Important Information on Spring 2021

Dear WCL Community,

We write to follow up on President Burwell’s communication about American University’s plans for the Spring semester. WCL is guided by the same mandates that shape University-wide decisions--namely, that we remain student-centered, conscious of health and safety concerns, and flexible. In addition, we have tailored some of our policies to the particular needs of legal education and our law school community.


As President Burwell noted, AU has heard students’ desire for early communication in order to make appropriate plans for the coming term. As such, we want to be as transparent as possible. We have already noted that you may remain outside the DMV area for spring, and President Burwell just informed you that the University has canceled spring break and moved the start of the Spring semester back to Tuesday, January 19.

Now we write to share the rest of the framework for our ongoing plans. Many questions remain, to which we do not and cannot yet have answers. We ask for your patience; we will continue to update you as we finalize decisions. We also appreciate and have sought to respond to the feedback we have received from many of you. Throughout this process we seek to balance our desire to provide you with the best possible educational experience against the need to keep the WCL community safe.

Use of Campus Facilities

As President Burwell indicated, the University seeks to “ramp up” on-campus activity and student engagement through the remainder of the Fall semester and throughout the Spring semester. WCL will do the same. In our case, this means that although nearly all classes will remain online for the Spring semester, we will seek additional opportunities to use the Tenley Campus consistent with both health and safety and weather conditions. Of course, all members of our community using the Tenley Campus must continue to adhere to health and safety protocols specified by the University.

In the short term, we are pleased to announce increased access to study space on campus during reading and exam periods. Between November 30 and December 18, we will make additional study reservations available in two shifts on weekdays (9am to 2pm and 3pm to 8pm) and one shift on weekends (9am to 5pm). We will send reservation information the week of November 16.

In the Spring semester, we will gradually “ramp up” in-person student activity on campus. Beginning with the new semester, for example, we hope to provide opportunities for small-group indoor study sessions and to increase the flexibility of our campus study-space reservation system. As spring approaches, we hope to encourage more groups of faculty and students to use our outdoor spaces for meetings, study groups, recreation and conversation. We will update the community about these initiatives as the time draws closer. We are planning for a robust set of summer course offerings as well; their format will depend on guidance from DC Health experts, but we are hopeful the summer will be exciting as we offer opportunities drawing on the special resources available in Washington, D.C.

Tuition and Fees

We know that the ongoing pandemic presents serious financial challenges to all members of our community. In an effort to mitigate those challenges without compromising our educational and programmatic offerings, we will reduce Spring semester tuition by 5%. In addition, the SBA has decided to reduce the student activity fee by an additional 4% for a total Spring semester discount of 22%.


Due to continued national and global health and safety concerns, University-sponsored travel will remain suspended through the Spring semester. This suspension includes all faculty, staff, and student travel except in truly exceptional circumstances with express written authorization from the Dean’s Office.

International Students

As of this writing, the relevant U.S. offices have not yet informed us of the rules that will apply to international students traveling to the U.S. for education this spring. We recognize that international students continue to have pressing questions about the Spring semester, and we are committed to you. We will be in touch as soon as we know more. In the meantime, please review the FAQs from the International Student and Scholar Services and contact the Office of International and Comparative Legal Studies with your current contact information.

Academics: Fall Grades

For all WCL JD and LLM courses, as announced last Spring, grading will return to normal for the Fall Semester and beyond. This decision keeps WCL consistent with other local and national law schools and will afford our students the strongest foundation from which to seek professional opportunities. Although the University has announced some changes to its grading policies, those changes will apply only to MLS courses and not to WCL JD or LLM courses.

Academics: Spring Schedule

Finally, as President Burwell announced in her message, the University has canceled Spring break because of the potential health concerns related to anticipated travel during that period. This cancellation does extend to WCL. WCL’s Spring semester will start a week later than planned, on Tuesday, January 19. (We will then be closed for a one-day Inauguration Day holiday on Wednesday, January 20, and resume again on Thursday, January 21.)

A few specific notes about the changes to the academic calendar:

  • We recognize that the new schedule will mean that the journal write-on cannot follow its typical timeline. The Dean’s Office is committed to working with stakeholders to establish an alternative procedure for journal selection and will be in touch to announce the new process.
  • OCPD will be open during the week of January 11 even though there will now be no classes that week. We hope that those of you participating in OCI will take advantage of the opportunity to undertake additional preparation for your interviews.
  • The Spring semester class schedule will be forthcoming tomorrow from the Office of the Registrar. Remember to consider the new academic calendar as you select and register for classes.

We appreciate the creativity, good cheer, and grace that the WCL community has exhibited in response to the unprecedented challenges of this unprecedented year. We realize that, no matter how good a face every one of us tries to put on, many are struggling in this pandemic, personally, academically, and professionally. Know that we are doing our best to make conditions at WCL the best they can be given the situation we confront. We want to hear from you and encourage you to reach out to the appropriate WCL contact person with problems and concerns. Please also remember that you can share academic concerns anonymously via

We remain grateful to be a part of such a dynamic and resilient community.

Be well,

Acting Dean Robert Dinerstein
Vice Dean Susan Carle
Senior Associate Dean Amanda Leiter
Associate Dean Robert Campe
Senior Assistant Dean Ann Chernicoff