Message from Dean Treanor: Spring 2021 Semester Plan
Dear Georgetown Law Community,
I am writing to update you on the Law Center’s plans and expectations regarding a possible limited return to campus during Spring 2021 semester. As you may have seen, Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia sent a message earlier today announcing initial plans for the Spring for the main campus. The Law Center has been working on its own contingency plan should we be able to return to campus, one that will provide the opportunity for more students to participate in some face-to-face classes and for small, limited co-curricular programs on campus. Participation in limited on-campus classes will be on a voluntary basis. All faculty and students will continue to have the option of remote participation in the Spring semester.
The Fall semester has been challenging for all of us. Especially challenging for some has been the isolation that comes with remote learning, and not having a space at home that is conducive to studying and attending class. Our experiences this Fall have convinced me of the importance of planning for a possible, limited return to campus for students in the Spring, whether it be to attend hybrid classes, use the library, utilize study space, or to gather in physically-distant social settings.
I was pleased that we were able to implement several opportunities for some students to be on campus this fall. These included outdoor social gatherings for our first-year and incoming transfer students, limited classroom use for students who needed a quiet place to attend Zoom classes, an in-person class held on campus designed for our F-1 visa holders, piloting the hybrid model in four classes, and permitting a limited number of study opportunities in the library. All of these activities were implemented in close collaboration with the University’s Public Health Working Group and adhered to D.C. and federal government safety guidelines. Our experience organizing and implementing these programs in the fall will be essential as we plan for a limited return to campus in the Spring.
The contingency plan for Spring can be broken into two components. The first is to prioritize a limited number of courses for the hybrid model, then expand that number, if we are able. This includes first-year courses, clinical seminars, and a limited number of LLM courses taken primarily by foreign students who will have travelled to the US for their education. After that, we hope to be able to bring a few upper-level courses, in which the faculty member has offered to teach on campus, into the hybrid model.
The second component of the plan involves co-curricular programs. We have heard from upper-class students that the online classrooms are, though not ideal, largely working, but that they would benefit from other opportunities to be on campus. For that reason, we are considering three forms of access. If the library pilot program goes well this fall, we hope to set up a system for individuals to reserve study spaces in the library during the Spring semester. We also recognize the importance to student organizations of holding a limited number of programs on-campus. Any such programs would be limited to 25 students and be held in appropriately sized spaces. Finally, once the weather warms, we are hoping to host events for upper-class students—and especially graduating students—on the greens, using the model of the events for first-year students that took place this Fall.
I want to emphasize that even if all of this is possible, the Spring semester will be very different from usual. Buildings will not be open for people to come and go as they please. The continuing need to reduce density and enable contact tracing means that students and others will be able to get into buildings only after they have registered for a program. Access will be provided only to those who have signed the Community Compact and are in the testing protocol. And of course everyone will be required to wear a face mask and to keep an appropriate physical distance from one another when on campus.
Finally, please remember that these are contingency plans. Whether we are able to implement them will depend on many of the same factors that guided decisions regarding the fall, including public health guidance, the availability and speed of testing, and evolving government regulations. We know that you would like to know the exact plans now, but given the uncertainty of the pandemic, we cannot provide that to you. That said, we are hopeful that these plans will, if implemented, substantially enhance participating students’ academic experience, and will address some of the isolation that has resulted from this pandemic. Nevertheless, we understand if you prefer to live elsewhere and participate virtually.
As referenced in President DeGioia’s message, the University is also working to make an additional resource available to students—access to WeWork facilities globally. We will update with more details as they are finalized.
I know many of you are also wondering what will happen with Commencement in the Spring. A working group comprising faculty, staff, and students is already hard at work on the planning process for this important event. The team is exploring creative ways to bring the community together under various conditions for this occasion.
To remind you of a few dates: Week One begins on January 11, and will be entirely online this year. And the rest of the Spring semester starts on Monday, January 25th, which is ten days later than originally scheduled. You can find the complete Spring calendar here.
We will continue the same 5 percent tuition reduction in place for Fall 2020 for the Spring term. Also, due to the continuing impact of the pandemic, the University will continue until further notice the moratorium on all university-sponsored and supported travel.
Our collective goal remains the same, to keep the community safe and healthy while fulfilling our mission to offer the richest array of academic and co-curricular opportunities we can, mindful that individual students, staff, and faculty are in very different places and not all will be able to participate regularly on campus. As our plans take shape, they remain subject to change as we respond to evolving public health guidance, government regulations, and the trajectory of the pandemic. For now, our hope is to give all students in the D.C. area the opportunity to be on campus at least once a week during the Spring semester for either classes or other activities.
You can find additional information on the University’s COVID-19 Resource Center website or if you have specific questions, please call the University’s COVID-19 Helpline at 202-784-3510 (available 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET Monday to Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to be connected to the appropriate University representative to answer your question.
I will continue to keep you updated as plans evolve. And, as always, I am deeply grateful to all of you for the resilience and grace you have shown as we navigate these challenging times.