Dear Members of the Cornell Law School Community,
Tomorrow’s launch of online instruction represents an historic moment for this law school. The sudden closure of our campus ten days ago and the preparation to move online over the past week have been enormous logistical undertakings for everyone involved. Our students have had to pack up and relocate on short notice. They are now spread over a dozen time zones. Our faculty and staff have had to learn new technologies, set up home offices, and navigate interruptions to their childcare and work routines. Everyone has confronted these challenges while processing rapidly changing – and often alarming – news about a global pandemic. It is no exaggeration to say that the past ten days have been among the most challenging that Cornell Law School has ever faced.
When I welcome our students to campus each August, I always talk about the powerful sense of community that has always defined this place, and about A.D. White’s hope that Cornell’s lawyers would be “a blessing to the nation.” Over these past few days, I have watched this community — over and over again — live up to that ambition. When we could have withdrawn from one another in resignation or fear or selfishness, members of the Cornell Law School community have reached beyond themselves with generosity and good humor. Faculty, staff and administrators have ventured outside their comfort zones and job descriptions, working together to ease the burden on our students and on each other, but always putting our students’ interests first. Our loyal alumni have taken the time to help us better understand the economic impacts of the crisis, even while confronting rapid transitions to remote work within their own organizations. And, of course, our students have borne a tremendous disruption of their professional education with patience and grit.
As I have mentioned on more than one occasion since this all began, I take comfort in remembering that, in its 133 years, our Law School has seen plenty of challenging times, including two world wars, the Great Depression, and a flu epidemic. As recently as a month ago, none of us expected to be where we now find ourselves. Like the past generations of Cornellians who experienced their own times of crisis, we will get through this one and come out the other side with a deeper appreciation of the blessing that this law school community represents.
As we begin online instruction this week, please continue to care for yourselves and for one another. Look for opportunities to check in with friends and family. There will be hiccups in the technology and unforeseen roadblocks. But there is no community with whom I’d rather face these challenges than this one.
Eduardo M. Peñalver
Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law
Cornell Law School