(08/12/20) EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this article stated that "in-person" New Student Orientation for the School of Law is scheduled to begin on August 12, when it is in fact being conducted online. This article has been corrected to reflect this.
A group of tenure track School of Law professors at the University of New Mexico have formally requested a delay in the start of the fall semester.
According to a letter obtained by the Daily Lobo, law school faculty members Christine Zuni Cruz, Barbara Creel and Marc-Tizoc González sent a letter to UNM School of Law Dean Sergio Pareja on Aug. 5 urging him to push back the start of the semester until Sept. 8.
The letter referenced that the law school has reported two positive cases of COVID-19 in the past few weeks. The first was announced on July 24 and the second on Aug. 4, according to the letter.
A UNM School of Law employee confirmed the two cases were reported, and requested anonymity citing concerns of peer scrutiny and possible retaliation from the administration.
According to the employee, policies were not in place prior to the first positive case, and multiple employees have expressed concern over the lack of COVID-19 protections for faculty, staff and students with the pending school year.
In addition to the coronavirus disruption, the letter also referenced that on July 27 an “illegal intrusion into the IT environment” had occurred. The letter referenced it as a possible “ransomware attack” which had “rendered the law school network server completely inaccessible.”
The letter stated that “the hack resulted in the deletion of information and data preventing faculty from preparing for the semester.”
Based on those unprecedented events, the faculty asserted that they need a delay in the semester to better prepare and reconsider other teaching modalities given the pandemic.
“We believe it is our duty, as tenured faculty members entrusted with shared-governance responsibilities, to ask that the administration acknowledge the overload and additional stress caused by the cyber-attack and neither ignore, nor deny its impact on teaching preparation and related work,” the letter read.
The faculty members said that “any of these challenges would be difficult to weather. Altogether, their quick succession causes us to call for the administration to ‘hit the pause button’ in recognition of the immensity of the burdens experienced by the faculty.”
The professors also referenced the civil unrest that has occurred nationwide in response to the video of the extrajudicial killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department and the impact that has had on faculty, staff and students of color in particular.
“However the crises impact us individually, and community in different ways: in particular Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities nationally, and in our state are being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and recession,” they wrote. “It is therefore unfair to expect uniform resiliency.”
The Daily Lobo attempted to contact Dean Pareja multiple times for comment over the weekend but didn’t receive a response as of the publication of this article.
The online New Student Orientation for the School of Law is currently scheduled to begin on Aug. 12, with the semester scheduled to start on Aug. 17.
This is a developing story.
Genevieve Romero is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Vieve2020