Important Reminders: Concluding the Fall Semester and Planning for Spring

Dean Lester shares important information and reminders to conclude the Fall 2020 semester and plan for Spring 2021. 

Dear members of the Columbia Law School Community,

With Thanksgiving nearly upon us, let me convey my best wishes for a safe and restorative holiday break. Though we are departing from our national tradition of large Thanksgiving gatherings this year, I hope you will find ways to connect with your family and friends—to check in, lend encouragement, and express gratitude. 

I also write to share some important information and reminders as we approach the conclusion of the fall semester and look ahead to the spring. 

Concluding the Fall Semester

  • Classes & Exams: As a reminder, all Law School classes—even if they have held meetings on campus at some point during the fall semester—will shift to an entirely remote format beginning on Monday, November 30, through the end of the exam period. The Fall 2020 exam schedule and information about the administration of exams can be found here

  • Travel: The University continues to recommend that you avoid all non-essential travel. If you do need to travel, we urge you to get tested before departing. Columbia’s Voluntary Testing Program now includes an option to receive travel-related testing. Alternatively, the New York City Department of Health is offering a no-cost testing program. Please also remember that all members of the Columbia community are required to comply with state and local regulations, including observing New York State quarantine requirements upon return to New York from another state.

  • Columbia Surveillance Testing: Those faculty, students, and staff who have received a gateway test through Columbia’s Test and Trace Program are also automatically enrolled in campus surveillance testing, an essential measure that allows for continued monitoring of the health of our campus community. If you are contacted as part of the random sample selected for surveillance testing, please be sure to comply by scheduling a test. 

  • Public Health Guidelines & Group Gatherings: As of November 13, indoor and outdoor gatherings at private residences in New York State are limited to no more than 10 persons. We expect all students to observe these restrictions, whether or not they live in Columbia housing.

  • Building Access: Law School buildings will continue to be accessible on the same schedule that has been in place since the beginning of the semester, including through the final exam period. Please note that Law School buildings will be closed during the winter recess beginning on Thursday, December 24, and will reopen on Monday, January 4. Building access will be restricted during this time.

  • Law Library: The Law Library will be closed on Thursday, November 26, and Friday, November 27, in observance of Thanksgiving. The Law Library will reopen on November 28th and remain accessible from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days per week, through December 23. During the winter recess (see dates above), the Law Library space will be closed, but patrons will be able to access online materials and law library services remotely. The Law Library space will reopen for the spring semester on Thursday, January 7.

Planning for the Spring Semester

I am grateful to the more than 500 law students who completed the University’s recent survey and was pleased to learn that a substantial majority of law students reported satisfaction with the overall learning experience this fall and report a high level of engagement with their coursework. Still, we will continue to refine our approach to hybrid and virtual instruction, especially as we have the benefit of more experience. In addition to adjustments to the class schedule and further innovations in faculty training, we continue to encourage instructors to offer hybrid and in-person learning opportunities where they are able, and to create ways to build a strong community among students. 

Looking ahead, consistent with my announcement earlier this fall, we expect Law School classes this spring to again be convened either in-person, online, or in hybrid format—with Law School buildings and the Law Library open for students and faculty. To sustain a reduced level of density on campus, administrative departments and research centers will continue to work in the same mode as they have during the fall semester. 

As President Bollinger noted in his recent message, our ability to sustain some on-campus activity this fall was made possible by the robust public health measures we put in place and by the diligent observance of these protocols throughout our community. Looking ahead, in confronting the recent increase in infection rates and hopeful that we can resume some in-person activities this spring, upholding those shared commitments will be more important than ever. 

Thank you for your continued understanding, cooperation, and flexibility as we press ahead during these pandemic times. And, once again, my warm best wishes for the Thanksgiving holiday. 

Best regards,

Gillian Lester
Dean and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Law