Top law school decides not to make basic COVID accommodations for students

(By Rick Seidel via Flickr)

Attending law school tends to be an expensive undertaking, and nothing says customer service like choosing not to meet your clients’ healthcare needs. The University of Chicago Law School seems fed up with off-campus activities and has decided to resume in-person instruction this semester on Jan. 24.

Dear students,

I hope the first weeks of the term went well for you, even if we were not able to meet in community. At this time, we plan to resume activities at the law school starting next Monday, January 24. As we prepare for next week, I want to share some important updates on University and Law School protocols.

CLASSES

On Monday, January 24, classes will resume in-person instruction. All students should plan to return to Chicago if they have not already done so. Classes marked as “remote” on the class calendar will continue to meet via Zoom. Classes marked as “in person” on the Class Calendar are not eligible for remote attendance. Regular absence policies will be in effect.

RECORDS

We will continue to provide audio recordings of all classes (with the exception of some Greenberg clinics, workshops and seminars). Students absent due to COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test can access recordings. Recordings will be accessible through the course’s Canvas page.

At first glance, it doesn’t seem too bad actually. Until you take into account that it is impossible to create a completely remote calendar this quarter, and, given that they have shown that it is possible to create a complete calendar in recent quarters, failure to do so now has changed law school destined. In addition to this, there is no remote option offered for in-person classes – same if you are immunocompromised or live with family and friends who are. Most of us are familiar with the old adage that law school scares you to death 1L, works you to death 2L, and bores you to death 3L, but it’s meant to be one of those tongue-in-cheek phrases that you empathize with your cohort. You shouldn’t really be afraid to bring back the plague you caught in Crim à grandma. The administration has blocked students and faculty who want to (rightly) prioritize their health with two options: suck it up or take time off. And in case you were wondering, the administration treats lectures like Glengarry and does not make class recordings available online for any reason.

(Un)surprisingly, this isn’t the first time U. Chicago has made the decision to respond to COVID by not responding. In 2020, the University of Chicago decided to withdraw from the temporary pass/fail change many other schools adopted at the time, even after reading this petition signed by 247 students which drew attention to the danger that stands for COVID for the immunocompromised and chronically ill. . In response to this recent snub, faculty, staff, and students wrote this open letter to the administration asking for a minimum start date of February 14 as soon as possible, transparent disclosure of health information on which the administration has based its decisions, and “an open forum for discussion and appeal of administration decisions regarding our common working, teaching, and learning conditions.” “. In addition to this open letter from 900 signatories, a few of the signatories also shared their thoughts. It’s a mixed bag for sure, but here are a few that stood out to me.

* It’s not like I prefer online school – I don’t think most people do. But I just don’t feel safe going back there in person when nothing has changed regarding COVID. I really don’t think anything good can come of this, especially for people whose previous conditions really won’t give them a chance to come back to a place where they could get seriously ill or even die. And I think if we come back in person now, we might have to sacrifice the spring term because of that, and it doesn’t seem ideal when we could do that now, when the spread is so big. Coming back in person might be better if things were good or normal regarding COVID, but that’s not the case, not at all. We don’t need to do that.

*I just don’t understand why remote or hybrid can’t be an option. We have the infrastructure for this, and for some this style of learning is better (especially during a pandemic). The health benefits go without saying. I don’t think I participate more in the community by being in person. In fact, it’s easier to interact with others virtually because the stress of exposure to a new disease is removed. I’m already unable to take full advantage of regular in-person interactions anyway due to COVID precautions. But I want those precautions and I think it would be even easier to go virtual (or have the ability) until we have more clarity on where we are in overcoming this pandemic.

* As Mia Mingus says: You have no right to our death. We will not exchange invalid deaths for valid life. We will not allow people with disabilities to be disposable or the safeguards necessary for the status quo. We will not take our eyes off the mass disease and death that surrounds us or a state machine more determined to generate profit and privileged comfort with eugenic abandonment. (read in full here https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/)

* Please consider the impact that University decisions have not only on its internal constituents, but also on its neighbors and members of the surrounding community. Our proximity obliges us to bear the consequences of the University’s choices.

There must be a reason the administration decided to go ahead with this, other than callous disregard for their students dying from coughing in the hallway. Maybe the school had a two-year subscription with Zoom and couldn’t afford the financial costs of a third? Either way, I really hope the University of Chicago finds the funding or compassion to prioritize the health of its students over the next few days.

Read the Dean of Students’ full email on the next page.

UPDATE (01/21/2022 2:12 p.m.): First, I would like to publicly apologize for my portrayal of the prestigious University of Chicago Law School. It has been brought to my attention that shit is actually path worse.

Apparently, in addition to drastically reducing distance learning options, U. Chicago has decided to reduce… sound quality? As a trick, professors taught hybrid lessons using clip-on mics. At first, at least. For some reason, midway through the year, they stopped doing this and started recording from fixed media with lower sound quality that barely picked up the professor’s voice or the student’s out-of-pocket calls. In light of this, keep in mind that students who would rather have hybrid options would rather have poor quality audio on the Chevron Doctrine than attend in-person classes. Which is understandable, given that there doesn’t appear to be any social distancing in the classrooms – the tipster describes the seats as sitting side by side. Unless the school distributes N-112s, they beg people to get sick. Students looking to grab a quick bite in the dining hall before the infection are likely screwed too, given that the mask policy was rarely enforced at the Green Lounge, a law school focal point. To drive the point home with an example:

[A] The student came to law school with one of those mesh “masks” with holes in them, presumably to own the libraries, and she was allowed into the building. FedSoc member, of course.

If U. Chicago goes ahead with its January 24 in-person return and becomes a COVID hotspot, I imagine the plan is to come up with a boilerplate “None of us could see this coming” excuses in the hope that everything will be made better. I hope they are wrong.

Nancy I. Romero