We know that to get back to normal — or at least a rough approximation of that — we’ve got to (pretty much) all get vaccinated. It’s the best/fastest way to put COVID-19 in our collective rearview mirror.
But unlike Biglaw or other employers who have been big on the “encouraging” vaccination, less hot on the mandating, higher education has been comfortable requiring (with religious and medical exemptions available) vaccines to come back on campus. As reported by Law.com, so far, 38 American Bar Association-accredited law schools — including Yale, Stanford, Columbia, New York University, Georgetown, George Washington, the University of Pennsylvania, Emory, and the University of Michigan — have done so already. And more are expected to do so. That’s in no small part because students already accept vaccination requirements to matriculate (unlike employers) as Penn Law professor Eric Feldman, who specializes in medical ethics and health law, notes:
“We have lots of other vaccine mandates. All schools do,” Feldman said. “Students already as a condition of matriculation are told they are going to need the DTAP vaccine, meningococcal, MMR—the influenza vaccine is mandated now in a variety of places. It felt like an easy lift to add COVID-19 vaccine to the list.”
The first university to announce the vaccine requirement was Rutgers. And law school co-dean Kimberly Mutcherson notes she hasn’t heard much opposition to the policy:
“I held an end-of-year town hall last week and the only vaccine-related question was about whether we’d have remote options for people who themselves were vaccinated but lived with someone who could not be vaccinated for some reason, like an infant,” she said. “To be fair, I also haven’t heard from students praising the requirement, but I think it helps that though we were the first out of the box many schools have since made similar announcements.”
And Feldman says students clearly see the benefits of getting their Fauci ouchie:
“All of the students I have spoken to were hoping that the university would mandate vaccines and are relieved that the university has done so,” he said. “The first-year students are keen to meet students and faculty face-to-face in a way they haven’t had a chance to do in their legal educations. For the second-year students who are coming back who had the opportunity to be fully in-person at the beginning of their legal education—they’ve seen the difference between a fully remote second year and a fully in-person first semester, and they’ve got clear preferences.”
Here’s hoping the vaccine momentum doesn’t slow down until everyone who can be vaccinated gets vaccinated.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).