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Kirkpatrick, Del
/ Categories: Academic Affairs

Update on plans for Fall semester

 

 

  1. Fall Class Schedule:  Dean Richardson circulated a revised class schedule yesterday.  That schedule managed to provide for entirely in-person instruction for 1L students and kept reliance on fully remote instruction to a relative handful of courses.  The schedule denotes the fully remote courses as “virtual.”  We expect a very small number of additional large-enrollment courses will be offered in a hybrid format in which one half of the class attends in person while the other half participates remotely (with the two cohorts switching every other class meeting).  We will notify students as soon as possible (probably within a week or so) about which courses will be offered in that format, so that students who prefer to make other course selections may adjust their schedules.

 

As previously announced, all courses will be available remotely to students who cannot attend in person.  This ensures that students who elect to take all their coursework remotely this semester will have the full curriculum available to them.  It also ensures that students who elect to attend classes in person can easily access their classes remotely if they ever need to stay home because of illness or possible exposure to the virus.

 

The class schedule also adopts strategies to avoid congestion in hallways and restrooms by staggering class times, extending pass times, minimizing “down times” between classes, and keeping all 1L instruction on the first floor, separate from upper-level students.  This schedule should maximize students’ learning experience while minimizing risks of close contact.

  

  1. Health and Safety Measures in the Law School:  Earlier this week, we received detailed guidance from J.S. Held, an environmental health and safety consulting firm hired by the University.  J.S. Held conducted a room-by-room analysis of Weinmann Hall and the Law School Annex (home to the Centers for Energy and Environmental Law).  On the basis of a 3-D virtual image of every room, space, and surface in the buildings, they provided detailed guidance specifying building modifications and changes to our operations to maximize safety.  We met with the consultants earlier this week and are now in the process of implementing their recommendations.  The comprehensive guidance includes:

 

a.       Assessments of seating capacity and allowable occupancy throughout the building to ensure proper social distancing of at least six feet.  For classrooms, this works out to roughly 50% of normal seating capacity in most rooms and lower than 50% in some others.  For most private faculty and other offices, this allows for no more than two persons.  Common areas such as the student and faculty lounges and journal suites will remain accessible, but with sharply reduced capacity.

 

b.       Management of traffic flow within the building.  For instance, elevator use will be limited to no more than two persons and the stairway will be divided into “up” and “down” lanes.

 

c.       Direction concerning the installation of glass or plexiglass shields at front-facing reception areas.  The Law School has decided to go well beyond the consultants’ recommendations to install shields at every classroom teaching podium, at every secretarial station in the building, and in a variety of locations throughout the library.

 

d.       Direction concerning the placement of hand sanitizer stations at many specified locations throughout the building. 

 

e.       Limitations on the use of common food facilities, such as coffee makers and shared kitchens.  For example, while vending machines, microwaves, and refrigerators will be allowed to remain, they will be subject to a frequent cleaning protocol.

 

f.        Detailed direction concerning frequent cleaning protocols for offices, classrooms, restrooms, and all surfaces throughout the building.

 

g.       Upgrades to ventilation and filtration in both Weinmann Hall and the Annex to meet nationally prescribed standards to prevent viral transmission.  Based on an air flow analysis of each room in the buildings, we will be increasing both filtration and ensuring that air in every room is exchanged at least four times per hour.  (These are the ventilation standards recommended by national experts.)

 

  1. Campus Safety Protocols:  In addition to these building modifications, all members of our community will follow the general safety protocols prescribed by Tulane University.  These include:

 

a.       Universal Testing:  Tulane University is building high-capacity testing sites on the Uptown and Downtown campuses, which will open at the end of this month.  All faculty, staff, and students must be tested and receive a negative result before returning to campus.  Test results will be turned around in 24 hours.  This will ensure a clean bill of health for the entire campus at the start of the semester.  The University will then provide periodic surveillance testing thereafter, every three or four weeks.  We will get more detailed guidance about testing soon from the University and will share that in time to make plans for your return to campus.

