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Yale Law School COVID-19 Information
Yale Law School announced on July 1 that it will operate under a hybrid model of learning this fall. Below is a detailed message from Dean Heather Gerken outlining plans for the upcoming semester.
The Law School administration continues to work in close partnership with the University to plan for the fall and closely monitor public health conditions. It is critical that you regularly check back to this page and the Yale COVID-19 website for further updates.
A Message from Dean Gerken on the Fall Semester
July 1, 2020
I write to follow up on the University’s message this morning about the fall semester. I know you are looking forward to being together in the fall, so I am pleased to announce that this fall Yale Law School will operate under a hybrid learning model, combining in-person learning and immersive online classes. Based on the advice of public health officials and the University, we have concluded that a hybrid model will allow us to maintain a high-quality educational experience while working to keep our community as safe as possible.
Planning for a hybrid model
A hybrid learning model requires an extraordinary lift, and we are investing significant resources and effort to make it work.
I am always grateful for the hard work of the staff, but never more so than now. I had hoped that the members of our staff would have a restful summer in the wake of an exhausting spring. Instead, they have worked nonstop, assisting students and faculty through this difficult period and planning for a fall semester unlike any we’ve ever experienced.
I am moved by the dedication of our faculty. They have thrown themselves into addressing the pedagogical challenges of the fall and maintaining our vibrant intellectual community, all with the aim of giving you the best educational experience possible at this challenging time.
None of this will be easy. The fall semester will require us to think, learn, and work differently. It will require us to work together as a community, to be flexible as we adapt to circumstances that change almost daily, and to be patient with one another. I have no doubt we all will rise to the occasion.
Here’s what we know
The members of my administrative team understand how challenging it is for you to make decisions without complete information because we are in the same position ourselves. We are doing everything we can to provide updates when we have new information, and we will be candid with you when there is nothing to share.
In that spirit, let me update you on what we know now about the plans for the fall semester.
In order to hew to our core educational mission, we will do all we can to create opportunities for in-person learning while ensuring that everyone has access to engaging online courses when in-person classes are not possible. The decision about whether to hold a class online or face-to-face will depend on many factors, including class size, classroom space, and instructor availability.
We are investing substantial resources in order to make the hybrid model work for our School. We are turning almost our entire building over to our teaching mission this fall. We are now working with architects to create spaces for in-person learning that meet social distancing guidelines. We are also vetting our HVAC system, exploring alternate spaces for in-person instruction, and mapping out a robust cleaning regime for the school as part of these efforts. To de-densify our building, we are asking most of our staff to continue working from home this fall. We are confident that they will be able to provide all students with the resources and support they need to be successful.
Our efforts to facilitate in-person teaching will succeed only with your help. We all must take steps to protect ourselves and to protect one another. When a class occurs in-person, social distancing and masks will be mandatory. As the University has explained, strict testing and contact tracing procedures will be in place for those returning to New Haven. We will not allow outside visitors to come to campus, we will not subsidize student travel, and the library staff will work its traditional magic to support research and teaching in a nontraditional fashion. We are implementing all of these steps to protect the learning environment to the greatest extent possible.
Even with all of these extraordinary efforts in place, however, we recognize that there are many students and faculty who cannot participate in in-person learning in the midst of a pandemic. For those who fall into this category, please know that your well-being should be your first priority. It is ours as well. No student will be required to attend in-person classes, and no faculty member will be required to teach in-person.
To accommodate students and faculty who cannot take part in in-person learning, we are investing considerable financial resources and countless hours to make online learning as dynamic as possible and to ensure that everyone can fully take part in this remarkable intellectual community. Accordingly, we plan to offer all classes in real time via Zoom and record them for later viewing. We have also provided faculty who cannot come into the building with additional technological and pedagogical support. The fall semester will challenge all of us in many ways, but we are committed to making it work well, and we know you are committed to doing the same. All students will be asked to sign a Community Compact as a condition for returning to campus.
