NIU College of Law announced today that it is changing its decision regarding the Fall 2020 instruction to remote instruction only. Dean Cassandra L. Hill sent the following message this afternoon to the NIU Law community:
Dear NIU College of Law Community,
I hope you and your families are doing well. I have just finished my first month as your new Dean and have been inspired by all of the amazing students, faculty, staff, and alumni who make NIU College of Law such a special place to be. During the midst of this global COVID-19 pandemic, the sense of community and unwavering support for fellow Huskies are stronger than ever.
Fall 2020 Instruction
Over the course of this summer, we have learned a lot about the pandemic and have observed the uptick in the number of positive cases in Illinois and nationally. Having had the opportunity during my first month to evaluate our current instruction plans and given our top priority for the well-being of the law school community, we have decided to hold all law school classes online during the Fall 2020 semester that begins on August 17. The exception to this will be for those externships where the field placement component is approved to be in-person.
I know this is a change from our prior decision to hold some classes in person under a hybrid model. When we made those plans, it was with the assumption that the virus would be on a downward trajectory by the beginning of the fall semester, or at least be stable. And, as we mentioned in earlier communications, the uncertainties we face due to the extremely fluid nature of the pandemic could require changes to be made. We make this decision reluctantly, but in the strong belief that it is in the best interests of the entire law school community and reinforces our pedagogical goals.
In the communication sent on my first day, I stated that the administration, faculty, and staff were making sure the law school is prepared for any contingency and, this fall, you will receive the same high-quality legal education and level of engagement for which the NIU College of Law is known. By making the decision to move online now before classes start, we hope to reduce any disruption to the lives of our students, faculty, and staff and focus on providing a personalized, engaging, and inclusive online legal education experience for our students. Our faculty has already been working on ways to enhance their online teaching methods and many have completed training in best practices for remote instruction. The student learning experience will be both engaging and rigorous; both students and faculty will have an active presence in the virtual classroom.
University services, such as with the Bursar’s Office and Financial Aid, will be available to students. Law school services also will be open. Staff will be available in person on a reduced schedule in the Dean’s Office, the Law Library, Information Technology, Career Opportunities and Professional Development, Student Affairs, and Admissions. In-person and remote availability will be posted online. Requests for library materials can be made online through the Law Library catalog’s request system, HuskieSearch. Library materials will be provided using a no-contact system in coordination with the University’s Founders Memorial Library. Additionally, the North Wing of the Law Library will be open for student use during normal building hours, primarily for quiet study and reliable internet access. All in-person activity must be done in accordance with university protocols as outlined in the Protecting the Pack Plan and CDC guidelines that require physical distancing and facial coverings.
Other Activities and Administrative Matters
The College of Law’s COVID-19 Clinic will continue online throughout the fall semester.
As of right now, there will be no changes to the academic calendar for the fall semester. Final exams will be conducted online in accordance with the schedule posted on the law school’s website and grading for the fall will be normal and in accordance with Section 5.7 of the Student Handbook on Academic and Administrative Policies.
Like all of you, I am eager to be on campus. We all had hoped that our state and nation would have been in a better position, but unfortunately we are not there yet. We look forward to the day when we can greet each other again in the hallways and classrooms. Until that time, I thank you for your continued flexibility and patience and I know that our law school community will be even stronger once we reach the other side of this pandemic.
Dean Cassandra L. Hill
Dean and Professor of Law
Northern Illinois University College of Law