Texas Law 2020-21 Reopening Policies

Last June, President Hartzell released the university’s Fall 2020 plan for operations—including in-person, online, and hybrid learning options for students—under the title “Protect Texas Together.” In November, it was confirmed that the university’s plan for Spring 2021 operations would be largely identical to the Fall 2020 plan. These plans, as well as other regulations, can be found on the Protect Texas Together website.

Many of our decisions about resuming Law School operations were dictated by the university’s plan. With minor additions and updates, we continued to follow this plan during the Fall 2020 semester and found it to be a great success. We, too, will maintain our Fall 2020 plan through the Spring 2021 semester.

This webpage explains in detail how the Law School adapts the Protect Texas Together plan to its objectives and operations.

Our priority continues to be maximizing every opportunity for in-person instruction for those who want it, while providing the safest possible environment for the Texas Law community.

To accomplish this, we are limiting activities in the Law School buildings to only those necessary to carry out our teaching mission and certain other essential functions.  The Law School will also require compliance with a set of rules and precautions to keep those activities safe.

Specifically, we are requiring every member of the Texas Law community to:

  • Wear a qualifying face covering at all times on the Law School campus (indoors and outdoors), with limited exceptions.
  • Maintain six feet of physical distance from all others on campus wherever possible, with limited exceptions.
  • Monitor your health and stay home if you are sick or may be sick.

In addition, we ask that you only come to the Law School in order to attend a class, teach a class, or perform a required task. More specifically:

  • Students: Please come to school no earlier than thirty minutes before your classes begin and leave after your final class is done; study at home to the extent possible.
  • Faculty: Please come to school only to teach and collect research materials.
  • Staff: Please work from home unless directed otherwise.

There will be no in-person Law School events in the Spring 2021 semester, on-campus or off-campus.

The specifics of these guidelines, along with details about our Spring 2021 reopening plan, follow below. The plan will be updated as information develops and we will notify the law school community of changes to policy. You may also wish to bookmark this page and check back often.

On Tuesday, December 15, the university began distributing its inventory of the Coronavirus vaccine, beginning with frontline health care workers at the UT Health center. For more information about the university’s plans for vaccine distribution, including the phases of distribution, visit the Dedicated Vaccine Distribution website.

If you have any question not answered below, please email reopening@law.utexas.edu.

This page is broken down into seven main sections:

  1. The 2020-21 Academic Calendar
  2. Personal Responsibilities
  3. General Facilities Guidelines
  4. Classroom Usage
  5. The Tarlton Law Library
  6. Staffing Expectations, Meetings, and Resources for the Law School
  7. Faculty Expectations, Resources and Needs

1.The 2020-21 Academic Calendar

August 3 — The Law School buildings, which are currently closed, will re-open for necessary personnel only to prepare for the resumption of in-person classes.

August 17-25 – Online Orientation activities for LL.M. and exchange students.

August 19-20 — In-person Orientation activities for the Class of 2023, with Sections 1, 2 and 3 in the building on the 19th, and Sections 4, 5 and 6 in the building on the 20th.

August 24-25 — 2Ls and 3Ls may come to the Law School to buy course packets, clear lockers, retrieve items from student organization or journal offices, or pick up a personal wellness kit (see “Face Coverings” below). The Student Affairs Office will assign time slots for this purpose and directions will be forthcoming.

August 26 — First day of classes; Tarlton Law Library opens for the Law School community.

November 24 — Last day of in-person meetings for classes. All remaining class sessions through December 3 will still be held but will convene remotely.

November 30 – December 7 — Classes continue remotely. Students should consult their course syllabus to determine how their instructor plans to use this period.

December 8 — Reading day.

December 9-12, 14-18 — Exams, all administered remotely.

December 19 — Winter break begins.

January 11-12 — Registration for the spring semester for continuing and readmitted students who have not yet registered.

January 13-15 — Registration for the spring semester for new, readmitted, and continuing students who have not yet registered.