Supporting those in need
As I think about how to deploy our available resources, I am deeply mindful of the norms of this community. Those norms have led generations of alumni to give back to the school. Because of those collective ties, the Law School is able to subsidize two-thirds of the costs of educating our student body. We are one of only a few law schools in the country to base financial aid on need alone. This spring, when some of our peers told their students to take out more loans in response to the costs of COVID-19, we provided scholarship support to meet the needs of students who lacked financial resources.
I am deeply aware that the economic burdens of COVID-19 fall particularly heavily on students with financial need, and I am especially grateful to the work done by affinity group leaders to shed even greater light on the concern. Many students will receive additional scholarship aid because of changes in their financial circumstances, and this is the second year in a row in which we have substantially increased the cost of living allowance.
We nonetheless believe we need to do more this year to address the costs of COVID-19. Rather than adjusting tuition across the board, we have chosen to target support to those students hit hardest financially by this crisis. The Law School will increase scholarship aid for every single student on financial aid by $2,500 this year, thereby assisting nearly 75 percent of our student body. Our students with the greatest financial need — the roughly 400 students who receive scholarship support — will receive an additional $1,500 (for a total of $4,000) to help meet their needs this year. These efforts will provide roughly twice as much financial support for the student body as a tuition freeze would achieve, all the while targeting those with greatest need and ensuring that the Law School’s tuition remains in keeping with our peers.
Recognizing that some of our students will face unexpected and often significant financial hardship, we will do more. With alumni support, we have created a YLS Safety Net Fund for students with specific financial needs resulting from unanticipated expenses, including those brought on by COVID-19. This fund has already provided critical resources to students who incurred unexpected costs over the last several months. This support will continue to be available for students facing similar circumstances in the months ahead.
The Law School will reap modest savings due to the absence of in-person events and travel expenses in the fall. We will devote all of those savings to protecting staff positions and keeping this community together. Indeed, even as we have built in additional financial protections for students in need, we have made substantial cuts elsewhere in our budget to preserve staff positions. Many of our staff members have devoted their careers to this Law School. We owe them a debt. Now is the time to repay it.
Please see this FAQ for additional details on our financial support and here for details on the YLS Safety Net.
Deferrals and leaves
I hope that all incoming and current students will be able to join us this fall. However, we also understand that the virus has created unanticipated crises for some students that may make it impossible for them to continue with their previous plans. The Law School will, as always, consider emergency deferral requests from incoming first-year students based on previously unanticipated circumstances (including military service, significant health issues, serious illness of a family member that requires caregiving, and issues related to children). Please reach out directly to the Admissions Office if you find yourself facing such a situation. In addition, current students who wish to request a leave of absence due to unforeseen circumstances should contact either Dean of Students Ellen Cosgrove or Senior Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Monica Maldonado to discuss their circumstances and submit their request in writing by July 30.
We are all learning to live with uncertainty these days, and I want to be frank about what we don’t know. While we know there will be testing for every student who comes to campus, we await additional guidance from the University on these testing and quarantine protocols. In the meantime, we encourage you to be aware of current public health guidance and state travel advisories and arrive in Connecticut early if quarantine restrictions have been placed on your home state. Finally, our faculty are all making difficult decisions about whether they can teach in person in the fall. Some of those decisions will depend on existing public-health conditions and cannot be made until late summer.
At the institutional level, all of our planning depends on the information we have at this moment. We will continue to make all of our decisions based on the best available public-health information and guided by three key principles — keeping our community as safe as possible, supporting those in need, and pushing forward our educational mission.
We will do everything we can to be transparent about our decisions and to share information. The University will be maintaining a campus-wide FAQ for most of the questions you are likely to have about the fall. We will supplement its efforts for school-specific policies only. You can also reach out to email@example.com with questions, or visit this FAQ page.
We all yearn for a sense of normalcy and miss our old routines. As dean, I know all too well how easy it is to be caught up in what we don’t know. I am focused, though, on what we do know. We are part of a remarkable institution and an extraordinarily resilient community. And we will make it through this pandemic as we do all things — together.
Take good care of yourselves.
Heather K. Gerken
Maintaining an Inclusive Environment
Yale University is committed to maintaining an environment of respect and freedom from discrimination and to supporting all members of our community affected by this global health threat. Bias, discrimination, and harassment are inimical to our values and violate Yale policies.