Dear SMU faculty and staff,
You have received quite a few messages from me over the past few months, but this is one I have been eager to deliver: I am delighted to welcome our full University workforce back to campus on Monday, June 1.
I know how hard you have worked from home, and I do not underestimate the productivity we have maintained. Thank you! We have had to reinvent the way we work, teach and learn over the past 11 weeks. However, it’s important to remember that SMU is a university that delivers a unique residential experience for our students. It requires us to be on campus to prepare for delivering that opportunity to our students.
Many of you have asked, “Why June 1? Why is it important that we come back now?” The basic answer is to prepare for the imminent return of our students.
SMU will resume in-person instruction on campus for several hundred of the 1,600 students enrolled for the Summer II term that begins July 6. We expect about 100 of these students, along with over 100 student-athletes, will join the approximately 30 students (out of the original 300) who remained in our Residential Commons through the spring. It will take extra effort from our schools and administrative offices to be ready to serve these on-campus students. This also provides us with an important opportunity to preview issues we might face when the larger community returns in August.
Obviously, this fall is going to be a monumental challenge. The superior education that we always deliver is at stake, as is the financial health of the University. SMU is in a stronger position than many universities but our responses to the pandemic created a budget gap of more than $13 million for the fiscal year ending on May 31 – and from national projections we expect more losses in the fall. To meet these challenges, as I know we will, all of us must pull together to prepare successfully for July term, followed by the return of all students in the fall.
Our plan is to move forward with both caution and confidence. We will inform our decisions based on the best information available from government and health authorities, and also rely on your commitment to our workplace guidelines to help keep each other safe. Should the COVID-19 pandemic shift, we will respond in kind, because health and safety are important for all of us.
As you return to campus, some things will be different. These changes have been put in place to help keep you and your co-workers healthy. I hope you will take a moment to watch this short video, so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
Please remember that the “Welcome Back to Campus” packet describes many of the processes the University has developed to support a healthy workplace and also provides important training for you. The special guide for supervisors will help everyone work through the individual employee issues inherent in this transition.
We must all take extra steps to protect our health, and we will take them. You have my gratitude for outstanding work and flexibility over the last few months, and I look forward to seeing you back on campus soon. Welcome back, Mustangs.
R. Gerald Turner