 

b.       Symptom Monitoring:  All faculty, staff, and students will also be required to self-monitor for any symptoms of illness each morning before coming to campus.  The University will send daily reminders to check temperatures and report any symptoms (such as sore throat, cough, etc.).  Anyone experiencing such symptoms should stay home and self-isolate until they can be tested or otherwise be assured they are not infected.  Because every class can be accessed or taught remotely, this should facilitate students or faculty working from home whenever necessary.

 

c.       Mandatory Face Coverings:  As previously announced, University policy strictly requires the wearing of masks whenever on campus, unless you are alone in an office behind a closed door.  (Professors will be allowed to remove masks while teaching behind the glass shields.)  The combination of face coverings and social distancing reduces the risk of viral transmission to a minimum, which is why the policy must be strictly enforced.

 

d.       Response to Exposures and Infections:  The University has a robust response plan for cases of infection, including contact tracing, medical treatment and isolation, and notifications and testing for any persons who may have been in close contact.

 

  1. Library Access and Services:  The Law Library will be open to law students and faculty, but will be closed to others to maximize access for our community while allowing for social distancing.  Evening hours may be limited by the availability of staff and student workers.

 

The Library will continue to offer a wide range of references and other services remotely, and patrons will be encouraged to use remote access whenever possible to limit the need for in-person contact.  The Library is also installing self-service book check-out stations to eliminate the need for over-the-counter contact while checking out materials.

 

Some carrels will be marked off limits to ensure adequate social distancing from active carrels, and open study spaces will be adjusted to limit the number of users.  Other limitations are being considered to ensure safe passage through the double-door entrance on the third floor.

  1. Student Accommodations and Building Access:  As previously announced, students may elect to take all of their coursework remotely because of health and safety concerns.  Students who make this election will be excused from certain campus fees (see Dean Gaunt’s previous e-mail for details).  There is no deadline by which students must make this election, but we ask you to let Dean Gaunt know as soon as possible so already so that we can plan accordingly.  Students who elect in-person instruction may decide later to switch to remote participation (although the fee waiver may not apply).  Consistent with the rationale for the ABA’s health and safety exemption and the waiver of campus fees, students who opt to participate remotely will be expected to remain off campus for the Fall semester.

 

  1. Exams:  We have managed to minimize changes to the original exam schedule.  For students studying in person, exams will be administered in person.  For students electing remote participation for the semester, exams will be administered remotely.  For remote exams, we will use a proctoring service that will require students to take their exams on camera under secure conditions (and so remote students will need a laptop equipped with a camera).  The proctoring service is the same kind used for bar examinations and other high-stakes testing and is highly effective in ensuring the integrity of exams.

 

These are just highlights of the University’s and Law School’s preparations.  Additional details will be provided soon on the University’s website, and we will continue to update you on classroom preparations.  These plans are, of course, being continually adjusted and reevaluated in light of emerging information about the virus, including the recent worrisome spikes in Louisiana and other states.  Although there are obviously elements of the virus that are outside of our control, the University’s planning has been comprehensive and spared no expense in minimizing the risks and allowing for a safe return to campus.

 

I want to take this opportunity again to thank the many colleagues and students who have contributed to these plans, including the members of the Law School’s Fall Reopening Working Group (Onnig Dombalagian, Abby Gaunt, Jancy Hoeffel, Sally Richardson, Stacy Seicshnaydre, Ron Scalise, Colleen Timmons, and David Weinberg) and the COVID-19 Dean’s Advisory Committee (Tommy Barnett, Sergio Ingato, Theron Korsak, Oliver Lawrence, Alyssa McCain, Alexandre Petit, Camila Pititto Laforga, Kristen Shaw, Jessie Shifalo, and Shane Thomas).

 

I will continue to share additional information about our plans as it becomes available and, as always, welcome your input or questions.

 

Best,

 

David Meyer

 

David D. Meyer

Dean and Mitchell Franklin Professor of Law

Tulane University Law School

6329 Freret Street

New Orleans, Louisiana  70118

(504) 865-5937

meyer@tulane.edu

 

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