Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 9, 2020

ABA Fast Tracks Proposal To Waive Accreditation Standards Due To COVID-19

ABA Journal, ABA Legal Ed Section Contemplates Rule Change in Light of Novel Coronavirus:

ABA Section On Legal Education (2016)A proposal to change an ABA law school accreditation rule, which would allow for temporary relief in regional and national emergencies, is now being considered.

It will be discussed May 15, when the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar meets remotely. In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic, some deans have concerns about whether potential distance learning classes in the fall will meet ABA accreditation standards.

A May 8 standards review subcommittee memo details the proposal, which suggests adding new language to Rule 2, authorizing the council to adopt emergency policies and procedures in response to “extraordinary circumstances” in which compliance with the standards “would create or constitute extreme hardship for multiple law schools.”

ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Memorandum on Proposed Changes to Rule 2 (May 8, 2020):

Attached are a proposed change to Rule 2 with an Explanation and a redlined copy showing the proposed changes to the Rule. As you will see, this proposed change would permit the Council to provide temporary relief from a rule or the requirements of a standard to allow law schools to respond to a regional or national emergency, such as weather disasters and pandemics. The relief granted would be effective only for the duration of the extraordinary circumstance and only to the extent specifically provided.

The proposed change is necessary because we are unsure of what the fall semester will bring with the COVID-19 pandemic, or what the Department of Education will permit accreditors to do to meet the continued emergency. The SRS recommends approval of this proposed change for Notice and Comment. If approved, the Notice and Comment process will be fast-tracked with the intent to submit the proposed changes to the House of Delegates for its August 2020 meeting so that the Council will be in a position to address potential pandemic issues that may arise for the fall semester. This fast-tracking will necessitate a July online Council meeting for the purpose of approving the final recommendation of the SRS following the Notice and Comment period. ...

[T]his proposed rule change is not a substantive change in the standards for distance education. In coming months, the Standards Review Subcommittee will seek input from law schools and others on the potential need to revise the definition and requirements of distance education, especially in light of the experiences of law schools in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, comments submitted on the proposed changes in this Notice and Comment Memorandum should only address the proposal to authorize the Council to take emergency action to address extraordinary circumstances regionally or nationally.

For complete TaxProf Blog coverage of the coronavirus, see here.

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