January 25 — Classes begin in the School of Law

March 15-19 — Spring Break

April 30 — Last class day in the School of Law

May 3-4 — Reading days

May 5-8, 10-14 — Final exams

May 22 — Graduation

The manner of the 2021 commencement ceremonies, including whether such ceremonies will be fully or partially in-person, and whether such ceremonies will include acknowledgement of both the Classes of 2020 and 2021, remain to be determined. The university plans to announce its decisions about these matters in February 2021.


2. Personal Responsibilities

The rules regarding personal responsibility have these major elements: wear a face covering, maintain six feet of physical distance from others whenever possible, follow all self-monitoring health protocols, and do not come to the Law School if you are sick or think you may be sick.

a. Face coverings. Face coverings must be worn at all times, covering both the nose and mouth, when in the Law School buildings or outside on the Law School grounds*, with these limited exceptions:

  • When alone in a private office.
  • When eating and drinking while practicing social distancing.
  • When an alternative has been approved as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act or religious observance accommodation processes.

The university has indicated which kinds of face coverings are acceptable, discouraged, and not permitted on the Healthy Horns website.

Students who seek an accommodation must do so through the Services for Students with Disabilities Office. Faculty and staff who seek an accommodation must do so through the university’s ADA Coordinators.

Face coverings will be provided to staff, faculty and students. Faculty and staff should contact the Facilities Department to have a face covering made available to them in the Communications Center.

Staff members who are asked to work at the Law School will be given a reusable face covering; those whose in-person duties require frequent movement through the building, or serial interaction with multiple parties in multiple spaces, will also be offered disposable face coverings.

In addition, staff members who are asked to share technology or other materials with other people (such as staff who service electronic equipment or library materials) will be provided with disposable gloves.

Faculty members will be offered a clear face covering which makes a speaker’s face visible and may improve overall communication. The clear face coverings may be single-use (in which case one will be provided for each class session) or they may be reusable; the specific product is still being determined.

A supply of single-use, disposable face coverings will be available at the Communications Center for emergencies.

The university strongly encourages face coverings in outdoor areas elsewhere on the university campus.

Clear face shields are permitted, but only in tandem with a face covering that conforms to university guidelines.

*The boundaries of the Law School grounds are shown below, in brown:

b. Physical distancing. Physical distancing of six feet must be maintained between individuals when in the Law School buildings or on the Law School grounds at all times, with these limited exceptions:

  • While in assigned seating in classrooms (which in some circumstances provides distancing of less than six feet).
  • While passing in hallways and stairwells, although people should then maintain the maximum distance practicable.

c. Hand washing. Everyone is expected to wash and sanitize their hands often. The university has provided hand sanitizer stations at numerous locations in the Law School. The stations will sometimes run out. For that reason and others, everyone in the building is encouraged to carry and use a personal supply of wipes and sanitizer.

d. Self-monitoring. Everyone must self-monitor their health before coming to the Law School. This includes checking one’s temperature for fever and other potential symptoms. The university has released a “Protect Texas Together” app to the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. It is understood that people without smartphones may not be able to access or use the app. For those without a smartphone, a phone-based survey application is also available by dialing 800-325-8903. This uses the same algorithm as the app to indicate whether a person is safe to come to campus, but works on any phone. The phone-based survey requires a unique access code, which is available here. Those without internet access or in need of further assistance should call the UT Service Desk at 512-475-9400. Campus visitors without EIDs can use this symptom-monitoring app developed by the CDC if they wish.

More information on how to monitor one’s health can be found on the university’s Daily Symptom and Temperature Screening guide.

e. Compliance. Every member of the university community who will be on campus during the Fall 2020 semester is asked to make The Commitment to Protect Texas Together. This is a voluntary code of conduct and a statement of shared purpose. Also, the university requires that all faculty and staff complete an online, interactive training program called “Staying Healthy in a Changing Environment.” The university aims for voluntary compliance by all, in a spirit of cooperation and mutual care.  However, failure to comply with the rules by anyone may result in disciplinary action in accordance with the university’s guidelines for faculty, staff, and students.

All student compliance concerns should be reported to the Student Affairs Office.

Faculty or staff compliance concerns should be reported to the Dean’s Office.

