New Air Filter System, Cleaning Protocols, Among Enhancements to Keep Campus Healthy

SMU Air Quality Improvement Strategy

SMU Facilities Planning and Management is upgrading all air filters in air handler units across campus, as a strategy to improve air quality in all University buildings. All air filters will be updated from the current MERV 10 level to the highest rated filtration level effective for SMU’s air handler system – MERV 13. This diagram details the filtration ratings, and the types and amounts of particles captured.

COVID-19 Facilities Custodial Response Guide

The Office of Facilities Planning & Management is committed to informing students, faculty and staff of steps and measures taken to protect the SMU community, as we prepare for the fall semester. This guide communicates the cleaning protocols and strategic communication plan developed specifically with regard to prevention of the spread of COVID-19 on our campus.

More resources links:
Enhanced Cleaning Protocol

Enhanced cleaning coverage for all buildings

Three-Step Approach

Facilities Communication Plan and Custodial Response Guide PDF

UPDATE: SMU Requires Face Coverings in All Public Spaces for Fall 2020 Semester

Faculty authorized to require students to wear face coverings in fall classrooms

SMU is requiring that everyone on the SMU campus wear a face covering over the mouth and nose in all public indoor spaces. This requirement includes classrooms; building entrances and exits; lobbies and lounges; as well as in hallways, stairwells, restrooms and elevators and also extends to SMU’s Meadows Museum – both for staff and visitors.

The requirement is in line with continued orders by the State of Texas and Dallas County, and strengthens the earlier University policy that stated the University “expects” all students, faculty staff and visitors to wear a face covering in public spaces.

For the fall semester, faculty members are authorized to require face coverings in their classrooms and during faculty-student meetings. All faculty will have access to disposable face coverings to provide to students who forget to bring one to class.

Facial coverings are required public indoor spaces, including the classrooms, or anywhere on campus—including public areas of residential facilities or outdoor spaces— where social distancing cannot be maintained. They are not required in private spaces such as inside an office or partitioned cubicle for employees, or inside an individual residence hall room for students. 

SMU is prepared to maintain or adjust its “face coverings in public spaces” requirement as circumstances evolve.

Message to campus on confirmed COVID-19 cases

Dear SMU Community,

Last spring, SMU sent an emergency notification to all students, faculty and staff about the first confirmed COVID-19 cases involving our campus community. This was an important step in informing our campus about this rapidly evolving situation.

As we begin to identify additional cases, we wanted to be sure the campus community is fully informed about the process that will be followed as well as the communications that can be expected. Going forward, as we are informed, SMU will update the campus community by listing all confirmed cases on our COVID-19 site. The identification of positive cases on campus occurs through several mechanisms, including:

  • Testing through the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center
  • Local county health department notification
  • Self-disclosure by employees or students

Students or employees experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms should contact either their personal physician or the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center at 214-768-2277 for a screening interview by trained medical staff. Based on the results, testing may be required. If the test is positive:

It is the responsibility of an employee or student testing positive to immediately notify the University through the avenues presented above.

Following county, state and federal guidelines, SMU uses the University’s contact tracing protocol to identify and notify individuals who may have been exposed among the University community. All individuals testing positive for COVID-19 cases are contacted and CONFIDENTIALLY interviewed by trained University staff to identify close contacts. The tracing is based on class schedule, living situation, student activities, employee work locations including offices and job sites, face-to-face meetings and any other situations that may have resulted in close contact from two days before the onset of symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to testing). Close contact is described by the Centers for Disease Control as within six feet for more than 15 minutes (without direct respiratory droplet exposure).

Those in the SMU community who may have come into close contact with the positive case are notified directly and given further instructions to prevent the spread. If you are not directly contacted, it was determined you did not have close contact with anyone who has tested positive. Medical confidentiality will be maintained for everyone. Employees and students who learn of positive cases should respect this important privacy concern by not commenting on any information that could identify the person and/or posting about a case on social media. Supervisors, including deans and vice presidents, will be notified when one of their faculty or staff is positive. The communication from the University is the official communication on these matters, so please refrain from sending any additional emails or messages about the case. It is important for all of us to act responsibly. If you have any questions on how to respond to a situation, please reach out directly to Human Resources for assistance.

