7/9/21 - Your Request for a Vaccination Exemption Based on Personal Reasons

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Dear Southwestern 1L Student,

We hope you are doing well and enjoying the summer.

Please read this email carefully and be sure to note the July 30 deadline.

You are receiving this email because our records show that you requested an exemption from Southwestern’s Covid-19 vaccination requirement based on personal reasons.

We are writing to let you know that, due to changed circumstances, Southwestern will not be granting any exemption requests based on personal reasons. As explained below, the decision to eliminate the personal reasons exemption was made solely to safeguard the health and safety of our community. 

In recent weeks, Los Angeles County has seen increases in the number of new Covid-19 cases reported each day, the number of hospitalizations, and the testing positivity rate. Experts have attributed these trends to the newfound prevalence of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus, a highly infectious form of the virus that has been identified in more than 80 countries. In response, Los Angeles County recently issued a recommendation that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, wear a mask when indoors in a public setting in which not everyone’s vaccination status is known.

At the same time, many institutions of higher education in Southern California that had initially recognized exemptions based on a personal declination or philosophical objection have since changed their policies. For example, the University of California system and USC are now requiring all students to be vaccinated, with exemptions recognized only for medical or religious reasons.

When Southwestern announced its vaccination policy in late May, our hope and expectation was that the key Covid indicators would continue to decline over the summer, as they had throughout the spring.  Although the Delta variant has not driven cases and hospitalizations anywhere close to as high as they were during the peak of the pandemic in December and January, the recent developments are significant enough to prompt a revision of our vaccination policy. 

Our priority is to ensure a healthy and safe return to full on-campus operations when the fall semester (and SCALE Periods 2 and 5) begins next month. We firmly believe that the most important step each of us can take to protect our community during this pandemic is to be fully vaccinated. The three vaccines that have received emergency use authorization from the FDA—Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson—have been shown to be extremely safe and highly effective at preventing serious forms of Covid-related illness. We are pleased that more than 700 entering and continuing Southwestern students have now been vaccinated and provided proof of vaccination.

To be able to enroll in fall classes and access the Southwestern campus, you will need to receive a first dose of one of the three FDA-authorized vaccines and upload proof of your receipt of the first dose and, in the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, the scheduled second dose by 11:59 p.m. PDT on Friday, July 30. We urge you not to wait until the last minute and to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The proof of vaccination form link is here.

Failure to upload proof of receiving both doses of Pfizer or Moderna by 11:59 p.m. PDT on August 30 will result in your administrative withdrawals from your courses; you will also be restricted from accessing the law school campus.

Until you are fully vaccinated—i.e., until (1) you have received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and (2) a full fourteen days have elapsed since your final injection—you will be required to wear a mask at all times when on the Southwestern campus, complete Covid testing twice per week, and comply with any other safety requirements Southwestern deems necessary.

We will be holding two Town Halls to answer any questions you may have about Southwestern’s COVID and vaccination policy.  We invite you to join whichever one fits your schedule.  The Town Halls will be held via Zoom, on July 21, 12 to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m.  Check your email the week of July 12th for the invitation to the Town Halls.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Vice Dean Anahid Gharakhanian (agharakhanian@swlaw.edu) or Vice Dean Dov Waisman (dwaisman@swlaw.edu).

We wish you a wonderful rest of the summer and look forward to seeing you on campus in August.

All the best,

Dean Darby Dickerson, Vice Dean Anahid Gharakhanian, and Vice Dean Dov Waisman