A Message from Dean Mnookin to Our Alumni on COVID-19

Dear Alumni and Supporters,

Jennifer Mnookin largeGreetings from UCLA School of Law. I dearly hope that you and your loved ones are safe, sound and healthy in these extraordinary and troubling times.

I write to share with you how the coronavirus pandemic and related disruptions are affecting the law school community, and how we are responding to the challenges.

As you likely already know, all of UCLA has stopped in-person teaching through the remainder of the spring semester. Classes are being held via livestreaming. Our usually robust slate of student and alumni events has gone quiet. The building is far emptier than I have ever seen it – and indeed, I too am largely working remotely and hence rarely there. Faculty are diligently and creatively adapting to unforeseen changes in their teaching obligations, and staff are working (though nearly all are now working remotely) to keep the wheels turning.

Students are now taking their courses through the various remote modes we have made available. They are rising to the occasion, but there's no doubt that uncertainty and anxiety permeate the effort. Like so many of us, a number of our students also are grappling with personal and family challenges that are exacerbated by the health concerns, social and travel restrictions.

Faculty and school leaders, including our UCLA Law COVID-19 Task Force, are identifying solutions for how we will administer final exams and conduct a meaningful form of commencement in these circumstances, and are addressing the vexing immediate questions that arise daily. We are also doing our best to support our students in myriad ways – from providing loaner laptops and wi-fi hot spots to connecting them to academic assistance, counseling resources and more.

It's been amazing and heartening to see the faculty pour themselves into teaching via Zoom, working with tremendous dedication to make this sudden shift work as well as possible. Our students too have been inspiring. They are caring for each other (albeit from a safe distance), volunteering to help each other with whatever they need, be it groceries or class notes, and concerning themselves with those in our community and elsewhere who are especially vulnerable.

Soon enough, the hundreds of J.D. and LL.M. students who will graduate this year will head into the workforce – though whether the Bar Exam will be administered in its usual fashion in July remains far from certain. They and we are well aware that their entry into the legal profession will take place under circumstances likely to be vastly different from what we all envisioned just a few weeks ago. I am confident that the UCLA Law family will support these new alumni in every way possible. But there's no doubt that this is an extremely difficult time.

Of course, I am deeply aware that what the law school is now facing is a microcosm of what you are facing as well. With the recent announcements of extraordinary community safety measures in California and other parts of the country, I know that many of you are also working remotely, watching children who would normally be in school, keeping a careful eye on everyone's health, and dealing with unexpected financial setbacks.

Though we certainly must put our own losses in perspective, there is no doubt that these losses are real and deeply felt. We – like everyone around us – have had to cancel so many important opportunities for learning, connection and engagement. One refrain strikes me: so many students have commented that they already knew they cared about our community, but now, as they experience UCLA Law remotely, they recognize anew just how much they care. May we be successful at reducing everyone's risk of exposure to the coronavirus and manage to #FlattenTheCurve.

Some of you have asked how you can help and what you can do. Thank you for asking, and thank you for caring about UCLA Law. Here are three concrete ideas:

  • Spring Break ends on Monday, March 30, and we plan to host a couple of Zoom webinars on legal issues and the COVID-19 situation when our students return. We'd like to make them available to alumni, too. If you have suggestions for panelists, including yourself – with expertise in health policy, the legal aspects of quarantine or related fields, or the legal or business issues at the front lines of this crisis – who might be willing to spare an hour for a panel with students and alums, please let us know.
  • Once we get to the other side of this crisis, our students are going to need support from our alumni community as they prepare for an uncertain and unstable job market. Will you help? Are you willing to be a mentor or have a Zoom call with a student interested in your field? We'd love to expand our list of alums available to students. Please sign up here.
  • We are in the middle of our admissions and recruiting cycle. Our in-person receptions are now happening virtually, and no would-be-students can come tour in person or visit the courtyard or sit in on a live class. The school benefits greatly when alumni connect to newly admitted students and encourage them to attend UCLA Law. I hope you'll consider helping us recruit the next generation of Bruins by joining the Alumni Ambassador program.

Most of all, please stay safe. Please do your part to help slow the curve. And thank you, as always, for caring about the law school.

Warmly,

Jennifer L. Mnookin
Dean and David G. Price & Dallas P. Price Professor of Law
Co-Director, PULSE@UCLA Law