July 28, 2020
Thank you for your patience as we worked through the plans for the fall 2020 semester during this unprecedented time. Like you, over the last few weeks we have observed the increase of COVID-19 cases throughout the state and country. We have been watching these numbers closely and with great concern and have sought guidance from health care professionals to develop health and safety measures to protect our law school community.
Despite our best efforts, with the health and safety of all as our first consideration, the University believes that it is no longer prudent to hold classes on campus this fall unless the nature of those classes requires that they be on campus. As I discuss more below, clinics and externships will continue on-campus or on-site but all other classes will be remote unless you are informed otherwise.
We have been planning in earnest for this contingency and have been working all summer to adapt course delivery to an online platform so that we can continue to provide you with a rigorous and engaging law school experience. In addition to your academic courses, we will also be offering virtual programming comparable to that which you would typically see if you were on campus, such as Career Development workshops and Student Bar Association events.
Access to Campus. While we will not be holding on-campus classes, our campus will be open in a limited capacity. For students in need of a distraction-free work environment or a stable internet connection, our library will be open for your use. We will put measures in place to ensure safe physical distancing, but we believe we will be able to accommodate those of you in need of a work space. We are in the process of updating the new library procedures and will share them with you once finalized.
Microsoft Teams. We have also improved the means for you to communicate, socialize, and hold study group and student organization meetings. We are excited to announce that you now have access to Microsoft Teams, which is a feature found in Office 365. Microsoft Teams has a video conferencing feature much like Zoom, but without restrictions on the number of participants or the duration of the meeting. There is also an easy-to-use chat feature that will allow you to communicate with other students and our administrative offices. We will provide Microsoft Teams workshops at the beginning of the semester to help you familiarize yourself with its features.
Clinics and Externships. As I mentioned above, our Civil Law Clinic will remain open. Because the courts are open, it is important that we continue to provide valuable legal services to our Clinic’s clients. Now more than ever, it is vital to ensure that legal services are available to those who may not otherwise have access to a lawyer. If you are scheduled to work in the Clinic this fall and have concerns in light of this announcement, please contact Professor Scott as soon as possible. Similarly, externship placements will continue in-person unless the supervising attorney at your site directs you otherwise. If you have concerns about your externship placement, please contact Professor Simcox.
Orientation and Introduction to Legal Process. All Orientation sessions and Introduction to Legal Process classes which will now be held virtually. We will provide you with the links to access these sessions during the first week in August.
Administration Offices. Our administrative offices will also be fully operational, albeit virtually. Our staff stands ready to assist you, and you should feel free to reach out as needed.
Updates via Email. Email will continue to be our primary means of communication with you. Dean Teplitz will continue to send you email updates, so you please check your Widener email on a daily basis. We will also be updating the FAQs on the COVID-19 page of our website to provide you with transparency and the most up-to-date information that is available.
Upcoming Town Hall. Finally, I would like to invite you to join me on Monday, August 10th at 6:00 p.m. for the Welcome to Fall 2020 Community Town Hall Meeting. Please feel free to send your questions to Dean Teplitz or use the chat feature during the event. She will be in touch with the log-in information in an upcoming e-mail.
We know this is disappointing news for you. We are disappointed also. We are taking these steps, however, out of an abundance of caution and with the health and safety of our law school community in mind.
We appreciate the grace and professionalism with which you have conducted yourself. These are trying times and you have consistently risen to the challenge. I have no doubt that you will continue to do so.
Please feel free to reach out to Dean Teplitz with your questions or concerns.
Michael J. Hussey
Associate Professor of Law