Message from Dean Pratt: May 14, 2020 COVID-19 Update

Photograph: Carla Pratt.

Dear Washburn Law Community:

As we conclude the semester, we say congratulations to our graduating students through a commencement video prepared by the university and a video tribute from the law school faculty and staff. After learning that Oklahoma City Law School’s live-streamed ceremony was hacked by white supremacists, I am thankful that the university chose to prepare a prerecorded video for graduates. This way no one can tamper with the sacred ritual of celebrating the accomplishment of our graduates. President Farley has assured us that he intends for the university to host an in-person commencement ceremony for May 2020 graduates, and we are all looking forward to that day.

Our May 2020 graduates who plan to take the Kansas bar exam will have to do so under the stress inducing conditions of a pandemic, so our hearts go out to them and we will be doing everything that we can to support them. We are awaiting word from the university regarding whether we can host in-person bar study workshops and allow graduates to study for the bar in the law library because it is our desire to provide that support to May 2020 graduates. If we cannot allow recent graduates on campus, we will provide the bar study workshops via Zoom.

Although all of our Summer courses are being offered online, Dr. Farley announced that unless the government issues an order precluding in-person instruction, we will have Face-to-Face classes at Washburn for the Fall session. Consequently, we are planning for in-person instruction this Fall. To accommodate social distancing, we will cut classroom occupancy. We are also planning for each class session in every course to be broadcast live to remote participants so that:

  1. students who have an underlying health condition and need an accommodation to participate remotely can be accommodated and
  2. students who have been notified through contact tracing that they have been exposed to the virus can self-isolate and still participate in class and
  3. students who are sick (even with a cold or flu) can participate in classes remotely and will not be tempted to show up to class in-person.

The university is working on protocols for social distancing and to acquire personal protective equipment for employees who we expect to return to campus over the summer in a phased return to campus.

Some of our students are losing summer employment due to the pandemic, so if you have an employment opportunity that a student could do remotely, please contact Dean Tammy King and let her know so that she can try to match you with a student who needs an opportunity to work this summer. The law school will be hiring some of these students as summer research assistants as well.

Thanks to Deans Hunt and Lowry, the law school received a $25,000 grant from AccessLex and students with financial need are eligible for small emergency grants from that fund. And thanks to the generosity of our alumni and friends, we have raised nearly $35,000 to award to current law students who do not have any scholarship funding and we have a generous $25,000 challenge gift from Cynthia Heath to expand our scholarship funding for incoming students.

Finally, with the conclusion of this semester we say farewell to three retiring faculty members: Jim Concannon, Bill Rich and David Pierce. Due to COVID-19 we had to cancel the retirement celebration that we had planned. Nonetheless, we plan to celebrate their retirement with an appropriate in-person event during alumni weekend, so please look for a future announcement. In the interim, be sure to send them your well wishes as they embark upon this next phase of life.

Thank you for reading this update, and for your support of the law school.

Best wishes,

Your dean,

Carla D. Pratt