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October 28, 2020

Dear Georgetown Law Community,

I am writing to update you on our on-campus first-year events and our plans to hold a few pilot hybrid classes this fall. 

I have already written to you about the weekend classes we held on October 3 and October 4 for our students who have F-1 visas. We have now begun to host outdoor on-campus events for 1L and 1E students and faculty, and by the end of this week we will have held 16 such events. These informal events have allowed small groups of students and faculty to meet one another in person on campus. Everyone who attended went through the University’s testing protocol (including testing negative for COVID-19 at least twice), masks were worn, and the outdoor spaces were set up for social distancing.

I have been privileged to be able to attend some of our on-campus events. It was wonderful to be able to welcome these students to campus for the first time, and to share in their enthusiasm for Georgetown.

I am grateful to the faculty who made the trip to campus to meet our students, as well as the Special Events team and others who worked so hard to make these such special occasions. The tents will remain up, and we hope to be able to organize additional events in November.

Given the national numbers on new COVID-19 cases, we still do not know what the spring semester will look like. That said, we have not yet ruled out holding a limited number of classes and other programs on campus -- for those who feel comfortable attending them. (All faculty and students will continue to have the option of remote participation in the spring semester.) As part of preparation for the chance of some on-campus teaching, we are planning to run a very small number of pilot classes on-campus next month. The pilots will involve one first-year course, one clinic, one upper-level doctrinal course, and one upper-level and LL.M smaller course. Each will hold two to four meetings using the hybrid model.

Students in these classes have already been notified that they will have the opportunity to attend a few classes on campus, as they will need to take their first COVID-19 tests soon. In this hybrid model, not all students will be in the classroom -- some will be attending remotely by Zoom. We have emphasized to our professors the important need to strive to give all students the same access to every aspect of their instruction, regardless of whether a student is participating in-person or remotely. Those who are in the classroom will be required to adhere to our public health protocols, which include the acceptance of our Community Compact and regular COVID testing with negative results. Participants will observe strict public health and safety restrictions during class, including social distancing and universal mask wearing. Our ability to hold these pilot classes is of course contingent on the circumstances at the time they are scheduled. If the infection rate in our region or in the Georgetown community climbs, we may need to cancel some or all of them.

The goal in holding these pilot classes is to learn all that we can about how to make the hybrid model work before the spring semester begins. This will give us a chance to test the new microphones and other technology that we installed in classrooms in anticipation of hybrid teaching. And it will provide an opportunity to experience the classroom dynamics that come with having part of the class in the room and another part attending remotely.

I want to thank you all for your perseverance through this difficult time. I know of the personal challenges many of you are facing, and you are in my thoughts. I also know many of you right now are focused on the upcoming election, and earlier today, I sent out information on election-related events we will be holding and on how we address the results as a community.

As always, I hope this message finds you safe and healthy.