University of Victoria Faculty of Law Responds to the COVID-19 Challenge

It was not a surprise to us when classes and events were cancelled on campus mid March 2020. As an international lawyer with an interest in international disaster law I had been following the international response with dread. A faculty-led COVID-19 response team was already in place and meeting daily when the call came to transition to on-line delivery. Although we largely had to cancel our events, courses that had materials left to be delivered moved swiftly to online platforms and the exam schedule was revised from primarily sit-down, to entirely take-home. At the forefront of our deliberations was the fact that our students, faculty and staff had to balance the unprecedented burdens placed upon them and their families.

Members of our faculty and staff, working remotely, trained on a variety of on-line platforms, as it became clear that our summer, fall and perhaps even spring semesters would be on-line. Instructors began to meet virtually with staff and the administration, to rethink the delivery of summer courses, including our three law clinics, and to access necessary supports. Our Covid-19 committee met initially daily and then twice per week. That committee has recently been disbanded as it is apparent that this online environment is the new normal and we have transitioned to regular but remote executive meetings, staff and faculty meetings. Another huge support group was that the Canadian Council of Law Deans began to meet on a weekly and then bi-weekly basis and we offered support and advice to each other. I have truly enjoyed getting to know all of our amazing Deans.

I am so proud how all of our UVic law community has responded. The exam period was one of the smoothest in recent memory; our Law Careers, Alumni, Development and Financial Aid Offices have continued in their superb effort to ensure student support. We successfully revised our curriculum in 2020-2021 to suit an on-line environment. Our guiding principle has been to ensure that students, staff and faculty have a manageable workload given the reality of working from home.

One aspect I am most proud of is that we have ensured that our clinics that constitute our experiential learning program have continued to operate. The Law Centre, Environmental Law Centre and the Business Law Clinic have all transitioned to remote delivery of their essential services.

I am also proud of our students. They ably transitioned to on-line learning and excelled. I have worked closely with the Law Student Society concerning each step we have taken. This is a partnership I will reply upon going forward.

And throughout we keep Dr. Bonnie Henry’s direction at the forefront, “be kind, be calm, and be safe.”

Susan Breau, Dean
Faculty of Law, University of Victoria

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