The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Will Law Schools Require Students to be Vaccinated?

I can see a world where in-person instruction is limited to vaccinated students, and those who refuse to be vaccinated will stay on Zoom.


Last week, Rutgers University announced that returning students must be vaccinated against COVID-19. The policy states that "Students may request an exemption from the vaccination requirement for medical or religious reasons." The scope of those exemptions, however, is unclear.

As we speak, law schools are no doubt holding discussions about whether they can impose vaccine mandates. State schools will have less latitude than private schools, in light of the Free Exercise clause, as well as state RFRAs. But I suspect schools, in general, will decide to impose some form of a vaccine mandate.

Imagine if every student in a 1L section is vaccinated. The school could eliminate the need for six (or three) feet of distancing. Students could once again sit in close proximity to their classmates. Masks would not be required. Professors could walk around the room without fear of infection. And instruction could return to what it was in 2019.

But what about students who refuse to be vaccinated? They may be stuck on Zoom. Perhaps those dynamics will provide a cudgel for students to get the jab over the next few months.

I recently received my first dose. I had a bit of fatigue, but no adverse symptoms. My arm was sore, but I quickly forgot about it. In class, I encouraged my students to get vaccinated, and explained (per school policy) any absence related to the shot would be excused. I hope other professors can likewise encourage their students. In Texas, all adults are eligible for the shot. And more and more states are moving in that direction.