After consulting with faculty and staff, President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki announced the decision to teach remotely this fall in an email on Friday, July 24.
The text is below:
Dear faculty and staff,
I shared with you on Monday my growing concern about holding some classes on campus this fall. It was clear from your feedback that many of you share those concerns. I write today to announce that we will be teaching completely online in the fall. A decision about the spring will be made later this year.
I recognize and respect that some of you strongly prefer an in-person learning environment, and I apologize for the change in direction. Why are we switching gears a couple of months after we announced we would teach partly on campus? In short: The virus spread has not moderated in the way we thought and in fact appears to be worsening, and because of our expertise in online legal education we can go remote and lower the health risk for our faculty, staff, and students while providing a quality educational experience. The risk of holding in-person classes during this time is not worth taking.
I understand that by going online we will need to rethink some of the ways we support students and build community, and we are creating a plan to accomplish those things remotely in new and powerful ways. We will also be sharing with you in the coming weeks a plan for a phased reopening of campus, detailing what restrictions will be lifted and when, based on specific public health metrics.
I did not make the decision to go online lightly, and what weighed most heavily for me was the public health data. Since we announced our plan for partly on-campus instruction in early June, total cases in Minnesota are up by 85 percent, new cases per day are rising instead of declining, and the fastest growth in infection is among those in their 20s, who now account for the largest share of total cases, at 24 percent. (Total cases grew from 26,273 in the Minnesota Department of Health June 4 weekly report to 48,721 in the July 23 report. Read the full July 23 weekly report here.)
Added to that is continuing uncertainty about how the virus is spread and growing concern about people being indoors together for sustained periods of time. I also share the concerns raised by many of you that students and people of color are more susceptible to risk of serious consequences and death from COVID-19 due to health disparities in our communities.
Clearly, the decline we hoped for in this health crisis when we began planning back in May has not come to pass. In announcing Minnesota’s new mask order on Wednesday, Gov. Walz and other state officials said they continue to be surprised by this virus and that we should expect it will be here for the long haul. The physician advising us on public health plans for the fall, Dr. Zeke McKinney, said he also expected things to go better than they have, and he recommends we teach online.
Not only will the building not be used for classes this fall, but we also will not be hosting any outside groups for events on campus. The library will remain open, and faculty and staff can work on campus, though we are encouraging everyone to work remotely if they can. If you do come to campus, please follow our COVID-19 protocols.
I apologize again for the disruption and sense of loss this decision will cause for some of you, but I am confident this plan is the best way to achieve both our educational and public health objectives. Please feel free to reach out to me to share ideas about how to welcome, support, and educate our students in this remote environment.
Thank you for your continued great work in these difficult times. Take care.
President and Dean
Mitchell Hamline School of Law
For current health-related information, we encourage you to visit the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Minnesota Department of Health websites. We will also update school information on the website.
State officials are posting updated information on the spread of COVID-19 in Minnesota here.
Contacts for questions
- On-campus students: student.services @mitchellhamline.edu
- Blended-learning students: blendedlearning @mitchellhamline.edu
- Employees should contact their manager or Andrea.Bien @mitchellhamline.edu
- Media: Doug.Belden @mitchellhamline.edu
- Mitchell Hamline to teach completely online in the fallPosted July 27
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- New health protocols for campus take effect June 15Posted June 12
- Building restrictions remain in place until further noticePosted May 15
- Mitchell Hamline extends building restrictions to May 18Posted May 1
- You’ve asked: How can we help during pandemic? Here are some waysPosted April 30
- Mitchell Hamline extends building restrictions to May 4Posted April 9
- Mitchell Hamline alumni offering discounted services during COVID-19Posted April 2
- Students have pass/fail option for spring semesterPosted March 27