Meeting Students Where They Are

AUWCL Plans Hybrid Learning Experience for Fall 2020
Click Here for Fall 2020 Information and Resources

June 16, 2020

Moving Forward: AUWCL Fall 2020

Dear WCL Community,

Today, President Burwell shared an announcement regarding the Fall 2020 plans for American University, AU Forward. Consistent with this plan, Washington College of Law (WCL) has been developing a plan for WCL instruction and use of our Tenley Campus for Fall 2020 that reflects our mission, commitment, and community values.

WCL is planning a hybrid learning experience for Fall 2020, to provide you with an engaging and inclusive education without disruption.

Planning Principles and Process

We hold three imperatives at the center of our planning efforts:

  1. Protecting the health and safety of our community, including students, faculty, and staff;
  2. Ensuring engagement, excellence, and continuity with respect to our core educational mission in ways that will allow us to adapt to any future COVID-related restrictions to campus access; and 
  3. Fostering an environment in which all members of our community can contribute to the best of their abilities, consistent with WCL’s commitment to inclusive excellence.

As Dean Nelson previously communicated, the WCL leadership is working with a large WCL COVID Task Force made up of faculty, administrators, and SBA leaders. Together, we are planning creatively and energetically to maximize the use of our beautiful campus consistent with public health guidelines. We share below key points that we have already decided. The next step is to solicit input from the WCL community. We will continue our planning efforts and will keep you informed over the summer as the Fall 2020 plan develops.

Opening WCL

The 8.5-acre Tenley campus will be open and will support opportunities for collaborative onsite experiences, both indoors and in the many welcoming outdoor spaces our campus provides. In particular, we are investigating a range of options to enhance our use of our outdoor spaces. We will also endeavor to offer some on-campus limited-enrollment classes, consistent with CDC, District of Columbia, and American University guidelines (including physical distancing, wearing of face coverings, and so on).

As excited as we are about re-opening the campus, we also want to make clear that in-person participation in all WCL activities will be optional for Fall 2020. Our aim is to meet students where they are so they may gain the full benefits of a WCL education. We will support all of our students, whether they choose to participate remotely or to combine remote participation with in-person, on-campus activities. Students who are not able, or do not wish, to come to class or campus in person will not be required to do so; all on-campus offerings will be duplicated or simulcast online.

Instructional Excellence and Creativity

We are proud of how our community rallied to pivot to remote teaching last March, and we are confident that experience combined with the benefit of summer planning and the leadership of the WCL COVID Task Force will result in excellent learning and engagement opportunities this fall. The WCL leadership will spend the next several weeks working with the WCL community to identify specific strategies to take full advantage of the benefits that remote formats present, and to use our spacious campus in innovative ways. WCL will offer many course-related activities—such as meet-ups with faculty and classmates—in remote and on-site formats. We also plan to support other high-priority uses of our campus, such as individual and small-group studying, peer mentoring, and law-library access.

A Historic Semester

Fall 2020 will be a semester like no other. American University Washington College of Law will be offering this program of legal education at an important moment in history, amid local and national elections, demands for racial and economic equality, and daily reminders of the importance of lawyers in the fight for social justice. WCL is the ideal place to study law during these times, due to our deep roots in Washington, DC, our faculty’s expertise, our innovative programs, and our community’s commitment to confronting and addressing the most important issues of the day.

We are confident that we can meet students where they are and provide an affirming and supportive community that is committed to excellence, diversity, inclusion, and caring. These commitments are central to WCL’s identity and to our work locally, nationally, and around the world. We recognize that this fall will look somewhat different from what we all had anticipated. But these times also present an opportunity to adapt, innovate, and explore our new circumstances in ways that will strengthen our community. We very much look forward to working with the entire WCL community on this endeavor. 


Dean Camille Nelson & Incoming Acting Dean Robert Dinerstein