Dear Law School Community,
I hope that this finds each of you healthy and doing as well as possible under the circumstances. I know that everyone is always weary at this point in the semester and especially so this year with everything being online. We are all suffering from Zoom fatigue and from the toll of a year of being separated. I hope very much that spring break will provide a chance to relax and be restorative.
I am writing because I am asked on literally a daily basis as to our plans for the Fall semester. As always, I want everything about our plans to be as open and transparent as possible.
Much remains uncertain in terms of the Fall semester. Our paramount goals, as always, must be to protect the health of our students, staff, and faculty, and to provide the best possible legal education. My plan is that we will be in-person as much as the public health situation and the campus rules allow. Chancellor Carol Christ likewise has said that her goal for the campus is to be in-person to the greatest extent possible. Last week, the campus announced that all classes with an enrollment of less than 200 students – which is all classes in the Law School – should plan to be in-person and with rooms to usual capacity. I am delighted that the public health situation and vaccination rate are improving enough for this to seem like a realistic goal.
I am frequently asked whether a remote option will be available in the Fall semester. No decision on that has been made. In my ideal scenario, we all will be in-person and back to normal for Fall classes. It is possible that there might be a remote option for exceptional circumstances or perhaps more broadly available if necessary. It is just too soon to know. Also, anything we do will need to be consistent with American Bar Association accreditation rules that impose limits on distance learning (and were waived for this academic year).
I also am asked when the choice will be made as to whether there will be a remote option. I want us to decide early enough to allow students and faculty to plan for the Fall semester, but wait late enough to have enough information to make an informed decision that maximizes the chances of being in-person to the greatest extent possible. Last year, the goal was to decide about Fall classes by June 1 and we met that goal. As of March 15, conditions are still changing too rapidly to set a firm date for a final decision, but I hope to do so soon.
Nor have any decisions been made as to the extent to which staff may be allowed to work remotely. I am on a committee of deans working on this issue and there is also is a group at UCOP focusing on this.
I realize that the uncertainty is disconcerting. But the public health situation, including the availability of vaccinations, is sufficiently unknown that it is premature to make firm decisions in March for classes that will begin in five months.
I do have some good news to share. The campus has announced a plan to begin vaccinating some students. Messages are now being sent through eTang to all registered students inviting them to self-attest to serious chronic health conditions, current pregnancy, or disabilities putting them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 disease, in accordance with CDPH guidelines. Today, March 15th (the first day the state plan allows), the campus health team will review student input, and plan to extend invitations to approximately 1,000 students to come in for vaccination over the next few weeks. Tang Center will in addition be reviewing the medical conditions questionnaire data, along with DSP lists and input from the new COVID-19 Vaccine Student Advisory Group, to consider next steps including future invitations as new vaccine supplies arrive, and the generation of letters attesting to eligibility that can be shown to mass vaccine sites if needed. I, of course, will keep you posted of all that I learn in terms of vaccine availability on campus.
I appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding. I, of course, am always available to discuss this, including at the Wednesday community meetings and at upcoming town halls for students and staff.
p.s., My congratulations to the Development Staff on the success of Big Give last week. We raised $213,000 this year as compared $93,000 last year, and we had 596 donors this year compared to 278 a year ago. This doubling is a result of the wonderful hard work of our Development team.