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March 12, 2020

Albany Law School Community:

As you know, the situation surrounding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is changing rapidly. Out of an abundance of caution and care, Albany Law School’s leadership team has decided to delay the start of residential classes for one week so that our faculty can transition all coursework online.   

Beginning Monday, March 23, all classes will be held online. At that time, residential courses will resume remotely.

This change is effective through Friday, April 3—a decision to continue remote learning or to return to in-person instruction will be communicated before the end of that week.

Courses that are already fully online will not be affected. All students who are enrolled in fully online Spring 2020 courses will resume after spring break, as scheduled, on Monday, March 16.

The law school buildings will remain open to students, faculty, staff, and invited guests. All community members who access our facilities should follow Albany Law School’s social-distancing policies, which are posted on albanylaw.edu/Coronavirus and around campus.

We are also announcing some modifications to our COVID-19 policies and recommendations. One of those policies:

All in-person student activities, regardless of size, are postponed or canceled through April 3. If a student meeting, gathering, or event can be held virtually, that will be permitted. We expect this policy will be lifted when in-person classes resume.

This is so difficult. I know how disappointing these changes are for students, faculty, and staff who thrive on the campus experience. I feel for all our students, who may experience hardship over the next several weeks. I feel for our 3Ls and 4Ls who are facing uncertainty during this final semester of law school. I feel for our faculty and staff, whose regular interactions with students and colleagues give meaning to their work.

But we are still a community. A unique community. A great community. And we will get through this together.

I want to tell you about some of the reasons for this decision:

  • We are reducing the risk of contagion. By moving all classes online, we are decreasing the density of our campus. This helps protect not only our community members, but also our loved ones.
  • We are helping to “flatten the curve.” According to public health experts, reducing or delaying contagion through social-distancing measures is critical, as it decreases strain on medical facilities.
  • We care, immensely, about your wellbeing. Some of you want to be home with loved ones, or are feeling anxious about attending class in person. We want you to have the flexibility to make the best decisions for yourselves and your loved ones.

What does this decision mean, and what can you expect moving forward?

  • Students:
    • We recognize that moving to online classes will disrupt your semester and present challenges. We are sorry for that, and appreciate in advance your understanding and patience as we do our best to provide the best legal education possible under challenging circumstances.
    • Please watch your email. Your professors will be in touch next week regarding the plan for their classes.
    • You are welcome to use our library and other facilities, so long as you follow Albany Law School’s social-distancing policies.
    • Work-study students are encouraged to work remotely until classes resume in person. If your job requires your presence on campus, please be in touch with your supervisor to let them know whether you are willing and able to continue working.
    • Some of you may be wondering about commencement. I want to assure you that we will make the best, safest decision for our community. At this time it is too early to make any decisions, and we appreciate your patience and trust as we determine the best path forward.
    • If you are experiencing any hardship related to COVID-19 or our decision to move classes online, please let one of the deans know. We realize that these decisions have implications, and we want to help.
  • Faculty:
    • We recognize that our decision to move to online classes will require hard work on your part. Thank you for that. Your commitment to our students is what makes our law school strong.
    • Dean Connie Mayer, Dean Antony Haynes, and I will be reaching out to you individually to assess your readiness and needs for transitioning your classes online.
    • We will provide the resources and training that you need to transition your courses online, including access to the law school’s institutional Zoom account.
    • You will have the option of delivering the material synchronously or asynchronously. If you choose to hold “live” classes virtually, those sessions must be held during the regularly scheduled class times.
    • Once your classes are fully online, you are responsible for sharing the details with your students.
    • While transitioning classes is a first priority, maintaining close contact with our students and advisees is also a priority. We ask that you provide a remote equivalent for office hours. You can use Zoom, phone access, chat rooms, email, or whatever tool works best for you, so long as students have the access and support we normally provide.
  • Staff:
    • We know that this affects you deeply, and appreciate your commitment to our students and our law school. Thank you for helping us continue to provide the best service we can during this challenging time.
    • Staff who can work remotely are encouraged to do so. This is especially true for those who are medically vulnerable.
    • To keep our buildings and facilities open, and to maintain continuity of service, at this time some staff will need to be on site. All decisions should be made with input from your supervisor and Director of Human Resources Sherri Donnelly.
  • Alumni:
    • In light of the pandemic and the need to limit the risk of spread, until further notice, both the gym and Schaffer Law Library will be open only to current Albany Law School students, faculty, and staff. We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause you, members of the bar, and the public. We hope to reopen our doors to the greater community as soon as possible. In the meantime, please be safe. If you have any questions regarding the library, contact Professor David C. Walker, Director of Schaffer Law Library, at dwalk@albanylaw.edu.

For the latest policies and updates, visit our coronavirus website. I will continue to communicate any and all major changes. To all students, faculty, and staff: you will soon receive an email about updating your contact information in the Send Word Now notification system; please review your current information and make any necessary updates. Faculty, staff, and student employees: you should also update your contact information in Paycor—we have updated our coronavirus website with instructions.

In the meantime, Albany Law School’s leadership team is actively monitoring developments related to COVID-19. The law school is following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the New York State Department of Health, and the Albany County Department of Health, as well as its internal Pandemic Response Plan. We will adjust our plans and stay in close communication as things develop.

While this is not the semester we had hoped for, we will move forward with the thought, care, and compassion that mark our community. We will band together. We will support one another. And we will show the qualities that make this such an exceptional community.

All my best,

Alicia Ouellette
President and Dean