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March 19, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff:

When I wrote to you last week, I indicated that law school leadership would continually evaluate the fast-evolving situation with COVID-19, and make adjustments as needed after a two-week period during which our residential classes would be taught online. It is now evident that even a two-week period of remote teaching will not be enough to protect the health and safety of our community.

I write to let you know that we have made the difficult decision to teach all classes remotely for the remainder of the semester. We will also administer all spring exams in a remote format.

We are holding out hope that the COVID-19 pandemic will abate in time to offer the option of in-person instruction and extracurricular activities. Should that happen, I will make a campus-wide announcement. Be assured that a physical return to Albany Law this spring will not be required for any student. We will continue to provide remote access, even if we are lucky enough to safely return some activities to our physical space.

This news will leave many of you, especially our treasured students, with a sense of loss, and many questions. Let me first address the loss, which is real. For students expecting an immersive residential experience, the change to a fully online format means the loss of the wonderful and challenging day-to-day in-person interactions in and out of our classrooms, interactions that make our days at Albany Law School so meaningful. The online format will isolate many of us, and present practical challenges, especially for those of us new to technology, and those who are caring for children or other loved ones. If you are experiencing these challenges, or you experience them in the coming weeks, please reach out to one of your deans. We are all available to listen, direct you to resources, and offer support in whatever way we can.

At the same time, we are working diligently to make sure your semester is as meaningful and rich with community as it can be in this new remote format. Over the past week, your professors have attended trainings, experimented with different teaching options, and have fully committed to making sure you continue to receive an excellent legal education. We are adding supportive resources to help transition to an online environment. The law school team is also transitioning many planned extracurricular offerings to an online format. For example, Erwin Chemerinsky will still engage in a fireside chat with you; the chat will just be at a distance. Stay tuned for details. And we encourage you to think about if and how your planned events and community activities can be held online. Toward that end, we have purchased institutional Zoom licenses for all students, faculty, and staff, so that you can create spaces to gather, debate, and enrich each other’s lives. Watch for an email with details. With a bit of creativity, our robust community will thrive, simply in a different format.

Now for your questions. Many of you have asked about commencement. Others have asked specifically about exams, or the grading process for courses that are unexpectedly moving online. I am afraid I don’t have all the answers yet. Further details regarding exams, and decisions for commencement and grading, will be announced by Friday, April 3. In the meantime, we are talking daily as a leadership team, assessing all aspects of the evolving situation. We are talking with our faculty, which is considering academic policies to best serve students. And we want to hear directly from students. What are your concerns? What are your ideas and suggestions? 

To create a space for this discussion, I will host an online town hall for students on Friday, March 20, at 2 p.m. You will receive an invitation to join us via Zoom. Law school leadership will be present and will listen to your concerns, consider your ideas, and do our best to answer your questions. I anticipate many more town-hall type gatherings in the coming weeks and months.

After hearing from you, and considering all available information and alternatives, we will make the decisions that are best for our students, and we will communicate them promptly.

A few reminders:

  • Albany Law School is fully operational and its buildings are open. Most of our operations and employees are now remote.
  • Students and employees who are on site should follow social distancing protocols.
  • In-person events, meetings, or gatherings are to be held virtually or postponed for the remainder of the semester.
  • Regularly scheduled online courses have already resumed; residential classes will start online on Monday, March 23.
  • Students, faculty, and staff should report potential exposure to COVID-19 or travel to areas with outbreaks using this form.

I want to thank you for your continued patience and trust during these unprecedented and frightening times. We will continue to stay in regular contact. We will continue to support each other as we grow and learn as individuals and a community.

Please stay healthy. Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. And keep washing your hands.

We will get through this, together.

All my best,

 

Alicia Ouellette
President and Dean