From the Dean – Library reopening and more

January 29, 2021

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

I am pleased to report that the law school is prepared to open the library for students and employees on Saturday morning (Jan. 30).  We are also prepared to resume in-person classes on Monday (Feb. 1).  As with all plans during the pandemic, our plans to resume in-person operations are subject to change if necessary to protect the health of our community.  Protecting the health of our community depends in large measure on the honorable cooperation of in-person community members and safe practices both on- and off-campus. 

In addition, many of you have reached out this week with concerns and suggestions.  I want to address these concerns and will be available at Thursday's Town Hall meeting to take further questions.

  1. Consequences:  The law school's Return to Campus Plan contemplates potential consequences for violations of COVID safety guidelines, or actions that otherwise put individuals at risk and jeopardize the ability of the law school to remain open for in-person activities.  Potential consequences range from warnings to losing the privilege to access campus to formal disciplinary action.

    Dean Queenan has convened a Community Return to Campus Safety Committee, comprising students, staff, and faculty, which will make recommendations to the Return to Campus Task Force Safety Committee or the Administration as to whether community members who violate safety guidelines should be asked to remain off campus or referred for possible disciplinary action.  
  1. Enforcing community standards:  The Community Return to Campus Safety Committee will also play a role in enforcing community standards.  The Committee will receive complaints, hear concerns, and recommend action.  I will also ask the Committee to create mechanisms for peer-to-peer and broader engagement in our shared effort of ensuring the law school campus remains as safe as possible in these uncertain times.

    In addition to the Committee, I urge all community members to take our pledge of shared responsibility seriously.  We can all do our part to remind one another to mask up or take a step back when we get too close.  We can also remind each other to attend classes or work remotely should anyone decide to socialize without masks and physical distance. 
  1. Reporting possible exposure:  As a reminder, the Law School needs to be informed when its community members may have been exposed to the coronavirus, whether on- or off-campus.  That knowledge will allow us to protect individuals in our community. Please use this Coronavirus Reporting Form to report potential exposure. 
  2. Federal work study: Students who lost assigned on-campus work hours as a direct result of COVID-related campus closures will be paid for the hours they were scheduled to work.  Any such student should submit timesheets with their supervisor's signature and a notation of why the work could not be conducted remotely to the Business Office.  Of note, this accommodation applies only to COVID-related campus closures owing to an exception made in federal law to the usual rule requiring completion of assigned work for payment.  It does not apply to snow days or other emergency closures.   
  3. Safety concerns:  The law school's safety plan relies on redundant layers of protection for all individuals using our facilities.  The law school has reduced population density through careful scheduling of classes and departmental units.  It has removed hundreds of chairs to facilitate physical distancing.  It is requiring masks and enforcing physical distancing rules.  It is regularly sanitizing high touch areas.  It has upgraded the MERV filters in its HVAC system to the highest level currently available.  And it has increased the amount of outside air being circulated in the building to the maximum extent possible (explaining why it is chillier than usual in many of our classrooms!).   

At times, one of these safety measures may not be available.  In such cases, the other safety measures are in place for the protection of everyone.  A small study room, for example, may not have as much fresh air as our larger classrooms and the cafeteria, but reduced density, physical distancing, and masking requirements remain in place to protect individuals.   

Thus far, the plan has proven effective in stopping the spread of the virus on campus.  That is a good thing, but it is not a guarantee, which is why the law school has made remote participation an option at all times. 

I and other members of the Public Health and Safety Committee Team will be available for further discussion and questions on Thursday, February 4 at the 7:00 p.m. Town Hall.

Take care of yourselves and each other,

Alicia Ouellette
President and Dean