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