Dear members of the BC Law community:
I wanted to update you as we continue to formulate our plans for the coming academic year. My intention is to send weekly Friday updates as we move toward announcing a more comprehensive proposed reopening plan in early July.
As you all know, our goal is to bring students back to campus in August. Although the official start date for the University is August 31st, we are considering the possibility of minor modifications to the fall start/end dates for the law school, as is the case for many other law schools around the country. We know this will affect everyone’s plans, and we will make a definite announcement about this shortly.
Although our first priority is to provide the best possible academic experience for our students, and we are committed to do our best to offer as many in-person classes next semester as is feasible, it is important to know that any in-person experience we provide will be shaped to ensure the safety of everyone in our community. It will be fully compliant with the public health requirements that will be established for Massachusetts by Governor Baker. This will likely mean a modified academic calendar; significant density limits on campus and social distancing in classrooms, offices and public spaces; a substantial number of online courses; online learning options in all courses for those who are unable or unwilling to be physically present; masks and other PPE requirements; frequent deep cleanings of facilities; a reliance on virtual meetings and online events; and limiting staffing on campus to what is needed to support the very best academic learning environment. Although we can plan now for a range of anticipated contingencies and state rules, we cannot make final plans until the state provides its guidelines and requirements for higher education reopening in the state.
I have formed four working groups to consider issues crucial to these reopening plans.
The Scheduling and Logistics Working Group, chaired by Professor and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Renee Jones, is focused on evaluating adjustments to our academic calendar. They are looking closely at calendar options that will allow us to end in-person instruction by Thanksgiving so that students can leave the campus until classes resume for the second semester. They are studying several options to facilitate this change, including shifting our start date and administering all December exams remotely. The group is also studying a hybrid instruction model that would include both in-person instruction and high quality online instruction to ensure the best possible experience for our students, while accommodating health and safety requirements that will be necessary in classrooms. A key part of these plans will involve classroom space, and the group is studying ways to manage needs for large, small and experiential classes. These plans will almost certainly require some classes to be online only, and require that all classes provide an online learning option.
The Online Learning Working Group, chaired by Professor Brian Quinn, has been meeting regularly for some time now. Their goal is to get all faculty up to speed on the latest hybrid and online learning ideas and techniques so that they are fully prepared this fall. The Working Group is already providing numerous resources for faculty, including:
- Creation of a Canvas website to serve as a central hub for resources, video tutorials, and other training documents
- Hosting weekly faculty workshops on course design for a hybrid or online setting
- Facilitated discussions for different groups of faculty on particular subjects like the 1L experience, among others
The Student Assessment and Evaluations Working Group, chaired by Professor Jim Repetti, is charged with evaluating how assessments, grading and the student experience is affected by various hybrid in-person and online learning models. How we measure our own performance and how effective we are in delivering the kind of first-class academic experience our students expect will depend on many factors, including the final version of our reopening plan, access to and facility with technology, and preparation and training.
The Faculty Research and Culture Working Group, chaired by Professor and Associate Dean of Faculty Diane Ring, is examining how we can best support and maintain our faculty’s multiple roles during the pandemic--as scholars, teachers, mentors, and service leaders--and how we can encourage and support community in our future hybrid model as we return to campus.
I know our students are growing anxious about committing to travel plans and leases for the coming year. It is my intention to provide these weekly updates so that everyone in the community has regular and accurate information about our reopening plans. To some extent, our ability to offer a definitive answer about our reopening depends on decisions made at the University level, but I am working as hard as I possibly can to get a decision on a more comprehensive reopening plan by the beginning of July.
Finally, I want to note that the BC Law COVID-19 Legal Services Project started its training this week, and the Eagle Summer Research Scholar Program held its introductory session. Any students who have only just learned that their summer position has been cancelled can still apply to the Eagle Summer Research Scholar program, as spaces are available.
Dean, Boston College Law School
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