Dear Southwestern Students,
We hope you are doing well, staying healthy and safe, and enjoying the summer as much as possible.
We’re writing with an update on our plans for reopening our campus and delivering instruction this fall.
Before doing so, though, we want to take a moment to thank you. Thank you for your patience in awaiting word from us about these matters. Thank you for your strength and diligence in continuing with your studies and other professional pursuits under the cloud of stress and uncertainty created by the COVID pandemic and its associated challenges. Finally, thank you for continuing to support one another and the school so well during this difficult time. We are incredibly grateful to have such a mature, hard-working, and compassionate group of students at Southwestern.
Now for the update.
Our Philosophy: Health & Safety First
When it comes to reopening our campus and holding fall classes, we place an absolute priority on protecting the health and safety of our community. Of course, we want to return to on-campus classes and other activities as soon as reasonably possible. But we will not do so in any way that we believe poses an unacceptably high risk of COVID exposure to our students, staff, or faculty.
We have a relatively small campus with two academic buildings. Our classrooms can be accessed only by using a limited number of elevators or stairwells. In the classrooms themselves, seats tend to be positioned closely together. Our campus has only six classrooms that can accommodate a class of 30 or more students while maintaining six feet of physical distancing between all occupants. These and other physical features of our campus pose special challenges when it comes to complying with the physical distancing, ventilation, sanitization, and other precautions necessary to manage exposure risks for a student body of more than 700.
Campus Reopening: Not Just Yet
Regrettably, we are still prohibited by law from opening the Southwestern campus to students. Since the City and County of Los Angeles issued its Safer at Home Order in March, all college and university campuses in the City and County have been required by law to be closed to all individuals except those school employees necessary to maintain distance learning. Although some types of businesses have been allowed to reopen, colleges and universities have not yet been permitted to do so. Further, the recent increase in new COVID cases and COVID-related hospitalizations in Southern California and elsewhere does unfortunately introduce new uncertainty about whether colleges and universities will be able to reopen as soon as we had all been hoping.
Spaces for Studying
We know that many of you want and need to use the library and other campus amenities and we would love to be able to make them available. However, we cannot do so by law until the Safer at Home Order has been lifted. In the meantime, we have made and are continuing to make the necessary physical and logistical preparations for reopening our campus. For example, we have redesigned and rearranged the library to ensure the minimum six feet of physical distancing between all of its occupants. Once the authorities give the go-ahead, our first goal will be to safely reopen the library, as we know that having a quiet place to study is an important unmet need for many of our students. After that has been accomplished, we will seek to reopen other areas of the campus as appropriate.
Fall Instruction: Large Classes Remote, Some Smaller Classes Hopefully On Campus
Given that the incidence of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County remains high and the local public health authorities have not yet announced a timeline for the reopening of college and university campuses, we have made the very difficult decision to deliver most fall 2020 instruction remotely. The details are presented below. They apply also to instruction in SCALE Periods 2, 5, and 6.
1. Fall classes with 30 or more students will be delivered fully remotely. Classes of more than 30 students will not be able to fit into even our largest classrooms without violating the six-foot physical distancing minimum. Because holding a hybrid class with some students present in the classroom and other students, likely a majority, participating remotely is not pedagogically desirable, we are planning to deliver all large classes this fall entirely remotely. This includes the following classes: Business Associations, Cal Bar Writing, Civil Procedure I, Community Property, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, Constitutional Law I, Contracts I, Criminal Law, Evidence, Foundations of Law & Practice, Legal Profession, MBE: Skills & Strategies, Property, Remedies, Torts, and Wills & Trusts. These courses will be offered online either synchronously via the Zoom platform, asynchronously via Canvas, or through a combination of the two. The particular blend of synchronous and asynchronous instruction will vary depending on the course and the professor and will be made clear in course syllabi.
2. Many fall classes with fewer than 30 students will likely be delivered fully remotely, but some such classes may be offered on campus. Assuming our campus is permitted to reopen, it may be possible to offer certain classes of fewer than 30 students on campus this fall by implementing important safety measures such as physical distancing and the wearing of masks at all times. We will be deciding on a case-by-case basis, based on a number of considerations, which classes of this size will be offered remotely and which will be offered in person. We will apprise you of these decisions as soon as they have been made.
3. Any fall class that does meet on campus will have an option for remote participation. Any student with a COVID-related health or safety concern that prevents them from attending classes on campus will be able to participate in any fall class—large or small, fully remote or meeting on campus—remotely.
4. We intend to hold course-related small-group meetings on campus. Assuming our campus is permitted to reopen, we intend to hold a significant number of course-related small group meetings—such as TA sessions, review sessions, and faculty office hours—in person and on campus for students wishing to participate. These sorts of small group meetings will also be offered remotely for students not comfortable coming to campus this fall.
5. We intend to hold at least some fall final exams on campus. We intend to hold as many fall final exams as possible on campus. If the COVID situation has not resolved to the point where that will be possible, final exams will be administered remotely. More information regarding final exams will be provided in the fall when we are in a better position to assess the situation.
6. Grading will be according to Southwestern’s usual policies. Southwestern’s regular grading policies will apply to all classes in the fall 2020 semester and in SCALE Periods 2, 5, and 6 classes. Our usual grading policies already are in effect for all Summer 2020 and SCALE Period 1 courses currently being delivered fully online.
Upcoming Town Halls For Updates and Questions
In the coming weeks, we will be holding two virtual Town Hall meetings to discuss the fall term and answer your questions to the best of our ability given the available information. We will let you know of the dates and times of these Town Halls soon.
We so appreciate your patience, flexibility, and strength in navigating your legal education during this challenging time. You have made and continue to make us proud.
All the best,
Dean Susan and Vice Dean Dov
Susan Westerberg Prager
Dean, CEO, and Professor of Law
Southwestern Law School
Vice Dean & Professor of Law
Southwestern Law School