In addition, the university has opened a “New Expanded Behavior Concerns and Covid-19 Advice Line (BCCAL)”, at 512-232-5050. BCCAL is a 24-hour/seven-days-a-week advice line, providing students, faculty and staff an opportunity to discuss their concerns about another individual’s behavior. Trained staff members will assist callers in exploring available options and strategies, along with providing appropriate guidance and resource referrals.

f. What to do if you are symptomatic. If you are a UT student exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, you will be able to schedule a test with University Health Services. If you are a UT faculty or staff member exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, you will be able to schedule a test with UT Health Austin or you can arrange a test with the health care provider of your choice.

If a faculty or staff member has symptoms or is being tested for COVID-19, he or she should report that result to the Occupational Health Program.

g. Positive Tests. If an individual tests positive for COVID-19, the university will use contact tracing to identify everyone with whom that person has had “close contact.” A “close contact” is defined as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of a laboratory-confirmed or probable-positive patient. Those “close contacts” will be notified and are expected to quarantine for fourteen days, get a test, and not return to campus until the end of the fourteen-day quarantine. Students who must quarantine should participate in classes remotely. The university’s guidance on positive tests may be found here.


3. General Facilities Guidelines

The Law School facility, including the Tarlton Law Library, will be only for the use of law school students, staff, and faculty, and non-law students enrolled in a Law School class. The building is closed to all others.

a. Hours of Operation. The hours of operation of the Law School buildings will be:

Monday - Thursday7:00 a.m. - 7:30 p.m
Friday8:00 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday9:00 a.m. - 9 p.m.

The Tarlton Law Library hours of operation will be:

Monday - Friday7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday9:00 a.m. - 9 p.m.

These hours may be adjusted, depending on changing circumstances. We will provide notice if these hours of operation must be revised.

b. Entrances. The Law School buildings will be locked at all times. Entrance will only be available through those doors that have the Building Access Card System (BACS) and are unlocked by swiping an authorized UT ID card. Those entrances are:

  • The basement entrance to JON on Dean Keeton Street.
  • The ground-level entrance to JON on Trinity Street.
  • The ground-level single-door entrance to TNH east of the doors outside the Francis Auditorium.
  • The ground-level double door entrance to TNH nearest the intersection of Dean Keeton and Robert Dedman Drive.
  • The ground-level double doors leading into CCJ’s Jamail Pavilion.
  • The ground-level doors on the east and west sides of CCJ.

In addition, the entrance doors to JON on the Dean Keeton side of the Atrium (which do not have BACS readers) will be unlocked during weekday hours of operation.

To see the location of these entrances, please refer to the Law School building maps. These entrances are indicated by an icon of a magnetic-striped card.

People are asked to not exit the building through these designated entrances when anyone is attempting to enter.

c. Communications Center and Mailroom Hours and Access. The Communications Center will be staffed during weekday building hours.

While the Center is staffed, the mailroom will be locked and any needed item will be retrieved by the staff member. If the Center is not staffed, it may be opened by faculty or staff using a UT ID with the BACS panel (as usual).

All items delivered to the school that require signatures, or items that must be collected by an outside service or campus courier, should be directed to the Communications Center.

d. Sanitization Stations. The university has installed and will maintain sanitizer dispensing stations inside public entrances, in the hallways outside classrooms, and at elevator lobbies. Bottles of hand sanitizer will also be provided to departments and centers.

e. Common Areas. The furniture in all common areas has been arranged to create six feet of physical distance between people seated there. The furniture should not be moved.

The Law School has arranged some additional outdoor seating on the Law School grounds. Face coverings, and six feet of personal distance, will be required when in these outdoor spaces. The UTexas WiFi network will be available in some, though not all, of these outdoor spaces.

f. Restrooms. All restrooms will be marked at the entrance with capacity limits. No restroom will accommodate more than two people at a time.

Please do not enter a restroom without determining if the restroom is already occupied at capacity.

When queueing for a restroom, maintain six feet of distance from others and use the decals on the floor indicating where to stand.

