Fall Semester Updates for Students

With the start of the Fall 2020 semester rapidly approaching, Dean Lester shares some updates on the protocols for returning to campus, as well as information about events and programming; fall semester grades; and more.

Dear Students, 

With the start of the fall semester rapidly approaching, I want to share some updates on the protocols for returning to campus, as well as information about events and programming; fall semester grades; and more. Much of this information is also available on the Law School’s COIVD-19 Information & Resources page, along with answers to frequently asked questions. 

Protocols for Entering Campus

Anyone who plans to come to campus must complete the University’s public health protocols, which are listed below and covered in detail in the Columbia COVID-19 Resource Guide.

  1. Read the Enhanced University Health and Safety Policy

  2. Read and sign the Health Compact

  3. Complete Safety Training

  4. Self-quarantine, if required

  5. Get Tested

  6. Complete the Daily Symptom Self-Check via the ReopenCU App

Please note that you must receive a negative COVID-19 test result before coming onto campus. Please be sure to allow for enough time between your scheduled test and your first day of on-campus classes to ensure time for the results to be communicated. The University Life Forum, held earlier this week, is an excellent source of information.

Fall Semester Grades

The Law School will proceed, as earlier announced, with our regular system of grades this fall. After hearing from the Student Senate on this issue, I appointed a faculty committee to make a recommendation on whether any change to this plan was warranted under the circumstances. After considering information and views from various parts of the community and following careful deliberation, the committee recommended that we proceed as usual. While stressing the importance of the Law School’s current and continuing investments to support all students in adapting to the current learning environment, the committee identified several concerns that favored proceeding with our regular system of grades: to ensure that our students remain competitive in the job market; to give students the opportunity to show improvement over time under a consistent grading system; to honor the representations made to students and employers about our fall return to our standard grading policies; and in recognition of the significant additional preparation and provision of resources to facilitate virtual and hybrid learning relative to the unexpected nature of last spring’s disruptions.

Attending Classes Asynchronously

We are committed to providing students with the option to attend classes virtually if they do not wish to come to campus. The faculty’s hope is that students will attend their classes synchronously—that is, at the time that the class is being offered—whether in the classroom or online. We recognize, however, that some students will not realistically be able to attend classes in real time due to issues outside their control, including extreme time zone differences. 

If you are residing in a time zone that makes it so that you cannot realistically attend virtual classes in real time, and instead plan to view recordings of class sessions, you should contact your professor(s) as soon as you receive your class schedule to seek approval to attend class asynchronously and develop an individualized plan for class participation that demonstrates engagement with course material as class sessions occur. If you have any questions about contacting your professors, feel free to reach out to Student Services at [email protected]

Events & Programming 

To protect the health and safety of our community, event organizers should plan for all co-curricular events and programs to take place virtually until further notice. Outdoor events are permitted, so long as they are optional and comply with relevant State, City, and University regulations. The full Law School events policy is available on our website and applies to all Law School-related gatherings, including those convened by student organizations, and encompasses all in-person events, regardless of whether they are held off campus. 

Due to changes in the class schedule, the traditional lunch hour (12:10 to 1:10 p.m.) will be shortened and take place slightly later than in typical years, from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m. Event organizers should keep this in mind when scheduling and consider making use of the 4:40 to 5:40 p.m. time slot, in addition to the lunchtime slot. 

Updating your Attendance Status in LawNet

Your LawNet profile now includes a field labeled “semester attendance mode” that allows you to identify your attendance status—remote or in-person—for the fall semester. This field has been pre-populated based on your response to the survey that was sent out in July. We encourage you to review and, if necessary, update this information, as an accurate status will help us ensure that you are properly registered for classes and in fulfillment of relevant curricular and regulatory requirements. 

As always, please feel free to contact Student Services if you have any questions. All of us on the faculty and staff appreciate how flexible and adaptable you have been in the months since the pandemic began and your continued partnership in these last few weeks before classes begin. We keenly anticipate welcoming you back—whether in-person or virtual—to a vibrant new academic year.

Best regards, 

Gillian Lester
Dean and the Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law