Students at Mitchell Hamline School of Law will remain fully online for the upcoming J-term and spring semester. In an email to students on Monday, Oct. 19, President and Dean Anthony Niedwiecki noted “the public health situation has not changed appreciably since late July when we decided to teach remotely in the fall.”
Below is the email Dean Niedwiecki sent to students:
After consulting with faculty, staff, and students and receiving input from outside medical and facilities experts we hired to advise us on COVID-19 issues, it is clear to me that we need to remain fully online for the J-term and spring semester.
The public health situation has not changed appreciably since late July when we decided to teach remotely in the fall. I wanted to announce a decision about spring as early as possible so people could register for classes and make decisions about housing with full knowledge of our plans.
I realize this is another blow, in a year that has brought a series of them. I empathize with those of you experiencing feelings of social isolation and anxiety about your own health and the health of those close to you as this pandemic drags on. I know that for some of you, this decision to continue online will intensify those feelings. But my priority remains the health and safety of everyone in this community.
Infection numbers are rising, and the highest number of cases are from unknown community sources, which means it is increasingly difficult for state officials to track the disease’s spread. People of color are still being disproportionately affected. On top of that, we still lack clarity on the specifics of how the virus is transmitted, which means we lack certainty about how to block transmission.
In addition, the educational experience we have had this fall has validated my confidence in our ability to provide instruction effectively while fully online. Our faculty have done an excellent job, with the support of the academic technology team, and you all have adapted extremely well. Some of you have even reported pleasant surprises: blended-learning students who now have access to synchronous courses, evening students who now can spend time with family at night instead of rushing off to campus, and students who have had the chance to meet and interact with classmates they wouldn’t normally encounter. I am pleased with how instruction has gone this fall, and I’m confident that will continue in the spring.
Operations in spring semester will remain as they are now. The building will not be used for classes, and we will not host outside groups for events. The library will remain open. Faculty and staff may work on campus but are encouraged to work remotely if possible. Anyone who comes to campus is expected to follow our COVID-19 protocols, which are listed on each entrance door at the school. We will continue to monitor the situation with the hope of lifting some of the restrictions when it is safe to do so.
In contrast to many higher-education institutions across the country, we have not had any reported cases of COVID-19 on campus. That’s not surprising given the building is largely shut down, but I am heartened that we’ve been able to safeguard the health of our community and also contribute to mitigating the spread of this disease in our area. While we have not had any cases on campus, we have had members of our community test positive for COVID-19. I urge you to report to Dean of Students Lynn LeMoine if you test positive, even if you do not plan to come to campus. This is for two reasons: 1) so we can support you in recovering from your illness, and 2) so we have complete information about the health of our community as we consider when and how to open up the campus.
The decision to remain fully online for spring was not easy for me to make, and I pledge to you again, as I did in July, that I will reopen campus for classes as soon as it is safe to do so. We will continue to monitor the virus and work with our health care consultants to develop a plan to reopen campus. I appreciate your resilience, your continued courage, and your capacity for adapting to challenging circumstances.