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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Testing on (if not for) coronavirus

I am curious if people are planning on using COVID-19, the pandemic, and everything going on for exams and assessments for this semester. It presents legal issues across a number of subjects, including mine. Is it too soon, either because everyone is living through it or because the issues are not ripe? Is it triggering because everyone is living through it--the equivalent of testing about Ferguson while the protests were ongoing--and thus distracting and unfair?

Posted by Howard Wasserman on April 21, 2020 at 02:54 PM in Howard Wasserman, Teaching Law | Permalink


I suppose it depends on your class, but if a coronavirus-relevant question were appropriate, I can't think of any reason not to use it. For example, in a class on privacy issues, it might be interesting to write an exam question that covers whether it's lawful to post or otherwise disclose to employers or relatives the names of persons who test positive for an extremely contagious disease like coronavirus. I don't accept Prof. Kerr's claim that it might be too emotionally painful for some students for two reasons. One, that's a slippery slope that can lead to avoidance of lots of otherwise interesting questions. Two, law students have to learn, the earlier the better, how to deal with emotionally disturbing material. Or find another career.

Posted by: Douglas B. Levene | Apr 26, 2020 5:22:51 PM

I am not because of concerns about how it would unevenly affect some students, even though we are credit/no credit this semester.

Posted by: Matthew Bruckner | Apr 22, 2020 1:12:32 PM

Howard, I think it depends on too many factors to say. Depend on how long this will last, what the course is and how the issue is raised, etc.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Apr 22, 2020 12:19:44 AM

Two questions: 1) Is next year still too soon? 2) Was it appropriate to ask questions around Ferguson while that was going on--and if so, is it the size and immediacy of the effects that make this different?

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Apr 21, 2020 9:56:38 PM

I would not use fact patterns that implicate the current situation for two reasons:

1) Students may have loved ones who have died or may be in the hospital with COVID19, or who lost their jobs, or who are otherwise in serious crisis. This isn't the time to be timely. Our current crisis is a burden, not an opportunity.

2) All exams are pass/fail, so there is no need to write a killer novel exam that beautifully captures some fascinating new legal dynamic inspired by current affairs. Save it for next year, when (hopefully) exams will be graded and a brilliant question can challenge students.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Apr 21, 2020 7:09:16 PM

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