From: Dean Erwin Chemerinsky
To: Berkeley Law community
Date: Monday, April 6, 2020
Dear Law School Community,
We now know that we will not be able to resume live classes and events this semester. In light of this, we face the questions of what now and what’s to come. It is so clear to me that throughout this crisis we are continuing and even enhancing what makes Berkeley Law special: our excellence in teaching and scholarship, our public mission, and our warm, supportive community.
Our top priority is to ensure the continued high quality of our education program. I continue to be in awe of how well our faculty and students have adapted to classes being held over Zoom. Distance learning never can replicate being together in class, but our faculty and students are showing every day that it can provide excellent education.
One of the most impressive aspects of Berkeley Law is its robust calendar of events. I am delighted that these are continuing, albeit over Zoom. Last week, the final rounds of the McBaine Honors Moot Court Competition and the Bales Trial Competition were held over Zoom. I watched both and the students were superb. Every Monday at lunch there is a presentation by a faculty member on legal issues arising from the pandemic. On Thursdays at lunch, Professor Amanda Tyler is interviewing prominent judges and scholars about how they are dealing with the emergency.
Every day at 10:00, Adam Sterling conducts his “Berkeley Boosts” interview series. Our Student Services Office has created a wonderful, extensive set of events for our students including “drop-in” hours, wellness events, and just-for-fun activities (including pet introductions on April 7 and Trivia Night on April 10). Check the Events Calendar for Zoom links. And I will continue to hold Zoom meetings twice a week, for all in our community who want to join, to provide the latest updates and answer any questions.
A defining characteristic of Berkeley Law is its public mission. Many of our faculty and students have undertaken impressive and important pro bono projects to deal with legal issues arising from the coronavirus pandemic. Also, Deborah Schlosberg and our pro bono office continue to have a webpage listing pro bono opportunities for our faculty and staff.
We also must help those in our community who are suffering great hardship. Last week, we created a Student Emergency Fund. Applications for funds are available, a committee is processing them, and disbursements have been made. The fund began with $75,000 provided by the Law School and $25,000 provided by AccessLex. Also, I am grateful to those who wish to donate to this fund. We continue to work on an emergency fund for staff, which has proven more daunting because of personnel rules than I had hoped. I hope to have more news on that soon.
At the same time, we must plan for the future. My hope and my expectation is that we will be back together in our building in August to welcome our new students and resume classes and events. We are planning for that. But I also want us to be ready for all possibilities. I therefore have created a small contingency planning committee to prepare for various possibilities for the fall.
I hope we can take comfort from our community and I want us to do all we can to help and support one another. I know it is cliché, but we really are all in this together and I speak for the entire administrative team when I say that we want to do everything we can to be of assistance. This, too, shall pass and I think we will emerge from it even more united and stronger as a community. As always, please don’t hesitate to let me know if there are things you think the Law School should be doing or if I can be of assistance in any way.