Public Health

Coronavirus and law schools: Numerous schools canceling in-person classes

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The concerns about the coronavirus have spread to law schools, with schools across the country canceling in-person classes or announcing full closures.

New York Law School was the first to shut down because of the coronavirus on March 4, according to

It closed last week for disinfecting after a law student interacted with an attorney who tested positive for coronavirus. That student later tested negative, but law school dean Anthony Crowell told on Monday that law schools should maintain “supportive and non-judgmental structures” to ensure a quick response to potential exposures.

“We sent mass communications on our status at regular intervals, and we hosted several large group conference calls with all faculty and staff and maintained regular contact with student leaders,” he said. “This helped us maintain trust and instill confidence in and accountability for our approach.”

The University of Washington also announced it would conduct classes online through March 30, the start of its spring quarter. reports one first-year law student was in self-quarantine after possible exposure to the coronavirus.

Over the weekend, Hofstra University said it would cancel in-person classes this week. Stanford University also announced its classes would move online until March 30 and Columbia University announced it would suspend classes Monday and Tuesday before shifting classes online for the rest of the week.

A faculty member who works in the medical clinic at Stanford University tested positive for the coronavirus, reports.

On Monday, Fordham University suspended in-person classes through Tuesday and said they would resume online Wednesday. Law school dean Matthew Diller told students in a message reported by there are no confirmed coronavirus cases at the university, but all on-campus law school events are canceled until March 29.

“We will be working to maintain as many services as possible—food service, career services, student affairs—but we anticipate that on-campus operations will be curtailed,” he said.

Also Monday, the University of California Berkeley School of Law said in a tweet that starting Tuesday, all classes would be virtual as a precautionary measure. In-person events at the law school also are canceled at least through March 26.

On Tuesday, Harvard University announced it will transition to online classes by March 23, the first day of classes after spring break. The university asked students not to return to campus after the break as a community health measure.

“The decision to move to virtual instruction was not made lightly,” Harvard president Lawrence Bacow said in a statement reported by CNN. “To our students, especially those of you graduating this year, I know that this is not how you expected your time at Harvard to end. We are doing this not just to protect you but also to protect other members of or community who may be more vulnerable to this disease than you are.”

Indiana University said that students on all of its campuses would be taught remotely for two weeks after its scheduled spring break, which ends March 22. The university expects to resume in-person classes on April 6, but president Michael McRobbie said in a message to the community that the decision “could change with the evolving situation.”

Other universities with law schools—including Ohio State University, Seattle University and the University of Southern California— joined the list of universities that have announced closures or the replacement of in-person classes with online lectures and seminars, CNN reports.

By Tuesday afternoon, that list also included American University, the Washington Post reports, and New York University, Above the Law reports. Texas A&M University’s students are currently on spring break, but the school is canceling classes next Monday and Tuesday to deal with planning and logistics related to the coronavirus. Texas A&M has not yet required that classes move online, Austin American-Statesman reports.

Syracuse University said it would suspend residential programs and transition to online classes from Friday through at least March 30. In a letter sent to students, faculty and staff, Kent Syverud, chancellor and president, and J. Michael Haynie, vice chancellor for strategic initiatives and innovation, said the decision was made in “a proactive effort to safeguard the health and wellness of our undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty and staff, as well as the broader Central New York community.”

“We acknowledge that suspending residential course delivery will create challenges for students, faculty and staff,” they wrote. “That said, these are unprecedented circumstances. Given the rapid spread of coronavirus across New York state, the fluidity of the situation, and the uncertainty and concern the virus is causing in our community, we believe this decision is prudent and necessary.”

Cornell University announced it would move to virtual instruction and also ask all undergraduate students and many professional degree students to leave campus at the start of spring break on March 28 and complete the rest of the semester at their home residences. The school also said graduate and professional students doing individual research could continue their programs, but must limit travel and group activities.

Beginning on Wednesday, the University of California, Los Angeles will suspend most in-person classes and move to online platforms, the university announced. Winter quarter final exams will be taken remotely and students are encouraged to start the spring quarter at home, the university also said.

UCLA’s online classes will continue through April 10, the end of the second week of the school’s spring quarter.

Duke University will suspend all on-campus classes until further notice and transition to remote instruction for all undergraduate, graduate and professional schools, according to a notice from president Vincent Price. Spring break will be extended through March 22 and students who are already out of town have been told not to return to campus.

Yale University will hold classes using Zoom, Canvas and other online tools once its spring break ends and through at least April 5, the school announced. Yale College students are being asked to remain at home after spring break, and if still on campus, to return home by Monday.

Graduate and professional students at Yale are encouraged to remain off-campus and participate in online instruction, “unless being on campus is necessitated by the nature of their research or academic programs,” the school also said.

The Touro Law Center in Long Island, New York, has taken all classes online through Thursday, according to a statement provided to the ABA Journal by director of communications Patti Desrochers. This is being done as a test throughout the undergraduate, graduate and professional schools at Touro in case in-person classes will need to be canceled, she said.

Michigan State University announced Wednesday it is suspending classes and moving instruction online through at least April 20. The University of Notre Dame, which is currently on spring break, canceled all classes for next week and will renew instruction online and through other “alternative learning options” from March 23 through at least April 13, the South Bend Tribune said.

If law schools face “disruption of the normal operation” with classes, they should contact the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, according to a managing director’s guidance memo published in February.

Distance learning, which is addressed in Standard 306, could be a good solution for emergency situations where law school facilities are unavailable or something makes it hard for students to get to the campus, the memo states. But it cautioned that schools and students may not have the technology necessary for distance learning, and faculty could be inexperienced with that type of teaching.

“We have issued guidance in other such situations, but it has always been specific to a particular emergency or disaster. It is a good idea to have something broader out there for schools, which we try to do here, but the timing is certainly connected to questions we are getting about the coronavirus,” Barry Currier, managing director of accreditation and legal education for the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, said in a statement.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Quinn Emanuel shuts down New York office after partner tests positive for coronavirus”

ABA Journal: “How BigLaw and the courts are responding to coronavirus; potential illness closes one firm’s office”

Updated March 11 with additional schools.

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