Dear Southwestern Students,
I hope you are doing well!
At yesterday’s two Town Hall sessions, we shared several decisions regarding the Fall 2021 semester and some inclinations about which we are still gathering input. A copy of the slide deck and recordings from both July 21 town halls are available on the Student Affairs Canvas page, which can be found here.
One inclination is that we will start the semester in person. We are still gathering input and research on this point and hope to announce a decision in coming days. But we hope that we can start in person or at least offer in-person instruction during a significant part of the semester. (Please note that SCALE II Period 5 courses that start on August 2 will be remote for the first two weeks.)
Semester-Long Remote Option and August 3 Deadline to Apply
Given this inclination, we have decided to offer a semester-long remote option to students with the following qualifying circumstances:
- Individuals with a personal medical reason that would make it unsafe for them to attend in-person classes (e.g., immunocompromised);
- Individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding;
- PLEAS students;
- Caregivers for vulnerable individuals (e.g., children under 12; immunocompromised individuals who cannot be vaccinated); and
- Unvaccinated individuals, with a Southwestern-approved medical or religious exemption, who are not comfortable coming to campus for a health-related reason. We will provide decisions about religious exemptions by July 27. Documentation from students who requested a medical exemption were due July 21, and we are reviewing those materials as quickly as we can.
If you fall into one of these categories and would like to attend Fall 2021 classes online, please complete and submit the Fall 2021 Application for Online Courses by August 3, 2020. The form is located at www.swlaw.edu/fall21remote and also may be found on the Entering Student Canvas page under “Getting Organized” on the Registration Portal Page. The form is short and should take only 5–10 minutes to complete. We need to strictly enforce the August 3 deadline to help faculty plan their approach to having both in-person and remote students.
We are not offering a general remote option for a variety of reasons, including accreditation standards and the various safety measures the Law School has implemented. However, if you have a COVID-related reason to request semester-long remote learning that is not listed above, please email Vice Deans Dov Waisman and Anahid Gharakhanian by August 3 and describe your circumstances. They will consider your information and determine whether you are eligible to participate in courses remotely.
Temporary Remote Attendance
In addition to the semester-long remote option, students who are experiencing temporary circumstances may—by notifying the course professor—participate in classes remotely for up to two weeks. Examples that qualify for intermittent remote learning include:
- Testing positive for COVID, flu, or another contagious disease;
- Exposure/suspected exposure to COVID;
- Feeling ill or experiencing (even mildly) COVID or flu symptoms; and
- Intermittent caretaker responsibilities for vulnerable individuals.
To help comply with accreditation standards, intermittent remote days are not for convenience (e.g., oversleeping, avoiding a long commute, etc.), but must be for COVID or another medical reason, as noted above.
Mid-semester Change in Circumstances
If a student experiences a change in circumstances mid-semester, we will also have a short application to switch from remote or in-person learning, or vice versa.
Remote Classrooms and Attendance
At the July 21 town halls, students asked what the online environment will look like. Although the answer to that question will vary from professor to professor, we want to ensure that students attending class remotely are engaged and can participate in the courses. We are in the final stages of installing new technology in our classrooms that will allow us to run sessions with both in-person and remote cohorts. We are exploring how we might demo the new classrooms for students.
Regarding attendance, remote students will be marked “present” if they attend the class in real-time (as opposed to reviewing a recording of the class) and check in on the attendance app. Professors do have discretion to add requirements.
If You Have Questions
We covered many other topics and addressed many other questions during the town halls, so I urge you to review at least one (of the two from July 21, I would suggest the 5 p.m. session) or attend one of the July 23 town halls.
We understand that many of the topics we are addressing are complicated and that individual students may have fact-based scenarios they would like to discuss with us. So, in addition to attending and viewing recordings of the town halls, please feel free to reach out to the individuals below, all of whom are glad to address your questions and concerns.
- Dean Darby Dickerson—general policies
- Vice Deans Dov Waisman and Anahid Gharakhanian—general policies; religious exemptions; specific course schedules; remote options
- Nydia Duenez, Dean of Students and Diversity Affairs—general policies; ADA accommodations; pregnancy and breastfeeding accommodations; attendance issues; diversity affairs.
- Robert Mena, Associate Dean, Student Affairs—general policies, 1L orientation, student orgs, and student events
- Vivien Lewis, Covid Compliance Manager—specific safety protocols (e.g., contact tracing); medical exemptions; vaccination status; COVID testing
- Lisa Gear, Associate Dean, Admissions—questions from entering students
Thank you for your attention to these important matters.
President & Dean