11. September 2020, von Internetredaktion
Interview Questions for Co-Dean Monty Silley:
1. How did Covid-19 influence the China-EU School of Law (CESL)?
Like all other institutions, Covid-19 has had a profound impact on CESL and each individual member of our community. Fortunately, we were able to take early and immediate actions, starting in January, to suspend all classroom teaching and then transition to fully online learning. This helped secure the health and safety of all our students and staff, so that not a single person from CESL was infected with the virus so far, while also allowing our students to continue with their studies and avoid any delays in the completion of their degrees.
2. Is the programme taking place normally?
Mostly, yes! Now that there are very few cases in China, and basically none in Beijing, we are happy to welcome our students back to campus for the start of the new academic year. Of course, we do have special procedures in place to ensure everyone can come back in a safe and responsible fashion, including various policies such as a phased return by year, testing all students and staff, temperature monitoring, social-distancing and the wearing of face masks at all times, etc. We remain precautious in case there should be any new outbreak, to be able to detect it as early as possible and isolate it from further spreading. With this, we are planning to resume live lectures in most of our courses. However, given the current travel restrictions and quarantine requirements that are still in place, it is not possible for our Flying Faculty to travel from Europe to Beijing to teach in person as they normally would. Therefore, most teaching in our MEIL (Master of European and International Law) programme will continue online this semester, with some blended components. Likewise, since international students are also unable to come to China right now, we have moved our CLTE (Chinese Law Taught in English) and IMCL (International Master of Chinese Law) programmes to hopefully begin in the Spring semester.
3. What have been the biggest challenges so far?
At the beginning of the year we faced various challenges. First and foremost was the concern that all students and staff remained safe and healthy as we initially began to learn about this virus. In addition to suspending classes and working from home, we instituted a detailed system where each student reported their health status to us on a daily basis. We put some students that had recently come from higher risk areas into quarantine and they were specially monitored with the help of our university hospital. Counselling services were also offered to any students that encountered abnormal stress, depression or other psychological difficulties during this very unusual time. Next, we had approximately 100 students that were expecting to study at one of our partner universities in Europe during the Spring semester. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these study abroad exchanges had to be suspended. This meant not only a change in course planning, but also cancelling all travel plans, flights and accommodations, often at the very last minute, given the quickly evolving situation we faced as the virus was spreading at the beginning of the year. On the other hand, for our European exchange and other international students that were studying in China, we helped all of them return safely back to their home countries. Then, we moved to fully online teaching so that everyone, no matter where they were, could keep up with their classes. This was largely a smooth process, but it still required some transitioning, as our School had never offered online courses before. For many of our professors it was also their first time teaching online. Therefore, it required adapting to new platforms, as well as some new teaching methods, to ensure all students remained fully engaged in a virtual classroom. It has been an ongoing challenge for us to offer the best forms of distance education. Finally, the pandemic also posed some disruptions to our usual recruitment, application and admission process. But again, we were able to mitigate these and find good solutions. This year we in fact had the highest number of MEIL applicants and we interviewed each of them online this summer. Now we are very focused on everyone’s safe return to campus and the resumption of largely regular in-person classes.
4. What are some of the other things CESL has done or is doing differently this year?
In addition to online teaching, which I already mentioned, we have hired additional Assistant Professors and Lecturers to break up classes into smaller tutorial groups which will allow for a high level of interaction to be maintained. We have continuously sought to leverage technology in order to preserve the vibrant and interactive community atmosphere everyone is used to at CESL. For example, we were able to have various high-profile guest speakers from leading law firms and international organisations give open lectures online this past term. We also launched a new online platform to further assist our students and new graduates to connect with our CESL alumni, network with prospective employers, and find suitable internships and job opportunities in the current environment. Our weekly discussion groups, for example the popular “What is Law? What is Justice”, will continue to take place online. Our mooting will still take place with both in person and online trainings. We are still planning to host our annual academic conference, with that also being online this year. So we are having a lot more virtual events, but always making sure that our Law School remains busy with regular activities and remains at the forefront of cross-border legal dialogues. We have consistently tried to make the best of a difficult situation, and since we are doing so much online these days, it has actually enabled us to connect with even more diverse professionals from around the world to share their knowledge and experience with our students.
5. You are currently residing in Beijing, was it difficult to adjust to the new situation?
Quarantining, no matter where you do it, can present certain challenges. As I have said to some of our students, while a pandemic is terrible for one’s social life, it is a great time to study hard, concentrate on achieving superior results with work, and pursue new projects. So I have also adhered to this positive outlook, tried to remain optimistic throughout the year, and be highly productive. Since I decided to remain in China throughout, I missed seeing family and friends this summer. But now the situation in China is looking much better and life has started returning to normal, so I am very excited to see everyone returning to campus again!
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