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January 13, 2021

Dear Georgetown Law Community:

I hope this email finds you safe and healthy at this difficult time. In my last communication with you, I wrote about the horrible events of last Wednesday. We are also, of course, facing the health crisis posed by the pandemic, and we have been very focused on advancing our educational mission while working to protect the health of the community. I am writing now to provide further updates on the plans for the start of the spring semester. This email will be of special interest to students, though the information is relevant to everyone in the community.

First, a reminder: students wishing to participate in on-campus programs (e.g., study spaces, hybrid classes, outdoor events when the weather warms) during the spring semester must be enrolled in the testing protocol and have a green badge on GU 360 on the day they arrive. We are currently offering COVID-19 tests on the law campus five days a week, though only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday next week. (Given the potential unrest surrounding the Inauguration, next week’s schedule might change.) Testing is also available on the Main Campus and from area municipalities. See Dean Bailin’s email from last Saturday with details on enrollment.

The plan for the first three weeks of the semester is to phase in the limited return to campus that I have described in my earlier emails.

Week of January 25

  • Library study spaces available to students by reservation. Information on reserving a space will be sent to students next week.
  • Opportunities for student organizations to meet in groups of 10 or fewer students (a limit imposed by DC regulations). Student organizations can expect more details on requesting access soon.

Week of February 1 (in addition to the above)

  • Several clinical seminars and 3 to 4 first-year courses meet on-campus in the hybrid format.

Week of February 8 (in addition to the above)

  • Additional 1L hybrid courses and some upper-level courses meet on campus in the hybrid format.

A few notes on the details:

  • Students who are registered for classes that will meet on the hybrid model will be given notice in advance.
  • Although we have made a special effort to provide an on-campus learning opportunity to each first-year student, there are a few partial sections in which it was not possible. And for now, only a small number of upper-level and graduate courses are listed as possibly hybrid. The reason is to keep building density low for the sake of our community’s health and safety. Students without a hybrid learning option will be given other opportunities to come to campus, especially once we again open outside venues for social activities.
  • As noted above, we are working on a system for established student groups to request access to campus for meetings of ten or fewer students. As you can imagine, the number and variety of groups on campus makes creating an equitable system for distributing this limited resource a challenge. We will be working with the SBA to get the details right, and we will be announcing a system for requesting meeting spaces as soon as possible.
  • As some of you might know, we are currently running a pilot program to explore reopening the fitness center. Because we have just begun the pilot, we have not yet determined whether or when we might be able to open the fitness center to the community as a whole. I hope to have more information on that in the coming weeks.
  • We are working on setting up physically-distanced outdoor seating around the campus to provide more informal venues for students to meet and relax. Please remember when using those spaces that the campus mask requirement applies both outside and inside the buildings. We expect to be erecting tents again when the weather warms up.
  • Once we gain some experience with the above-described operations, we may seek to bring more courses into the hybrid mode. A significant variable will be the density on the campus as a whole. This requires a holistic approach that attends to how many people are on campus at a time for each of the various programs.

We are planning this limited return to campus before vaccines have been widely administered, and during a period when the virus continues to spread. In deciding on the above plan, I have balanced those facts against the very real costs of being entirely online. I have heard from many students about real challenges that living and working in a remote environment created last semester–challenges that increase as time goes on. And students who participated in our pilot programs last semester reported very positive experiences. Our plan was developed in close collaboration with the University’s Public Health Working Group. I am convinced that with the safety measures that we have in place, this limited return to campus can be accomplished safely and in a way that will provide significant benefits to our students.

Finally, I know that many have questions about receiving a vaccine. The District is not providing vaccines to private institutions like Georgetown, and so the University will not be in a position to distribute vaccines. You can find the University’s FAQ regarding vaccines at this link.

As always, I will continue to update you as our plans evolve.