The Legal Beat
Law School Displays Gross Lack Of Empathy During Texas Winterpocalypse
Posted on Thursday February 18, 2021
It’s ridiculously cliched at this point to say we live in unprecedented times. Seriously, what we would do for some good ole precedented events, like the stuff we are truly prepared to deal with. But, alas, that is not the timeline we’re destined to live through. See, e.g., just about everything happening in Texas right now.
Yes, yes, you know, you’ve heard all about it and even donated to the appropriate nonprofits. But it bears repeating, what began as chance to ridicule Texas for shutting down over a dusting of snow has turned into a veritable humanitarian crisis with basics like heat, electricity, and water in short supply let alone modern luxuries like internet. So, you’d think that a law school would be cognizant of its students’ struggle with essentials and not sweat the small stuff. But, deep sigh, that’s not to be.
Yesterday, Above the Law started receiving an avalanche of tips about the situation at Baylor Law School. Located in Waco, Texas, the folks there have been dealing with all of the same issues as the rest of the state. But the administration emailed students with their plan to have classes beginning today, oh, and if students can’t attend class because they don’t have access TO THE BASICS OF SURVIVAL, well, it’ll still count as an unexcused absence. People…. did not take it well. A sampling out the outrage from tipsters:
Despite Baylor Law students not having access to electricity, water, heat, and wifi, >Baylor Law has decided to have online classes starting tomorrow. Baylor Law has decided to do this even though Baylor University has already cancelled classes. Baylor Law (Dean Teague) has justified this resumption of classes on the fact that the FACULTY has been able to have their power restored. Once again, Baylor Law has decided to not take care of their students as articulated in your website’s article (Above the law –BAYLOR LAW SCHOOL MARCHES ON PRETENDING THAT ANYONE CARES ABOUT GRADES THIS SEMESTER) about Baylor Law not extending a pass-fail option at the beginning of the COVID epidemic.
The most egregious part of this email is the fact that students who do not have access to power or wifi will not be given excused absences. How could this possibility be justified? Well, Dean Teague stated in her email that I posted below that “all of our policies are consistent with professional expectations.” I have attached the email below. I am not writing this tip because I do not want to go to classes. I am writing this email because it exemplifies this administration’s CONTINUED utter lack of empathy and care toward its students.
And for full context, this is the text of the email sent by Dean Leah Witcher Jackson Teague:
Power has been restored to a number of areas in and around Waco. Still, we understand that not everyone has reliable power and internet yet. Based upon communications with faculty, almost all faculty members are able to deliver online lectures starting tomorrow. We will resume classes as scheduled starting tomorrow. Tomorrow’s classes will be fully online with no in-person attendance in classrooms. Please look for messages from your professors to give you instructions about your classes for tomorrow. For classes that will meet tomorrow and Friday at the regularly scheduled times, we are asking the professors to provide a way for students to makeup the classes if possible.
The university is not requiring COVID tests this week for law school students, faculty and staff.
Some students have asked if absences due to a power outage or inclement weather will be excused. We offer the following answer and explanation.
Under the Law School attendance policy, every student has allowed absences to cover a variety of reasons for which a student must miss. Unless a faculty member has a different policy in a given class, up to 25% of scheduled classes in a course may be missed without adverse consequences.
Any classes that were held (or will be held) this week (in-person or online) will be regarded as classes to which the regular attendance policy applies. In other words, for an in-person or on-line class session that was offered and for which you have not or will not attend, or for which you do not view an available recording, the regular attendance policy will apply. Faculty have been encouraged to record classes this week, even if offered in-person or synchronously (an honor system will apply). If anything else occurs later in the quarter that creates a problem with class attendance, we will consider the totality of the circumstances. If you have special circumstance, or a specific concern, please consult me.
All of our policies are consistent with professional expectations. As you know, in professional environments, there are many times when you are given grace and are excused from e.g., a deadline, etc. Receiving an excuse in such a circumstance does not mean that the missed deadline does not count in the sense that if you then miss more deadlines, the first one is ignored when considering that person’s professional conduct in the totality of the circumstances.
Unfortunately, we have had some students in the past who approached law school from the standpoint that they planned to take every one of their 25% allowed absences simply for the unexcused sake of foregoing instruction. To allow those students an extra day beyond the policy would not be appropriate, or fair to their classmates. This is why we are handling this week’s absences in this way. We have never penalized a diligent student whose absences were all, or almost all, beyond their control. If you have a concern about your total absences as the quarter continues, please reach out to me to discuss.
We hope you are each safe and well and staying warm. Please reach out if you need help.
Leah Witcher Jackson Teague
Associate Dean and Professor of Law
One Bear Place #97128
Waco, TX 76798-7128
According to tipsters, a few hours after this message went out the law school reversed course — at least as it applies to today’s classes:
In light of the university’s decision, the law school will not have classes tomorrow. Your professors will notify you of their plans for makeups.
All the best,
But remember, things are not back to normal in Texas yet. Hundreds of thousands of Texans are still without power or heat, and access to clean drinking water remains a problem. While it’s good that the issue has been postponed at least one day, rubbing students’ faces in their “professional responsibilities” in the midst of calamitous circumstances is simply not a great look.
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).