually with any employer who wishes to hire on an earlier schedule to interview our students. We have not yet fixed precise dates in January for our interview programs, but will do so soon in close consultation with employers.
Determinations of whether students holding merit-based scholarships have attained the cumulative GPA targets necessary to retain or recover their scholarships, ordinarily conducted in May, will be deferred until January 2021, so that Fall 2020 grades may be considered in lieu of Spring 2020 grades. As a result, students holding such scholarships will automatically retain them, at their current amounts, for the Fall 2020 semester.
Students failing to attain prescribed GPA targets at that point will have their scholarships reduced prospectively beginning with the Spring 2021 semester. Rising 3L students (current 2Ls) who have previously had their scholarships reduced on the basis of 1L grades and who attain the GPA targets qualifying them to recover their original scholarships will have their original scholarships restored in January 2021 retroactively to cover the entire 2020-2021 academic year.
We are aware that many students’ individual and family circumstances have been impacted by COVID-19. Students who may need to consider a leave of absence for the Fall semester should contact Dean Gaunt.
We anticipate that public-health guidelines concerning social distancing and the avoidance of large gatherings will affect the usual operation and activities of student organizations. Although large social gatherings or in-person events are likely to be inadvisable for the time being, organizations will be encouraged to creatively retool their activities to take advantage of technology or outside spaces. The availability and use of student organization offices will be guided by further University guidance and the recommendations of the expert hygienists now assessing Weinmann Hall and other campus facilities.
Tulane University has suspended or postponed all gatherings on campus for the time being which will impact a number of law school conferences, lectures and other events. Tulane University and the Law School are both hosting periodic webinars and “virtual” alumni gatherings over the summer. The Law School’s next virtual Alumni Event is planned for Thursday, June 11, at 5:00 p.m. (central time). More details will be announced soon.
On March 20, 2020, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a “Stay at Home” mandate for the City of New Orleans. While faculty and staff are considered “essential” personnel under the Mayor’s order and are permitted to travel to the Law School if there is a “critical need” to do so, they should remain in the building no longer than absolutely necessary. Weinmann Hall is currently locked and accessible only by Splashcard.
If you must come into the office, please practice social distancing measures and preventative measures throughout the university. We urge you to follow these same recommendations at home.
On June 13, 2020, Mayor Cantrell announced that the City would movie to “Phase 2” of its reopening plan; As the City transitions toward greater reopening, the University will continue to update its own transition plans.