From: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
To: Berkeley Law community
Date: Monday, March 16, 2020
Dear Berkeley Law Community,
As we enter our second week of on-line classes, I again want to thank everyone for their incredible efforts to make this work. We are all dealing with something unprecedented and I so appreciate everyone’s patience as we go forward.
We learned on Saturday that a graduate student on campus was diagnosed with the virus. As tests become more widely available, we will hear of more confirmed cases on the Berkeley campus. This is a reality that the campus has been preparing for and is why we went to all on-line classes, cancelled all events, and are encouraging staff, where possible, to work remotely. A public health crisis of this magnitude requires the cooperation of every institution. Our paramount priority is to protect the health of our community and do our part to limit the spread of COVID-19.
For all of us this is a difficult time and one where we most need the support of this wonderful community, but remote education and social distancing make that far more difficult. We will look for ways to have community activities electronically. I welcome suggestions for how to do more to provide support for our students, staff, and faculty. As Dean Annik Hirshen wrote the students last week, our counseling services for students remain available, including remotely, in the Law School and at the Tang Center.
I wanted to update you on a number of matters:
Given the public health situation, it is apparent that we will not be able to resume in-person classes after spring break, though I hold out hope that there will be a point in the semester when we will be able to do so. As many have observed, we are all seeing that distance learning is just not the same as being in a classroom together. But I also have heard much enthusiasm from many students and faculty about how well instruction is going over Zoom.
So until further notice, all Law School classes will be by distance learning. As I wrote last week, even if we can resume in-person classes at some point, students still will have the option to participate remotely and faculty will be able to teach remotely if they choose to do so.
Provost Paul Alivisatos earlier announced that all attendance requirements were suspended, but on Friday, in a memo to faculty, said that beginning on March 30 attendance requirements are permissible. After careful consideration and thorough discussion with senior administrators, we have decided that the Law School policy is:
Instructors may not require attendance at or participation in any particular real time activity without offering an alternative mode for students to satisfy that requirement. Although instructors may require that students demonstrate in some way their continued engagement with the remotely-delivered class materials, class participation in the sense of being online and able to answer questions or participate with other students in real time cannot be taken into account in grading unless students are given alternative ways to earn the same points. Unless there is a reason to not record a class for students to review later (such as, discussion of especially sensitive topics), instructors are expected to record their classes and to post the recordings on bCourses as soon after class as possible.
Students may have a variety of reasons for being unable to attend in real time—including illness, connectivity problems, and unanticipated family care obligations. In light of this range of possibilities, instructors must offer alternatives to real time attendance and participation. Instructors also have been directed not to use Zoom’s “attention tracking” feature as a proxy for attendance or participation.
If students need IT assistance, they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
My hope is that spring break will provide us all a respite in these difficult circumstances. As I wrote last week, I have suspended Law School-related travel except in essential circumstances. To the extent members of our community are still planning personal travel, I urge everyone to follow the recommendations of state and local governments and public health authorities. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html.
The campus and the Law School building are open, but there is a possibility of closure as has occurred at other universities. I would encourage students to remove from the Law School anything that they regard as essential (e.g., books), in case there is a building closure.
Law Schools are working with the major casebook publishers to make available free on-line copies of their casebooks to students. On Friday, Wolters Kluwer agreed to do this and we hope that other publishers will follow suit. The Law Library will be in touch with you as soon as signup information is available.
- Many Law School events of all sorts have been cancelled and there have been many requests to reschedule them for the fall. We are limited in the number of events we can hold and staff at any particular time. We therefore need to develop a system for rescheduling events. I am asking Charles Cannon and thembianne Jackson to work on this. Until then, and hopefully just for a short time, we need to hold off on rescheduling postponed events for the fall. I very much look forward to the fall and a very robust calendar of events and know that we all will appreciate them more than ever.
- I have received many requests that the Law School provide more updates and information. I and the other administrators want to keep everyone fully informed of what we know and for everything to be as transparent as possible. Accordingly, I will try something new this week: Every day at 4:30 p.m. I will do a Zoom call for anyone in our community who wants to participate and provide an update on anything we learned that day and answer questions as best I can.
Never before has the phrase “take care” seemed more important. Never before has the phrase “we’re all in this together” seemed more apt. I feel so very fortunate to be part of this wonderful community. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I or the Law School administration can be of assistance in any way.