Law schools gear for fall with continued COVID protections


Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Going to law school? Afraid of needles? You might need to get over that.

Nearly half of the nation’s law schools are requiring students to be vaccinated against COVID this fall, according to a recent tally by the Chronicle on Higher Education.

The stance taken by law schools has been more sweeping than the one by colleges and universities. Only about 20% of the nation’s 3,000 or so colleges are requiring vaccinations, the Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, a growing number of law schools are also mandating mask wearing for the fall term. Much of these precautions apparently are in response to the Delta variant, which is causing a spike in transmissions. The Centers for Disease Control is now recommending that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors.

Yale Law School’s FAQ on the matter is pretty straightforward: “Students who wish to enroll in Fall 2021 must either be vaccinated or be granted a medical or religious waiver from vaccination. Those refusing vaccine, or who fail to meet the vaccination requirement by the determined deadline, will not be allowed to remain on campus.”

And Yale will only offer limited remote learning, so that won’t be an option any longer. Most classes will be in-person only. Zoom has been zapped, so to speak.

Would a student actually not go to Yale because of the policy? That remains to be seen. It’s one of the toughest schools in the nation to get into. The admit rate was 7.2% for this fall’s class. So not getting vaccinated could be quite painful, career-wise.

Yale is not alone. Most of the nation’s top law schools are implementing the same policy. If you’re not vaccinated, you can’t switch gears and go to Harvard. Or Stanford … Or Cornell …

Or Columbia. It put out a Tweet on August 2: “Today is the LAST day for all continuing students, staff, and faculty to upload vaccine documentation. 2Ls and 3Ls: Don’t miss the deadline. Upload your proof of vaccination now.”

Politics are coming into play in some states. A number have outlawed mask-wearing policies and vaccination requirements put in place by municipalities or institutions. Some public schools are thumbing their noses at such policies.

Photo by Marisol Benitez on Unsplash

The University of Wisconsin – Madison, which is the parent university of the University of Wisconsin Law School, recently announced it would not abide by the state’s call to ban masks and will require them indoors.

"Going back to masking is not a step that many of us wanted to take, but it is important to protect the health of those on our campus and in our community," according to a message from the chancellor’s office.

It continued: “We are particularly concerned about the next two months, when many of our students will arrive on campus from across the U.S. and around the world. We want to continue to keep infection rates as low as possible in our community.”

At other schools, professors are threatening action if more strident measures are not taken. The University of Minnesota professors have threatened a work stoppage if vaccinations aren’t a requirement.

A poll on Reddit asked law students if vaccination should be required, garnering 675 votes, with 508 saying it was the smart thing to do. One hundred said no and the rest were indifferent.

Here’s one for it:

“Law schools are businesses, at the end of the day; us attending in person is not a fundamental right, but rather a privilege that comes with certain stipulations (like beaucoup debt and willingness to get jabbed with a needle). We don't have to attend if we don't want to follow those stipulations; there are plenty of others who would love to have the opportunity.”

And here’s one against it:

“I am for pro bodily autonomy. The vaccine is a MEDICAL treatment and no one should be coerced into receiving medical treatment.”

A number of lawsuits have been filed against schools regarding required vaccinations. They don’t appear to have a shot, so to speak.

Dorit Reiss, a professor at the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco and an expert on vaccine policy, told Reuters she didn’t believe the cases have much chance of success.

“I don’t see the courts finding vaccine mandates during a pandemic unconstitutional,” Reiss said.

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