When exiting a restroom, use a paper towel or other sanitary hand covering to use the door pull, if possible.

g. Elevators. All elevators will be marked at their call buttons with capacity limits. No elevator will accommodate more than two people at a time. When possible, use stairs in order to maximize access to elevators for individuals who need them.

h. Hallways and Stairwells. Hallways and stairwells will not be unidirectional. People are asked to avoid congestion, to remain to the right to the extent practicable, and to maintain physical distancing of six feet to the extent practicable.

i. Space Closures. Fourteen classrooms have been identified for use, at no more than 40% capacity, for in-person classes. All other classrooms will be closed unless they have been designated as meeting rooms.

Offices for all student organizations and student journals will be closed and are not to be used. Students who need to obtain things from these offices should contact the Student Affairs Office.

j. Lockers. Lockers will generally not be available. Students with a documented disability or who can demonstrate need for a medical accommodation that would necessitate the use of a locker should contact the Student Affairs Office.

k. Cleaning Protocols. Each night, university custodial staff will clean and disinfect the common areas, classrooms, designated meeting rooms, departments open to visitors, restrooms, and elevators of the Law School and Tarlton Law Library. The University of Texas Facilities website includes details of these services.

Private offices and shared offices not approved for visitors will not be cleaned nightly. Occupants of those spaces are responsible for disinfecting them and any shared equipment such as copiers or fax machines.

The Law School will provide cleaning supplies to all departments and for the teaching areas of all classrooms. Faculty members arriving in a room to teach an in-person course should  sanitize any surface they intend to touch, especially the keyboard and mouse for the in-room computer. As noted earlier, the university also asks all faculty, staff, and students to carry their own personal supply of wipes and hand sanitizer.

l. HVAC. The university has adjusted the HVAC system to maximize filtration and air flow.

m. Signage. The university has providing signage throughout the campus, including the Law School and Tarlton Law Library, to indicate clearly the capacity limits of classrooms, common areas, restrooms, and elevators.

n. Food and Drink. George’s Café and the coffee counter in the Tom Clark Lounge will be open and will offer only grab-and-go and pre-prepared food options. Coffee will be made to individual order and will be sold with packaged creamers and sweeteners. Payment will be cashless and limited seating will be available.

When queueing in George’s Café or at the coffee counter, physical distance of six feet must be maintained. There are decals on the floor to indicate where to stand.

Face coverings may be removed while seated, though only while actively eating or drinking.

Touchless water dispensers and bottle fillers are available but shared water fountains are not.

Refrigerators and microwaves will be available in offices or lounges with shared kitchenettes. Coffee makers, toaster ovens, and hot plates will not be available. Sinks may be used for washing hands and dishes, but dishes should not be left in or near sinks. The capacity of each kitchen and lounge will be posted.

Shared coffee machines will not be available.

Vending machines will be stocked and available. Users are asked to wipe the vending machine with personal sanitizing wipes before use.

4. Classroom Usage

a. Changes to Classrooms. The Law School is using 14 classrooms for in-person instruction and the maximum capacity of classrooms is 40%, excluding the professor. Seats that may not be used in a classroom are blocked off. No classes will be held in JON.

Eating and drinking in classrooms is forbidden.

Students have assigned seating in every classroom.

  • 1L students have been assigned seats during Orientation.
  • Faculty teaching upper-level classes were responsible for establishing a fixed seating chart and distributing it to the students and the Student Affairs Office prior to the first class meeting. Changes to these seating charts may occur until the end of the add/drop period and the charts will be updated accordingly.  At the end of the add/drop period, a final seating chart must be submitted to the Student Affairs Office.

At the end of each class session, the faculty member will dismiss students by row, starting with students closest to the exit. In classrooms with more than one door, students are encouraged to move towards the door nearest to their seat.  The faculty member leaves after the last departing student.

b. 1L Class Sections. This year, the 1L class was been divided into six sections instead of the usual four. Each section is assigned to a specific classroom for all section-wide classes. Students also have one smaller class with students drawn from three sections. That class may meet in a different classroom. Half of the 1L sections have in-person classes in the morning only, the other half in the afternoon only. These measures reduce population density in the Law School.

c. Revised Class Schedule. The usual law school class schedule has been expanded to create longer passing periods. As a result, the last class of the day ends in the evening on most weekdays. To see the full course schedule, please view the course grid.

d. Compliance in the Classroom. If a student in class fails to wear a face covering at any time while in the classroom, the faculty member must ask the student to put a face covering on or to leave. If the student refuses to leave, the faculty member must dismiss the class and report the dismissal immediately to the Student Affairs Office.

