A letter from Dean Annette Clark

April 7, 2020

Dear Alumni and Friends:

As we find ourselves in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, ordered to shelter at home and practice social distancing, I hope and trust that you and your loved ones are safe and secure and that you've been spared this frightening illness.

In formulating the law school's response to this evolving public health crisis, we've been focusing on two core principles: (1) a commitment to our law students' physical and mental health and general well-being; and (2) our dedication to continuing to provide, even under these difficult circumstances, a high-quality legal education that is informed by the Jesuit mission of educating the whole person and professional formation.

Lawyers are known for their problem-solving abilities, and those skills have been put to good use in recent weeks. We've moved all classes online for the remainder of spring semester, and Sullivan Hall is now closed, with all faculty and staff working remotely. You would be proud of the way everyone is pulling together and helping each other as we've quickly adapted almost every aspect of the law school experience to the online world.

In an effort to be flexible, adaptable, and compassionate for the sake of our students during these times, the law school administration has made two difficult but necessary decisions that I believe reflect our mission and values in action.

First, all spring semester courses will be graded under a mandatory pass/fail system, enabling our students to complete the semester successfully without undue risk to their GPAs and the pressure of the grading curve. This change — which is consistent with what many other law schools are doing — recognizes the unfortunate reality that COVID-19 has upended the circumstances of nearly every student. Many are now forced to manage the usual pressures of being law students with a range of new and unexpected challenges: caring for children at home without access to school or daycare, job loss and other economic or food insecurity, caring for vulnerable or ill family members, quarantine, or threats to their own physical and/or mental health. We recognize that these circumstances will prevent many students from doing their best work for the remainder of the semester and that an insistence on grading all students as usual is likely to reflect this random or unequal distribution of hardships as much as it would reflect students' hard work and academic merit.

Second, we decided that it was necessary to cancel the May Commencement Ceremony. Given the current situation, we could not imagine a scenario where our graduates and their guests (numbering about 2,000 people in all) would be able to gather in mid-May. We are working with our graduating students to brainstorm alternatives (including the possibility of holding the ceremony at a later date) to ensure we are able to properly celebrate their many achievements and the completion of their law studies. Stay tuned for more information on what we decide together.

So much has changed in all of our lives over the past month. What hasn't changed is our commitment to each other; to you, our alumni; and to our students, the next generation of powerful advocates for justice. We miss seeing you and look forward to the day when we can be in community again. In the meantime, thank you for your friendship, your steadfast support, and your encouragement as we press forward. As I am fond of saying, I am proud to be the dean and even prouder to be an alumna of Seattle University School of Law.

In gratitude,
Annette E. Clark '89

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