SMU Updates Faculty on Pledge, Operation Levels, Contact Tracing and Air Filtration

Dear SMU Faculty and Staff,

It is exciting to see students return for our Fall 2020 opening. Thank you for everything you have done to prepare for their arrival. We will continue to monitor the pandemic to ensure we can move forward in a healthy and safe manner. I’d like to share a few updates and remind everyone of the important part you play in this plan.

While some of us have been on campus all along, others are now arriving. As a reminder, all employees should complete the “return-to-work” training before coming. Also, we are all required to do a daily self-screen to check for symptoms of COVID-19.

Another way to promote a healthy return is to take the our “pledge to protect” developed by the SMU Community Action Network (SMU CAN). Signing this pledge confirms that we as members of this campus community understand our personal responsibilities and are committed to following the safety guidelines required in these challenging times.

As outlined in the Fall 2020 Operations Plan, SMU is using four operational levels to guide the University’s response to the pandemic. The status of the University’s current operational level, from low, moderate, high to very high, will soon be added to the COVID-19 Mustang Strong website and updated each week. The University uses an operational assessment tool, also described in the plan, to evaluate campus conditions weekly and update or reaffirm the operational level. It is important to note that the operational level guides SMU’s leadership in making decisions regarding campus activities, but does not dictate specific measures. It is used holistically to assess and determine the best responses to the situation at that time.

On a related note, the campus contact tracing protocol is being updated to provide more support in case of a localized outbreak on campus. If one is declared, the University may use additional resources, including a requirement for localized targeted testing in a residence hall or University office space, to address the situation. Also, if a student receives a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, our contact tracing team will alert the faculty who teach that student of a case in their class without details that could identify the student. No additional information will be provided unless a faculty member is also identified as a “close contact” during the contact tracing process.

We have already shared that we are upgrading air filters in all air handlers across campus. Thirty (30) campus buildings have been retrofitted as of today and all RLSH and academic buildings will be completed by the start of classes. In addition, more than half of our air handlers have commercial grade Ultraviolet light filtering technology integrated into the system which helps to keep viruses and other microorganisms from reproducing and infecting indoor space.

We also have good news on our ability to increase the amount of fresh air pushed through our system. Most of the windows on our campus do not open, and it’s a balancing act to increase fresh air through our HVAC system without exceeding our central plant’s ability to support the added demand. Our traditional approach has been a 20 percent infusion of fresh air mixed with recirculated air, but we have determined that we can safely increase that to a 50 percent infusion of fresh air in most buildings. Be forewarned that our indoor spaces may be a bit warmer as a result.

We will continue to make modifications as needed to adjust to the fluid nature of this pandemic. We appreciate your partnership in keeping our campus healthy this semester.

R. Gerald Turner
President of SMU