5. The Tarlton Law Library

Tarlton Law Library’s services and operations will continue to be available to the extent feasible, with circulation, reference, and tech desk operations to be performed both in-person and remotely.

a. Hours. 

The library’s hours of operation will be:

Monday - Friday7:30 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Sunday9:00 a.m. - 9 p.m.

Tech Desk hours (in-person and remote) will be:

Monday - Friday8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Reference hours (in-person and remote) will be:

Monday - Friday9 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Sunday12 p.m. – 6 p.m.

All hours of operation will be posted on the Tarlton website and at the library entrance. This schedule may change throughout the semester.

b. Access. Access to Tarlton is restricted to students taking Law School classes (including classes cross-listed in the Law School) and Law School faculty and staff. The library is closed to the public.

There are 272 available seats in the library. Library seating is arranged to ensure six feet of physical distancing. Seats that are not available for use have been blocked off or otherwise clearly marked. Furniture may not be rearranged.

Students are able to use the library to study between classes but are encouraged to leave the Law School buildings after their final class of the day has concluded.

Students participating in remote (“Zoom”) classes should use the east end of the 3rd floor of the library. This area is clearly marked. These are for “listening only” classes for which headsets or earphones will be required. Students are strongly discouraged from taking remote classes that may require verbal participation while in the library.

Students are expected to use their own headphones. A limited supply of headphones is available in case of emergency.

Eating and drinking are not allowed in the library.

A reduced number of desktop computers are available for student use in the computer lab. Study rooms, the instructional room, and the Student Collaborative Study Room are not available for use except in limited circumstances and with prior approval and arrangement through the Tarlton Law Library administration.

Library restrooms are subject to the same restrictions as are restrooms throughout the law school:

  • All restrooms in the library are marked at the entrance with a capacity limit of one.
  • Please do not enter a restroom without determining if the restroom is already occupied.
  • When queueing for a restroom, maintain six feet of distance from others and use the decals on the floor indicating where to stand.
  • When exiting a restroom, use a paper towel or other sanitary hand covering to use the door pull, if possible.

c. Services and Service Changes. Circulation services for the Law School community is available on-site, with enhanced protections. A “touchless” circulation system will be used to the extent possible, and priority will be placed on keeping materials clean to the greatest extent possible.

  • Print materials and other items that have been returned after check-out will be sanitized, sterilized, or quarantined before being made available for re-use.
  • Print materials (new and loaned) received and processed by Tarlton staff will be sanitized, sterilized, or quarantined before being made available for use.

Reference services for the Law School community are available on-site with remote online back-up.

Tech desk services for law students are available on site with remote online back-up.

Circulation services to others, including non-law UT users, is by arrangement only.

Reference services to members of the public may be available, as possible, via the Virtual Reference Desk, phone, and chat.

Faculty liaison services are primarily offered online. Individual faculty and liaisons may make arrangements for on site consultation as necessary.

Document delivery is available (as possible) via online request. No faculty office pick-up or drop-off of library materials is available. All requested materials will be delivered to faculty mailboxes in the Communications Center. All materials should be returned to the library bin in the Communications Center or to the book return in the library.

No materials will be routed to faculty. Faculty should arrange with their library liaison for alternative electronic services.

In-person tours, computer instruction, in-person instruction (individual or group), and other in-person programs will not be offered.

Laptop computers will continue to be available for circulation. Peripheral items, such as power cords or standing desks, will not be available.

Course reserve materials will not be maintained in the library. Faculty assistants will scan readings for faculty and post them to the faculty member’s Canvas site.

Permanent reserve materials will be reduced to the smallest collection possible. Any materials that students are required to purchase (Bluebooks, other citation guides, style manuals, etc.) will not be available for circulation.

6.Staffing Expectations and Building Usage

a. Work From Home. Law school staff should work from home unless directed otherwise. All departments and centers have determined what services and tasks must be completed in-person, how those responsibilities will be covered, and by whom. Every department must keep a record of staff members who come to the Law School, and when.

