From: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
Date: January 7, 2022
Dear Law School Community,
As you know, the campus has just changed its policy with regard to instruction for the first three weeks of our semester. It has announced that most courses will be fully remote during January. As a result, I am writing to inform you that our classes will be entirely online for the first three weeks of the semester (the weeks of January 10, January 18, and January 24). The plan is to return to fully in-person instruction beginning on Monday, January 31.
The reality is that COVID cases are surging because of Omicron. Public health and infectious disease experts confirm that it will get worse in the next couple of weeks. I am very worried about the spread of the disease if there are in-person classes. Also, there is great concern about the availability of COVID testing. It is for this reason that so many of our peer schools have chosen to be online for the month of January and why the Berkeley campus as well has chosen to have primarily online classes during this time.
The campus policy provides that if in-person classes are held, students may opt out of attending and instead choose to watch asynchronous recordings. This is not compatible with Law School classes, which, regardless of size, are fundamentally interactive and usually include discussion. An interactive class requires that most of the students be there to participate in the class. The fundamental nature of law school is undermined when the professor is in a classroom while many of the students in the class are viewing asynchronous recordings hours, or even days later.
My goal is always to protect the health of our students, staff, and faculty, and to provide the best possible education for our students. In this instance, I believe that both goals are best served by being online for the month of January.
I know this is a disappointment to some and a relief to others. I realize, from the many emails I have received, that there are strong feelings on both sides of this issue. I appreciate the views of those who want in-person instruction and strongly oppose any move to online classes. I also appreciate the views of those who want to be online in January because of the risks of COVID. Based on all we know, there is reason to believe that this is necessary just for three weeks and the plan at this point is that the rest of the semester will be in person.
As for staff, I believe that we should treat our staff the same as our faculty and students. Also, with students and faculty working remotely there is less need for most staff to be in the building. Therefore, unless a staff member’s work requires a presence in the building, staff may work remotely until January 31.
I will have a Zoom town hall meeting on Wednesday, January 12, at 2:00 pm and am glad to discuss this. I will continue to have weekly Zoom meetings at least as long as we are having online instruction.
Again, thank you for your patience as we deal with yet another unprecedented aspect to an unprecedented situation.
Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law
University of California, Berkeley School of Law