President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020

SMU is committed to reopening the campus as quickly as possible, while protecting the health of our University community and allowing for safe learning, working, living and socializing. To that end, SMU must have data-informed policies and procedures in place as early as midsummer that leverage the best available testing and/or screening for COVID-19, along with continued health practices such as social distancing, use of protective face coverings and other necessary measures. SMU also must plan for the unpredictable progression of the pandemic and its financial impact while preparing for related government-mandated restrictions on how we work, live and assemble.

Effective immediately, I am appointing the SMU President’s Task Force For a Healthy Opening Fall 2020, co-chaired by K.C. Mmeje, vice president for Student Affairs, and Peter K. Moore, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost ad interim. This cross-functional task force will report to me through the President’s Executive Council (PEC) and is charged with the important mission of bringing our students, faculty and staff back to campus safely while ensuring high-quality instruction, academic rigor, meaningful research and campus engagement – all of which exemplify the SMU experience.

The task force shall:

  • Create subcommittees to address Academic Continuity, Research Continuity, Business Continuity, Campus Health and Wellness, Student Continuity and Communications with specific charges assigned to each;
  • Meet regularly to analyze and take action on reports from subcommittees which will meet weekly or more, depending on need;
  • Examine existing SMU policies and procedures and propose new practices/policies to meet the needs of the University in a changeable environment;
  • Study best practices from other higher education leaders and institutions while remaining focused on approaches that meet SMU’s unique needs;
  • Remain cognizant of the financial strains and limits imposed upon the University by the pandemic;
  • Adhere to deadlines that enable communications with our campus community by:
    • May 15 for July session;
    • June 1 for Study Abroad programs;
    • June 1 for August Commencement and the beginning of the fall semester.

The task force members include:

  • Thomas DiPiero, dean of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences
  • Michael Hites, chief information officer
  • Alison Tweedy, associate vice president of Campus Services
  • Leigh Ann Moffett, director of Emergency Management, Office of Risk Management
  • Regina Moldovan, assistant vice president of Marketing and Communications, DEA
  • Melinda Sutton Noss, associate vice president and dean of Students, Student Affairs
  • Melinda Carlson, assistant vice president and dean of Residence Life and Student Housing, Student Affairs
  • Aurelie Thiele, associate professor of Engineering Management, Information, and Systems, Faculty Senate
  • Joseph Monroy, registrar and director of Academic Services (Perkins), SMU Staff Association president
  • Molly Patrick, student body president

Charges for Subcommittees

Academic Continuity – Michael Tumeo

  • Develop plans to support educational continuity through a variety of instructional modes, including in-class, online-only and a hybrid of both. Address situations where students, faculty and staff must remain away from campus for a brief or extended period of time, or must adapt to other limitations on normal academic progress due to COVID-19. Plan and develop resources to support continuing classes, strategies for maintaining graduate student research and guidance for academic events of all sizes. Assess implications for student travel for internships and global experiences, including all activities at SMU-in-Taos. Define criteria and procedures for altering academic policies, including the Academic Calendar. Assess and develop options to mitigate the financial impacts that graduate and undergraduate students may face.

Research Continuity James Quick, Brandon Chance

  • Create a protocol for expanding the opening of lab facilities, including art studios and performance practice facilities. Identify ways to protect critical research in the event of a brief or extended disruption to normal operations. Compile an inventory of sensitive research that requires continued support during the summer and fall semesters. Prepare a plan to provide that support with limited staff, resources and vendor provisions. Review existing plans for the continued care of sensitive research specimens. Develop criteria for the safe opening and operation of SMU Libraries and the Meadows Museum.

Business Continuity Michael Molina, Alison Tweedy

  • Assess and evaluate SMU’s essential operational functions, determine strategies for maintaining critical campus utilities and infrastructure and continue to evaluate procedures to enable a hybrid work model for SMU faculty and staff. Consider implications and procedures for contract staff and plans for stockpiling supplies in the event of a supply-chain disruption. Additionally, work to recover expenses associated with COVID-19 and develop a plan/brief for long-term initiatives such as capital projects, staffing, etc.

Campus Health and Wellness – Melinda Sutton Noss, Peter Davis

  • Develop comprehensive recommendations and plans for testing, contact tracing, social distancing, regulation of visitors, size of nonacademic events, frequent deep cleanings of facilities and other strategies to keep the campus safe, including facilities and activities at SMU-in-Taos. Create wellness information tools and resources to share broadly with the campus community.

Student Continuity Melinda Carlson, Sheri Kunovich (input from Athletics – Lauren Adee)

  • Explore student life issues, such as providing safe access to essentials such as campus dining services and student support and well-being programs. Continue to develop plans for disruptions to traditional student life programming, including student and athletic events and travel. Examine occupancy standards for residential communities that reinforce social distancing and refine residential communities’ guest policies, consider single occupancy options, etc. Planning and considerations should include classes and activities at SMU-in-Taos.

Communications – Kim Cobb, Dianne Anderson

  • Gather perspective from and coordinate with communications representatives from campus schools and units on frequency, consistency, accuracy and effectiveness of messaging concerning SMU’s plans in response to COVID-19. Create multipronged communications plans for different planning scenarios for summer and fall semesters and identify ways to bolster existing communications methods.

I want to thank Dr. Mmeje and Dr. Moore for leading this important effort, and the committee and subcommittee members for offering their time and expertise as we carefully coordinate the best approach to a healthy reopening this fall.

R. Gerald Turner
SMU President