Like the summer that came before it, the Fall 2020 semester promises to be like none other in the history of Cornell Law School.  And yet, in many respects, it will be exactly the same as every semester in our 133 year history: Cornell faculty will engage in superb teaching; Cornell students will work diligently in pursuit of their professional aspirations; and Cornell staff will devote themselves to providing crucial support to our teaching, research, and student-services missions.

The start of fall classes today marks the culmination of months of planning and hard work by faculty, staff and administrators – work that continued right up until this morning.  In normal years, summers are a time for faculty to engage in research and writing and for staff and for administrators to plan for the year ahead.  While the work of the Law School always continues, summertime is typically marked by a less frenetic pace that allows us time for reflection and renewal.

This past summer, however, the pace has never let up.  Faculty set aside research projects to attend summer workshops on Zoom techniques, flipped classrooms, and curricular design.  Faculty have proved through their actions what we have always said about ourselves as an institution – that Cornell Law School uniquely prizes the excellence of our instruction. 

Staff and administrators have worked full-out through the summer to prepare our facilities for hybrid, socially-distanced instruction.  They have measured (and re-measured) the distance between seats.  They have helped our faculty get up to speed on new technologies.  They have tirelessly supported our students through an incredibly stressful six months. 

And, of course, our students have borne this period of unprecedented disruption and upheaval with grace and grit.  They have continued to push forward in the face of a public health crisis that has upended the usual job search process and that left them performing their summer positions remotely.  They have worked to balance political activism with academic and personal obligations. 

This upcoming semester is sure to bring unexpected obstacles.  It will draw on our reserves of patience, energy, and resilience.  Having witnessed this community rise to the occasion over the past six months, however, I am confident that we are up to the challenge.  Words cannot express my gratitude or the pride I feel in being a member of this community.


Eduardo M. Peñalver
Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law
Cornell Law School
Myron Taylor Hall