Dear Brooklyn Law School Community,
I write to share information about the health and safety policies and protocols that will be in place to start the upcoming school year. The current circumstances with regard to covid-19 are mixed. Rates of serious cases have dropped meaningfully, treatments are increasingly available for those at high risk for developing a severe case, and the CDC has just streamlined its covid-19 guidance in a way that loosens some of its previous recommendations and restrictions. At the same time, the virus remains a meaningful concern: the CDC’s “Community Level” rating for Kings County is currently “high,” with a transmission rate of over 250 cases per 100,000 population. The policies put in place at the beginning of the 2021–22 academic year were highly successful in minimizing on-campus transmission, and we were able to relax some of those rules after spring break without experiencing significant disruption or community spread.
In light of this situation ― covid remains an ongoing presence in our community that demands vigilance and caution, but its most severe consequences are increasingly subject to mitigation ― we plan generally to retain the protocols in place at the end of last year, with some modifications, as described below:
- Masks. As was the case after spring break last year, masks will continue to be required during class sessions and in elevators, and recommended in other settings. Wear a high-grade (N95, KN95, FFP2, KF94) or surgical mask, rather than a cloth mask, which is less effective. Food is not permitted in class, but momentary lifting of a mask to sip a drink is allowed. We will continue to monitor trends actively, and if the transmission level in our area changes, we may lift the classroom mask requirement, or on the other hand, may re-impose a comprehensive mask mandate.
- Vaccines. Our policy continues to require documentation of a vaccine and booster shot for all members of our community (employees and students) other than those who have sought and received a medical or religious exemption.
- Visitors and guests. One-time visitors or guests to our campus, including Feil Hall, will be permitted to submit verification of a recent negative covid test (within the past 48 hours) in lieu of documentation of a booster shot, to demonstrate that they do not present a meaningful risk at the specific time of their appearance on campus. Proof of a negative test can be presented as a printed copy or on a phone (e.g., digital health record or email or text message from a test provider or laboratory). Personal identification with a name and photo or date of birth is required for visitors ages 18 and older and must match the information on the negative test result.
- Reporting. Information regarding known positive cases in the BLS community will be provided and regularly updated on our website.
- Positive cases. If you test positive for covid-19, you must isolate for a minimum of 5 days ― ending isolation only if you are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication, and your symptoms are improving (or you had no symptoms) ― and then wear a mask in all public locations for a minimum of 5 days. If you have moderate illness (difficulty breathing or shortness of breath) or severe illness (requiring hospitalization) or have a weakened immune system, you must isolate for 10 days.
- Attendance Policy. Our attendance policy remains the same, but as it has been a source of continuing confusion and anxiety for students, I summarize it again here:
- Under our policy, students may be absent for up to 25% of class sessions, for any reason, unless a professor explicitly states a different policy in the syllabus at the start of the semester. Attendance also does not directly factor into a student’s grade unless the professor states otherwise. In other words, absences below the 25% limit generate no issues or negative consequences of any kind and need not be “excused.”
- Moreover, students who have absences above the limit for any of various reasons (e.g., due to illness, waiting for the result of a covid test, or being unable to commute due to weather) may have some of those absences excused to remain within our attendance policy.
- If you reach (or are approaching) the 25% limit on absences, and accordingly are concerned that you may need to have some absence(s) excused, you should request excused absence(s) by emailing the Dean of Students (email@example.com). Faculty can, and should, excuse absences for religious observance without involving the Dean of Students. Absences due to covid or other communicative illness, or significant weather-related travel issues, will be excused. Please do not come to school if you are ill or would otherwise, for any reason, be placing yourself or others at risk.
- Unless a class session is being conducted entirely remotely, “attendance” means in-person attendance. Synchronous observation of an in-person class via Zoom counts as an absence (which may or may not be excused, as discussed above).
- If you need further clarification about the school’s attendance policy, please consult pages 16 and 17 of the Student Handbook.
- Some students have inquired about precautions with regard to monkeypox. Rates of monkeypox remain low, and it is spread mostly through close, intimate contact with someone who has it. Follow the CDC’s recommendations to protect yourself and others. We will continue to monitor the situation and take action, or modify our policies, as may be warranted. We note also that polio has recently been detected in NYC wastewater. While most current adults received the polio vaccine as children, for anyone who has not been vaccinated, the CDC advises vaccination to prevent this disabling and life-threatening disease.
We look forward to the upcoming academic year. Thanks as always for doing your part to ensure our collective health and safety and a successful return to school.
Michael T. Cahill (he/him)
President, Joseph Crea Dean & Professor of Law