First, thank you for your patience with and careful reading of the higher than usual number of email messages from me at the start of the term. As you near the end of the second week of classes, I wanted to reach out to clarify some confusion that the faculty and advising staff have brought to my attention based on what they are hearing from students, particularly concerning class attendance. This message and prior messages about spring 2021 planning may be found on the Law School’s COVID-19 Updates website under Deans’ Statements. The FAQs available on that page also will be updated to include the clarifications outlined in this message. Please bookmark that site for quick reference to these important announcements.

Instruction Modality Preference: You must attend all courses based on your election of in-person or online instruction. If you elected online instruction, no seat has been reserved for you in the classroom and you are not able to attend classes in person. If you elected in-person instruction and the class is offered in person, your faculty are expecting to see you in the Law School buildings for each class meeting. Your attendance will be driven by the course modality noted on the course schedule. Faculty reserve the right to mark you absent if you have elected in-person instruction but do not attend in person unless there are unforeseeable circumstances beyond your control such as sickness, quarantine, or car trouble. If you miss class due to such unforeseeable circumstances, you should notify your instructor as soon as possible.

Once you selected your modality preference, the Registrar’s Office recorded that choice by date and time. We reserved classroom seats and made other decisions in reliance on your decision made by the opening of pre-registration deadline on January 6th. Further changes at this point, absent extraordinary circumstances beyond your control (i.e., quarantine/isolation, or visa issues), cause considerable disruption to your faculty who have planned relying on the choices you communicated, your fellow students who may have been denied a seat in the class, and staff who have to manually update each change. 

As mentioned in my February 9th message, we understand that you have received a lot of messages from both the University and the Law School, and that it is difficult to keep track of it all. To remind you of the instruction modality election you made, IT and the Registrar’s Office have added a notation at the top of your course schedule. Additionally, the Canvas page for each in-person course contains instructions for where to direct questions or concerns about instruction modality preference ( If there are circumstances beyond your control that warrant a change at this point, you may petition the faculty Administrative Committee at Petitions must outline extraordinary circumstances upon which the requested change is based. Keep in mind that if your petition to switch from online to in-person instruction is granted, there is no guarantee a seat will be available. Please do not contact your faculty directly seeking to make a change as individual faculty members do not have jurisdiction to grant or deny your request. The faculty have collectively delegated these decisions to the Administrative Committee.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Attendance. All 1Ls must take required courses synchronously, at the time they are offered. Upperlevel students may elect to take a course asynchronously if the course falls outside of the hours of 8 a.m.-8 p.m. in the student’s time zone. If you participate in a course asynchronously, you are expected to do so for the balance of the term (unless, due to a visa issue, you will be joining us later in the term and switching to in-person instruction). There are a small number of courses for which asynchronous attendance is not permitted, even if the class is offered outside of the hours of 8 a.m.-8 p.m. in your time zone. This will be noted in the course description.

Classroom Capacity.Classroom capacity is strictly limited by public health protocols. It may appear that there are available seats in a class but there are a number of reasons that a seat assigned to a student may be empty on a given day such as isolation/quarantine, visa issues, and other reasons.

As always, we look forward to hearing from you and welcome the opportunity to address your questions or concerns directly. Please contact the advising office associated with your degree program with any questions about the clarifications provided below:

On behalf of my student services colleagues, we wish you all the best this semester.

Markeisha J. Miner, JD
Dean of Students
Cornell Law School