When a positive case is confirmed, SMU custodial workers also deep clean and sanitize the area in which the person worked or lived, as well as adjacent rooms and public spaces in the building. This enhanced cleaning is performed by an expanded crew within four to eight hours of the case confirmation.

Along with communications within the affected campus location and to campus individuals who were determined to have been in close contact, the University will keep a running list of confirmed cases on the SMU COVID-19 site. Again, SMU will not give out the person’s name, and we ask that you respect this individual’s privacy as well. If you would like to be updated when a positive case is added to the campus list, please email to receive notifications.

Fall 2020: The Big Picture

Dear SMU students, parents, faculty and staff,

Those of us who have been planning for our students’ return to campus are pleased to share with you the road map for our fall semester on the Hilltop. While you can expect more communications on a variety of topics as we work through the summer months, this “big picture” document is intended to give you an overview of how we will teach and learn, protect our health, live on campus and handle basic operations at SMU as we continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, you will have more questions, so watch your emails and the COVID-19 website for updates as we get closer to residence hall move-in, followed by the start of classes on Monday, Aug. 24.  I have missed you all, and am looking forward to welcoming the Class of 2024.

R. Gerald Turner
R. Gerald Turner

President Turner previews SMU fall semester

Dear SMU Community,

Preparing for the return of our students during the pandemic will require creativity, commitment and cooperation. Our plans for reopening the campus to students in the fall for student instruction, campus life and community programs are progressing well, and I am especially looking forward to welcoming our students back to our Dallas and Taos campuses. Informed by state and county health guidelines, benchmarking from other universities and the work of the President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020, SMU will resume activities on its campuses under the following framework:


The vast majority of SMU courses will be offered in person, on campus. To accommodate safety and health concerns, some classes will follow a hybrid model when necessary, providing a virtual, off-site component and staggered attendance schedules. For these courses, teaching in person as well as online would occur simultaneously. Such simultaneous online/in-person classes will accommodate international students facing travel restrictions, as well as students with health conditions that may preclude their being on campus at this time. The classes will also be recorded, adding greater flexibility for online students who may live in dramatically different time zones, or for students to re-watch classes as needed. For classes where students are participating online, all tests will be administered online so that every student’s progress is measured under the same circumstances.

A few courses, such as large lecture classes, may be offered online only. Other small classes will be offered in person only, in spaces adequate to follow health and safety guidelines. Special accommodations will be made for students in the performing arts.


As many other universities have concluded, reducing the number of students returning to campus after holiday travel is important to lessen the chance of contagion. Therefore, we will revise our semester schedule to support a healthy campus population.

SMU will resume class instruction on campus Monday, August 24, as originally scheduled. Please note that the September 7 Labor Day holiday and October 12–13 Fall Break will be suspended and used as class instruction days. This change allows students to complete their on-campus studies and leave campus housing prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The University will shift all class instruction to online only for the remaining class days following Thanksgiving. (Graduate programs in some of our schools follow slightly different schedules, but will make similar accommodations that will be explained in detail by their deans.) Of course, students who do not have access to alternate living arrangements after Thanksgiving will be accommodated on campus, as they were this spring.

As a result, all final exams for the fall 2020 semester will be administered online.


In the coming days, additional guidelines will be forthcoming regarding campus life adjustments and the impact of the current situation on campus gatherings, large and small, for both students and faculty, as well as for alumni and other guests. To the extent possible, we will retain SMU traditions in the fall, so that students can experience as fully as possible a rich and vibrant campus life.

The information I have shared above is provided to allow students, their families, faculty and staff to plan for the weeks and months ahead. The good news is that our first mission –

delivering high-quality, on-campus classroom instruction – will continue, so that our students can benefit from in-person interaction with faculty members and with each other. Over the coming days and weeks, we will share more details in preparation for the fall semester, including new aspects of how we offer student housing, dining services, student programming and the like. These will be shared through email, the SMU website and the COVID-19 FAQs.

As always, feel free to reach out to your academic deans, advisers, and the Division of Student Affairs with any specific questions or concerns. I look forward to welcoming our students back to our campuses this summer and fall.


R. Gerald Turner