Fall 2020 at WCL -- Meeting Students Where They Are

Will my classes be online or in-person?
As highlighted in the message from our AUWCL deans, all law school courses will be delivered remotely in Fall 2020, including all 1L courses. Faculty continue to prepare to take full advantage of the online environment, and they look forward to supplementing larger courses with smaller and more personal online sessions. 1L faculty, in particular, are thinking deeply about how best to welcome you to the school community, and to assist you in getting to know each other. Program staff continue to plan engaging virtual panels, meets, and other events, as listed on our event calendar. Law library staff remain committed to supporting your academic success, both through remote reference assistance and through contactless delivery of books from the general collection.

Will the WCL campus be open to students? If so, what activities will take place on campus?
As stated in the July 30 announcement, spaces on the Washington College of Law campus will only be utilized this fall on a limited and scheduled basis. We will open a limited number of study spaces in the law library and other designated areas for those students who face extraordinary circumstances. We are developing an application process for these spaces and will be in touch soon with more information.

Will all the Legal Rhetoric Courses be taught remotely this fall?
Yes. In fact, the WCL Legal Rhetoric Program and your individually-assigned Rhetoric professor (either full-time or adjunct faculty) will provide some asynchronous materials and content.  This content will be supplemented by synchronous remote instruction from your individually-assigned Rhetoric professor. The WCL Legal Rhetoric Program is looking forward to the consistency this delivery model will allow.

How can I reserve space to study or hold a small group meeting so I know a safe space is available for me when I come to campus?
Check back soon; we are working to improve our central scheduling site, so you will be able to reserve spaces in real time, so when you come to campus you know there’s a safe space available for you to use.

What is WCL doing to ensure that our community remains welcoming, inclusive, and supportive of students no matter where they are physically located?
The details are still in the works, but we are committed to ensuring that all opportunities that are available on campus are also fully available in the online environment, so you can choose whether coming to campus is right for you. In particular, even for those classes that are offered on-campus, there will be no grade penalty for remote participation.

Our faculty are working diligently to design our Fall courses with the goal of bringing the energy of our classrooms, moot courtrooms, and lunchtime discussions to every member of our community.   Our courses will enable all students to: 1) gain the knowledge required within their degree; 2) have access to their courses from wherever they are; and 3) continue to move toward completing their law degree and achieving their academic goals.

Does WCL expect to be remote in the spring as well?
We have not begun to plan for spring but are closely following recommendations from the DC government and CDC and will keep the community apprised as we learn more about the predicted course of the Coronavirus pandemic. We have a lot more information now than we did in March, and we’ll have a lot more information in October than we do now. Our goal is to resume on-campus operations in the spring, if we are able to do so while ensuring the safety and well-being of all community members. As always, your health and well-being come first, and we make all decisions with the safety of the entire community in mind.

I'm an international student. What will my Fall 2020 experience be like at WCL?
WCL will support you where you are this fall, and WCL faculty, administrators, and staff are mindful of the fact that international students are located worldwide and not everyone is in the same time zone as Washington, DC. We therefore will make our best efforts to accommodate the needs of each individual student and to ensure our international students thrive regardless of the challenges of the COVID-19. Please read our FAQs for international students, which cover visas, engaging with WCL from abroad, and more.

We recognize that the shifting guidance from ICE may have left international students with questions about their fall course load. Students with questions can review FAQs from the International Student and Scholar Services or contact the Office of International and Comparative Legal Studies.

When will 1L students be registered for Fall courses if they have already submitted a registration form?
This usually happens in mid-July, but it may be a little later this year given the ongoing pandemic uncertainty.

What are the current safety-related requirements being mandated by the District of Columbia that I should be aware of?
DC Mayor Muriel Bowser has announced that all those in DC must wear a face covering at all times when leaving home with limited exceptions; this policy had already been adopted by AUWCL as a campus-wide rule. Additionally, anyone coming into DC from a high-risk area (who was not traveling for essential activities) should self-isolate for 14 days.  The DC Health Department has published a list of high-risk areas on coronavirus.dc.gov, which is updated every two weeks. Because of this, if you are planning to come to DC from a high-risk area, you may need to plan for two weeks of self-isolation. Our goal is still to meet students where they are in fall 2020, and therefore, during this period (and beyond as necessary), students will be able to attend all of their classes remotely.

Teaching and Learning Online This Fall

What is WCL doing to ensure its online courses will provide a high-quality learning experience?
WCL has a long history of remote teaching and, unlike most other law schools, has an Office of Online Learning that works with professors to create engaging online classes. The online experience is different from an in-person class, but we’re working to support the learning objectives professors have identified for each of our courses and to ensure students will be able to thrive in an engaging online setting.

In preparation for the Fall, our professors are participating in training sessions to learn the best ways to transition their classes online. Professors also have the opportunity to meet with instructional designers to review their course plans and consider how to engage students and ensure learning outcomes for each unique course.

What time of day will classes be held? What if I am in a different time zone?
Most classes will have a mix of pre-recorded asynchronous material and live virtual sessions.  The asynchronous material can be completed whenever is convenient for the student.  The live sessions will be held at their regularly scheduled time, which students can find on the Registrar’s website.

How am I going to be assessed if everything is online? Will it all be Honor Code-based? Will courses be graded?
Please check the syllabi for your courses, as each professor will specify the assessment method for his/her/their course. The grading policy is laid out in the WCL Catalog and will not be adjusted for Fall 2020. One of the considerations that informed our plan for Fall was the need to avoid the kind of disruption we experienced in the spring. Grading will return to the A-F system.

Will exams be in person for my in-person class?
All examinations will be given online for Fall 2020.

Are there changes to the Academic Calendar for this fall?
Our calendar for the Fall semester remains unchanged, but all classes and activities will move online after Thanksgiving to minimize the risk to the community as people return from travel.

What if I don’t have reliable Wi-Fi or computer equipment?
For technical advice on computers and Wi-Fi/internet connections, contact the help desk at helpdesk@wcl.american.edu.

Eligible students seeking additional federal loan funds as a reimbursement for a computer or equipment purchase may contact the AUWCL Financial Aid Office at finaid@wcl.american.edu for more information. 

Will I be able to participate in my clinic or externship during the Fall Term 2020?
All clinical courses will be held, as planned, during the Fall 2020 semester. The clinic faculty are making appropriate adjustments to ensure that students will have meaningful opportunities to engage in client-based work and to develop critical lawyering skills.  If you have been accepted into a clinic for Fall 2020, you should expect to hear from your clinic supervisors in the coming weeks about specific plans for the Fall semester.

At this time we anticipate that students will be able to extern remotely or on site during the Fall semester, provided certain requirements are met. Field placements hiring students to work remotely will have to agree to requirements intended to ensure students have a productive experience, akin to working on site. This includes weekly video conferences, and regular supervision via telephone.

Field placements hiring students to work on site will be required to provide a statement describing their compliance with DC or state regulations regarding distancing and other COVID-related matters. They must also have a plan in place that will permit students to work remotely should the workplace shut down mid-semester. Students may create a hybrid work environment in which they work some hours on site and other hours remotely. Please contact the Externship Office (externship@wcl.american.edu) for additional details.

Will all classes, regardless of format, be recorded? How long will we have access to those recordings?
Yes, classes will all be recorded and made available to students.  The recordings are usually available through the end of the semester.

Health and Safety

What health and safety practices can I expect to see implemented during on-campus activities in the Fall?
July 15 Health and Safety Update: We have designed Washington College of Law campus plans for fall in light of District of Columbia and Federal government restrictions, CDC recommendations, and American University policies—all of which are dynamic and subject to change. The following are some health and safety items specific to the WCL campus:

  • The WCL campus will be open only to WCL students, staff, and faculty. The law school will grant very limited exceptions for campus visitors (e.g., clinic clients with prior approval and alumni from the class of 2020 studying for the bar examination).
  • There will be new signage throughout the building detailing new room occupancy limits, restroom protocols, and traffic flow patterns to minimize hallway interactions.
  • All returning students, staff, and faculty will need to complete American University’s COVID-19 training and commit to following the law school’s protocols for health and safety.
  • Every person coming to campus will be required to adhere to specific hygiene practices, including but not limited to completing health questionnaires, social (physical) distancing, wearing face coverings (masks), and regular handwashing and hand sanitizing. 
  • HVAC systems are being assessed according to industry standards and configured to ensure appropriate ventilation and filtration. Indoor doors will remain open at all times to allow for the continual flow of fresh air. 
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be available for any student, faculty, or staff member who comes to campus unprepared.
  • Stations throughout the building will be stocked with wipes and hand sanitizer.
  • Elevators will stop on every floor without being called and will be marked to remind riders that each elevator car should contain no more than two people at a time.
  • Plexiglas shields will be installed in areas of high contact to separate faculty and staff members at their workstations from visitors and foot traffic.

For other information about health and safety requirements while on campus, COVID testing, etc., please see American University’s health and safety FAQs that are part of the university’s AU Forward Fall plan. You can also read AU's full Fall 2020 Health and Safety Plan.

Tuition Policies and Fees

Will I receive a discount for any classes held entirely online this Fall?
AU’s tuition reduction of ten percent (10%) will extend to WCL students. The University intends to waive the Sports Center Fee for the fall semester and will provide an application for a UPASS waiver. These adjustments are in addition to the previously announced reduction to WCL’s Student Activities Fee. The WCL Financial Aid Office will update each student’s cost of attendance for the fall semester and will send out updated financial aid award notices as necessary.

Will there be an adjustment to the student activity fee?
AU has indicated that the student activity fee remains a mandatory fee, but that student leaders may consider creative ways to use the funds to enhance the student experience during this unusual semester.

How will other fees be handled?
The WCL leadership is currently discussing this issue with the University. Check back soon for an answer.

How will printing be handled? We received a $100 credit in prior semesters.
Students who reserve study space on campus will have access to WCL printing. When students are not on campus, WCL has arranged a discount at any Fed Ex service center around the country, if you tell them you are a WCL student. All FedEx store print services are discounted.