Message from Dean Ouellette - End of semester, next spring, and boosters

Dec. 20, 2021

Dear Students,

As we finish the final day of regularly scheduled exams, I write to reflect on the semester we’ve just completed, and to look ahead to what we might expect when we return in January.

As to Fall 2021, what a semester it has been.  You and your colleagues have hosted successful symposiums on space and sports law, moot court competitions, rugby games, heritage events, pro bono law days, a Halloween party, and more.  You have studied together, survived the lawyering memo, represented clients in clinics and field placements, drafted proposed legislation, and handled cold calls.  You have advanced your professional careers and completed yet another academic semester.

This is not to say it has been easy.  You have accomplished all of this with the stress of a global pandemic affecting every aspect of our lives.  The fact is that for many of us, the additional level of stress has been exhausting.  Yet, you have achieved an enormous amount during these months.  I could not be more proud of you and our community.

Because of you, and your care and concern, we were able to remain open for in-person learning every day this semester.  We counted only 19 cases of Covid during the semester, and none of those cases appears to have been contracted on campus.  In other words, your cooperation with vaccination, masking, and other mitigation efforts paid off.  

Looking ahead, I wish I were writing to say that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.  As an optimist, I am hopeful that Spring 2022 will be a joyful, meaningful semester of living and learning together.  But as a realist, I recognize that Covid and its variants are likely to be with us for the foreseeable future.

What does that mean for the law school?  While much is uncertain, the fact that Covid will be with us when we return means we need to continue to follow the science.

So far, the science is compelling that booster shots are necessary to mitigate against the highly contagious Omicron variant.  As a community that intends to return to in-person learning in January, we need to protect one another by getting booster shots before we return.  As a result, we ask that everyone who hasn’t done so already please get a booster shot over the break.  To be sure we have as much protection as possible when we gather again, the law school will require proof of a booster shot for all eligible on-campus students, faculty, and staff before the first day of classes.  

For those of you who have been boosted, please update your vaccination records via Share My Health. 

Here are the instructions to upload to Share My Health:
1.           Go to https://www.sharemy.health/
2.           Sign In 
3.           Go to “Home” 
4.           Click “+ Upload Your Vaccination” at top of page
5.           Enter type of vaccine and vaccination dates 
6.           Upload a photo or pdf of your vaccination card (you can take a photo at that time)

As to what else the science tells us, much is uncertain as the situation with Omicron develops.  We know we will be wearing masks when we return.  I expect that many of our other mitigation measures will continue.  I don’t expect, for example, that we will be able to open the campus to uninvited guests for some time.  I do expect that we will continue with improved ventilation and importing as much fresh air as possible.  

Some of you have asked whether we will follow the lead of Harvard and other large schools that plan to start their semesters online.  That is not our current plan.  Our intention is to open for in-person classes on January 18, 2022, using whatever measures are necessary to keep our community safe.  

That said, we are following the science and the guidance of government officials.  The situation could change.  If that is the case, I will reach out as soon as possible to provide as much clarity and certainty as I can in this fast-changing environment.

Also, if something has changed for you so that you are no longer safely able to attend in-person classes, please reach out to the Academic Affairs Office (kpalm@albanylaw.edu) to seek an accommodation.

Finally, as you head home or hunker down for the holidays, I encourage you to be careful and safe.  I also wish you and your families much joy, laughter, and peace.  

See you in the New Year.

All my best,

Dean Ouellette