LSU Law’s fall semester got underway on Monday, Aug. 17, with a mix of in-person and online courses. While the Paul M. Hebert Law Center looks a little different this fall due to health and safety precautions implemented as a result of COVID-19—and despite the closure of the law center for three days during the second week of classes due to Hurricanes Marco and Laura—the semester is off to a good start.
“I’m very pleased to say that we’ve had a relatively smooth—albeit quite different—opening for the fall semester and that we were not impacted by the hurricanes aside from some cancelled classes,” says Interim Dean Lee Ann Wheelis Lockridge. “The health and safety of everyone on our campus continues to be our highest priority. While we have been required to rethink how we use the law center and deliver our educational program due to COVID-19, I’m confident that by working together our talented students, faculty, and staff will overcome any challenges and adapt to new responsibilities.”
Bucking a national trend of declining enrollment at law schools, LSU Law has about 20 more students this fall semester than it had a year ago—598 students are enrolled this fall, with 596 J.D. and two LLM. Supported by a talented Admissions Office staff and faculty, who did an outstanding job of recruiting another talented class during a pandemic, there are 208 first-year students enrolled this fall, which is three more than last year’s entering class.
This year’s 1L students hail from 23 states and two foreign countries. Louisiana residents comprise 63% of the class, while 37% are nonresidents; 52% are female and 48% are male; and 19% of the students identify as students of color. The median LSAT is unchanged from last year, at 155, while the median GPA is a 3.45. Additionally, 11 of the students are enrolled in the LSU Law/LSU 3+3 Program.
Among the changes at the Paul M. Hebert Law Center this year, face coverings must be worn at all times (other than while eating and drinking in the student lounge, where seating has been reduced to accommodate physical distancing requirements); classroom seating has been spaced and occupancy will not exceed 50%; plexiglass shields have been installed on all teaching podiums and faculty are wearing masks while teaching; and directional signs have been installed to control foot traffic in walkways and stairways.
Additionally, daily cleaning protocols for all classrooms and common areas have been enhanced, while hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and other supplies are being made available throughout the Law Center. All larger live, on-campus events have been canceled for the semester—as have fall reading days, or “fall break”—and all students, faculty and staff are required to participate in a daily self-monitoring system, the Tiger Check COVID-19 Monitoring System.
“We have worked tirelessly in recent months to create a safe environment for the return of our students and employees, and to ensure we continue to provide an excellent and rewarding educational experience for our students,” says Lockridge. “Over the spring and summer, groups of faculty, staff, and some student representatives met to design new protocols for student events, use of our building, and more. Faculty also focused a great deal of time and energy on the academic schedule and changes needed to ensure that our students continue toward completion of their law degrees.”
All new policies and protocols are in alignment with the LSU Roadmap to Fall, as well as local, state and federal guidelines. LSU Law has also published a Q&A on its website to provide students and the public with new health-and-safety-related requirements and advisories in an easily accessible format.
LSU Law is collecting messages of encouragement and support from alumni to share with students who continue to pursue their law degrees during unprecedented challenges and disruption. Thank you to all those who have already submitted messages, and if you have not done so already, please share some cheer by providing a simple message of encouragement that will show our students the compassion and enthusiasm of our LSU Law alumni. A simple, “You can do it! If I can finish 1L, so can you!” or any other supportive message of your choice can provide much-needed inspiration to students during these unsettled times.
Submissions will be collected through September 4, and LSU Law be using your messages in displays within the Law Center so as to lift up the student body with your positive thoughts and best wishes. With your permission, we might also use your message on the newly launched @LSULawDean Twitter account or the existing @LSULawCenter Twitter account or LSU Law Facebook page.