Staff members should keep a record of any in-person meeting (outside of class sessions) with two or more people held indoors at the law school and lasting longer than 15 minutes. This record will help with contact tracing in the event someone tests positive for COVID-19.

Mental health and counseling services will continue to be provided on a remote basis. Students may contact Dr. Maria Timm at (512) 232-2295 or the Counseling and Mental Health Center main line (512-471-3515) to learn more or to schedule services. They may also contact the Student Affairs Office. Faculty and staff should contact the Employee Assistance Program at 512-471-3366.

Staff may review the university’s “Coronavirus Resources for Employees” web page for questions about work-from-home arrangements and timekeeping, or they may contact Texas Law’s Human Resources department.

b. Building Usage. For all offices, rooms, departments, and suites:

  • To the extent possible, staff and faculty who must come to the buildings should stagger their schedules to avoid being in shared offices or suites at the same time as others.
  • In shared work areas where multiple occupants will be present and primarily seated, there should be at least six feet of separation between work areas.
  • In shared work areas where multiple occupants will be present and moving around, more than six feet of separation between work areas is necessary (with 125 – 200 square feet per person recommended).
  • Shared desks should be avoided if possible.
  • In-person meetings should be held only in spaces designated for that purpose and not in private offices. A list of rooms available for in-person meetings and instructions for accessing them can be found here.
  • Outdoor meetings are strongly encouraged.
  • Any seating that cannot be used, such as chairs at a conference table or guest seating in a private office, should be turned over or otherwise made unavailable.
  • Staff and faculty using either private offices or open work areas should sit six feet from any door or entrance area or keep the door closed if possible.
  • Departments and centers should post a sign, using a template available from the Communications Department, on their main entrance to indicate contact information.
  • Plexiglass shields have been installed at work areas that have been approved for in-person visitors (often with limited hours):
    • The Communications Center
    • The Dean’s Suite
    • The LL.M. & International Office
    • Student Affairs
    • Tarlton Law Library service desks

7. Faculty Expectations and Building Usage

Faculty should come to the Law School only as necessary to teach and collect research materials, and otherwise should work remotely to the fullest extent possible.

a. Special teaching responsibilities. Faculty are asked to include the university’s policies on face coverings and physical distancing in the classroom on course syllabi, along with any specific information including policies related to grading, participation, or attendance. The university has provided a template and language for this purpose.

If a faculty member needs to change the teaching method of a class after the semester begins, Associate Dean Robert Chesney must be contacted immediately.

There will be no course reserve materials held on reserve at Tarlton Law Library. Course reserve materials should be scanned by faculty assistants and posted to the class Canvas page. Faculty should not distribute paper handouts in class (particularly since most classes will include students participating remotely). With the help of their assistants, faculty can order course packets from Document Solutions in the usual manner. Both paper and digital versions of materials can be made available for students to purchase.

Faculty assistants will continue to work from home. Faculty teaching in person who need on-site support should contact Sylvia Hendricks.

For classroom technology support, contact Media Services. For support with computers and other technology needs, contact Law Technology Services by submitting an LTS Help Ticket.

b. Classroom Responsibilities. Guidance on all changes to classroom usage and faculty responsibilities—including, among other things, reduced capacity, seating assignments, cleaning protocols, and dismissal procedures—are found above, in “4. Classroom Usage.” Please refer to this set of policies.

c. Offices, Office Hours, and Meetings. Faculty offices will not be cleaned nightly. Faculty members are responsible for disinfecting them. They should also disinfect any shared equipment such as copiers when using them. Cleaning supplies will be available in copy rooms.

Faculty must hold office hours using Zoom rather than in person.

No in-person meetings are permitted in private offices. In-person meetings should be held only in spaces designated for that purpose and not in private offices. A list of rooms available for in-person meetings and instructions for accessing them can be found here.

In-person meetings in common areas, designated meeting rooms, and outdoors are encouraged.

Faculty members should keep a record of any in-person meeting (outside of class sessions) with two or more people held indoors at the law school and lasting longer than 15 minutes. This record will help with contact tracing in the event someone tests positive for COVID-19.