I am sitting at my desk in my childhood bedroom, in the home where I grew up, starting my summer internship virtually and feeling admittedly silly as I pour a cup of coffee and don professional clothing while I am surrounded by mementos of my youth. Though the coloring books and childhood photographs on my desk have now been replaced by my laptop and a Bluebook, things still feel eerily similar to what I remember growing up.
It makes me think back to this time last year. Coming home last March as the pandemic shutdown hit was almost incomprehensible: sitting in the home that felt so familiar to me, I was also painfully aware of how foreign just about everything else around me really was. I watched my professors (and later my summer employer) scramble to get a handle of how best to continue on in a world that was suddenly unfamiliar. I adapted to virtual meetings, technical difficulties, and Zoom hangouts. I took on the unfamiliarity with an open mind, trying to adjust to the temporary surroundings I believed I was in.
But now it has been a year, and the unfamiliarity has transformed into the ordinary. What was once a few weeks at most is now over a year of remote school and work. Summer internships, clinics, classes, and virtual events have come and gone. Countless in-person events and programs have been transformed to account for the virtual world we remain in. I and most other rising 3Ls (ouch), are entering into another remote summer internship.
As everyone keeping up with the media lately will be aware, the current situation in India is dire. At the beginning of the pandemic, India was doing relatively well, with rising cases under control and recovery rates relatively stable. India was scheduled to send millions of doses of vaccines to countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In fact, approximately ⅓ of the population in the world’s poorest countries was relying on India to deliver their vaccines.1 Now, India itself is in calamity, with over 300,000 cases being reported daily – and many experts believe this number is a significant undercount. There is a shortage of oxygen, ventilators, and hospital space, to the extent where parking lots are now being used as mass cremation sites.2 Reading this news and seeing these photos is, of course, troublesome to everyone. Watching all of this unfold as an Indian-American immigrant, though, has been especially taxing.
525,600 minutes. Daylights and sunsets and midnights and cups of coffee. I’ve always found that Rent offers a beautiful melodic sampling of ways to conceptualize this fickle thing we call time. But the question, however harmonized, remains: how do you measure a year?
Thinking too long on this subject brings a heavy lump to my throat. It’s been one year. We’ve lost so much and so fast. Tearing apart businesses, families, and entire communities, the pandemic has stripped us of so much of that closeness our society once had: a handshake over a new business agreement, a scorched smile over too hot coffee on the morning commute crammed in a subway car, a visit to see a loved one, a high five with a stranger over a touchdown at the sports bar. We were told to be, for an undetermined amount of time and with no warning, alone. And yet, the very science and expertise unto which we cling to guide us through this madness is debated like the merits of contemporary art by politicians. Some people believe this is a globally orchestrated hoax. Our democracy is still in the ICU. This year has, as a great mentor of mine says, given our entire society a CAT scan. It’s shown our inequities and injustices. It’s shown the unyielding power of the few and the overwhelming lack of access for the many.
This Friday, May 22, BC Law 3Ls and LLM students were supposed to gather in Conte Forum and receive their degrees on stage in front of faculty, family and friends. The COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into those plans, of course, as it did for many other graduates across the world. But BC Law has stepped up to offer some virtual hugs and high fives.
The Law Student Association, with support from the BC Law administration, has put together a celebration that runs all week on the Class of 2020 Facebook group page. The celebration kicked off this morning with a video from the faculty:
LSA events this week include a Facebook Watch Party screening of Legally Blonde, a virtual Trivia Night, a favorite memory photo contest and messages and live video appearances from the LSA president, members of the faculty, staff and Dean Rougeau. Grads, faculty and staff can all join the group and participate.
While they may not be able to get together in person, they can still celebrate the graduates’ accomplishments with the people who helped them along the way. For those who are able to make it back, a physical ceremony is also being planned for sometime in October.
Courtney Ruggeri is a rising 3L at BC Law. She loves to hear from readers: email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today I am hosting a guest blog by Irit Tamir, an adjunct professor at BC Law who teaches Business and Human Rights. She is also the Director of Oxfam America’s Private Sector Department. In her role, she is focused on working with companies to ensure that their business practices result in positive social and environmental impacts for vulnerable communities throughout the world. Irit leads Oxfam America’s work on business and development including shareholder engagement, value chain assessments, and collaborative advocacy initiatives, such as the successful “Behind the Brands” campaign.
Business has an important role to play in addressing the health and economic impacts of this crisis. Here’s a checklist of what companies can, and should, do.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for governments to take their duties seriously in protecting people and their human rights. Society’s ills can never be solved by business and markets alone. For several decades, the US government has taken a back seat as it relied on the private sector to solve public challenges—a system that is now being shaken to the core as benefits tied to employment are lost with jobs, and business is forced to shut down.
As soon as I heard rumors about states issuing stay-at-home orders, I jumped in my car and headed home to the DC area. On March 30, Governor Northam of Virginia issued an order mandating that people only leave their homes for food, medical care, and exercise until June 10.
The thought of spending over two more months in quarantine made me realize that I need to create a list of things to do while stuck at home. So, I’m sharing my ideas with you, Impact readers:
I’ll be honest. When I first read the email about the pass/fail policy this semester, I was upset. I have been working really hard this semester to boost my GPA, and I was looking forward to the chance to improve my performance during finals. I’ve been pretty anxious about this whole COVID-19 situation, and I felt like this was not the news I wanted to hear.
And then I took a deep breath and counted my blessings. After putting everything into perspective, I realized how much this pass/fail policy might mean to someone who is facing more difficulties than me right now. Throughout my time at law school, I have gotten involved in various diversity initiatives because I’m a woman of color and I know this puts me at a systemic disadvantage. I fight for these causes because they personally affect me. If I am so quick to stand up for causes that personally affect me, I should also be as committed to standing up even when my own interests might not be at stake.