With precautions in place against COVID-19 throwing the university community into full-time online coursework and sheltering in place, socializing has had to become a bit … creative.
Social distancing is needed to “flatten the curve,” experts say, but isolation can also wreak havoc on anyone, making one feel isolated and overwhelmed. For law students, it's compounded as they navigate a “new normal” with the challenging work of law studies.
Tulane Law’s Office of Academic Affairs is pushing the boundaries of what it means to stay connected, even in cyberspace, with “events” online to keep students, faculty and staff engaged. Some are serious, but many are fun distractions.
Organized with the help of Assistant Dean of Students Abigail Gaunt, the office has organized events most weeknights to bring students and faculty together via Zoom conferencing – but not for academic pursuits.
There is Friday “Epicurean Night” with Profs. Sally Richardson and Ron Scalise (part cooking class, part culture experience), a Wednesday night Charades/Poker with Profs. Jancy Hoeffel and Gabe Feldman, and Monday “Mindful Lawyering” with Prof. Keith Werhan as well as Thursday “Meet.Pray.Love” meet-up with Prof. Khrista McCarden which explores spirituality and offers guest speakers for informative fellowship
“Social connection is always important, but it's even more important when you're dealing with stressful events -- which we all are right now!” said Gaunt. “I hope these programs will provide students, faculty, and staff with moments of connection that remind them that they're a part of a special community.”
The office recently added a weekly “Legal Journeys” podcast with Prof. Elizabeth Townsend Gard, who interviews alumni, practitioners, faculty and friends of Tulane Law on their career and life paths. In the works: Law School Jeopardy and a “Match-the-Pet” event at 2 p.m. April 7 (during Spring Break) where participants guess which pets belong to which faculty or staff members.
Students seem pleased with the respite.
Third-year law student Daniel Schwank joined Friday’s Epicurean Night with Richardson and Scalise. Watching the professors make frittatas in their kitchen via conferencing was a welcome break.
“After weeks of seclusion, I really needed to have a laugh and see my friends in a non-classroom setting. Professor Richardson and Scalise served up just that!” he said.
Prof. Hoeffel, who recently hosted Charades during Wednesday game night, will be having dinner with the winning “Team Serena” at the first local restaurant that opens up when stay home orders are lifted. Appropriately for a group of legal minds, one team had little problem acting out “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” but the stumper of the night was acting out “The Godfather.”
“We really did have fun!” Hoeffel said.
To join in, here is the running schedule. Remember, all Zoom links are included in Dean Gaunt's weekly email: