A Message About Halloween This Year

Dear Students,

I hope this message finds you well as we approach the last few weeks of the semester. Certainly, this has been a fall like no other, and I think we all have a new appreciation for academic experiences, time with friends, and sporting events on the Hilltop. Most of you have worked hard to keep our campus and one another safe and healthy during the past two months, and I sincerely thank you for the self-discipline you have shown and the sacrifices you have made. While Halloween is this weekend and the Thanksgiving break is in sight, now is not the time to let down our guard. We must remain vigilant and be especially mindful of making good decisions to help get us through these last few weeks of the fall semester.

The best and safest way to celebrate Halloween this year is by continuing to exhibit the responsible behavior you have been demonstrating all fall – wearing masks, remaining socially distant as recommended, and staying home if you’re not feeling well. That being said, if you do choose to venture out this weekend, please remember the following:

  • Travel with your close friend(s), stay alert, and remember that not all people in costumes are friendly. Be aware of who is around you.
  • If you see something, say something. Report suspicious people or activities to SMU Police at 214-768-3333, or to police in your jurisdiction at 911.
  • Avoid high-risk behaviors involving alcohol. If you choose to drink, be responsible and understand the health risks. If you are under 21, understand the consequences of fake IDs and underage drinking.
  • Respect the decisions of your peers not to drink.
  • Call for Help: If you or another person is in danger due to alcohol or substance use, call 911 or 214-768-3333 immediately. Students who seek medical help for themselves or others typically will be exempt from discipline for alcohol and drug violations under SMU’s Medical Amnesty and Good Samaritan policies.
  • If dressing up for Halloween or planning a virtual theme party, consider your costume choices and how they may affect others. Opt for showing care and respect for others.
  • Be respectful of our neighbors and neighborhood, and please keep in mind municipal ordinances that are more restrictive now than during non-COVID times. Even if you are hosting a small gathering at an off-campus residence that meets all guidelines, be a good neighbor and responsible host. Please remember it is illegal to supply alcohol to those under 21 years of age as well.
  • As always, remember the SMU Student Values Statement: “I, as a citizen of the SMU community, commit myself to upholding the values of intellectual integrity, academic honesty, personal responsibility, and sincere regard and respect for all SMU students, faculty, and staff.”

The SMU community has come together like never before this fall to help keep Mustangs safe and healthy. Don’t stop now. Continue to be a responsible community member this weekend so we can finish the semester Mustang Strong!

Happy Halloween,

Melinda J. Sutton, Ph.D.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs
and Dean of Students

SMU Seeks Ideas To Support Mental Health This Upcoming Spring Semester

October 22, 2020

Dear SMU Community,
It is encouraging to see the stamina, resilience and determination of our Mustang community in handling the challenges of this pandemic. It is with that same diligence that we’ll tackle 2021.

What we are doing this fall is working. After cases peaked in September, they fell and remain steady. Conducting classes throughout the entire semester – without pausing for Labor Day and fall break – reduced travel that could have spread the virus. And as we head into the holiday season, students will return home before Thanksgiving to stay with their families and complete their coursework.

We will apply that same approach of limiting travel during the spring semester. In the midst of winter and flu season, bringing students back to campus one week later helps reduce the opportunity of viral spread during that time. Similarly to this fall, classes will continue uninterrupted (except for Good Friday) through May to once again help maintain the overall health of our campus.

This difficult decision was reached with a lot of discussion and input from students, faculty and staff, and with the overall goal of prioritizing the safety and wellness of this community. The Faculty Senate had representation on the Spring 2021 Calendar Committee, which decided the semester schedule. Deans, associate deans and chairs, who meet weekly with the provost’s office, agreed with adjustments to the calendar. And SMU CAN, which includes members from the campus community, also recommended the University stay the course with the approved spring schedule.

I know you’re concerned – as are we – about this rigorous pace and the impact on mental health. But together we can find ways to support the mental well-being of students, faculty and staff. We are working to implement small changes that we hope can make a big difference – fresh, fun ways to be more engaged inside and outside the classroom, and take rest breaks along the way. Student and faculty groups have already offered a number of recommendations to reduce stress. We’d like to hear from you as well. You may submit your ideas to our Mustang Strong website’s spring 2021 suggestion box.

Innovation, determination and character are highlighted during difficult times like this. SMU has proactively and continuously met the challenges and adjusted to the changes created by COVID-19. And we’ll keep doing that to offer the best educational experience possible. Together, we’ll finish the spring semester Mustang Strong!


R. Gerald Turner

SMU Update on December Commencement and Spring Semester

October 14, 2020

Dear SMU Community,

Fall 2020 has been a semester like none other. After months of planning, preparation and adjustments, we are now halfway through this term. You’ve done a great job of working together to maintain a healthy environment, and it is reassuring to see the downward trend in COVID-19 cases on campus. I’m grateful for the individual and collective efforts of our Mustang family to stay optimistic and healthy during this pandemic.

Now it’s time to look ahead to completing a successful semester and preparing for the next one. We are excited to announce that SMU will celebrate December Commencement with graduates and their families on Saturday, December 19, 2020. We are currently planning an outdoor ceremony in Ford Stadium at 1 p.m. for all students and their guests. With our football team’s undefeated start, we also anticipate hosting the championship game in December, which typically occurs early in the month. However, given the pandemic and league scheduling changes, it is possible this game could be delayed by up to two weeks and result in a conflict for space with Commencement. So, depending on the football schedule and weather, our backup option for graduation will be two separate ceremonies in Moody Coliseum. Regardless of the final location, we are planning for a safe and healthy celebration to mark this important achievement by our soon-to-be alums.

As we hit this midpoint, campus leaders, faculty and staff are already studying what has worked well and what could be improved as we continue our academic mission in the midst of this pandemic. The Fall Operations Plan that has guided our campus response will feed into a carefully reviewed and updated operations plan for spring. Through these efforts, our University will remain flexible to the fluid nature of the coronavirus with a clear focus on continuing to safely offer our excellent education and exceptional campus experience to the greatest extent possible.

To minimize travel and prevent virus spread over the holidays, students will leave campus at Thanksgiving break and return home to complete the rest of their coursework remotely. In planning for the spring semester, we have decided to start a week later on January 25, 2021 and continue straight through without a spring break until May 12, 2021. Good Friday will remain a university holiday. Jan Term classes will be also be available, beginning January 7, 2021. We will be able to accommodate a limited number of undergraduate courses as fully in-person for spring 2021. Priorities will be given to courses such as labs and performance-based classes. We will also continue to offer SMUFlex courses and virtual-only classes. So, students will have many options from which to choose. Spring enrollment by appointment for undergraduates will take place November 16—20. Open enrollment will continue until the end of the add period. As the case numbers decline, please don’t become complacent and let your guard down. What we’ve been doing is working so keep it up for the second half. Let’s all mask up, Pony Up and stay Mustang Strong.


R. Gerald Turner

About SMU’s New COVID-19 Dashboard

October 8, 2020

Dear SMU Faculty and Staff,
As we’ve settled into the semester and started to plan for our next one, it’s promising to see the numbers of COVID-19 cases on campus diminish. Thank you all for working tirelessly to make the fall semester as safe as it can be. We continue to respond to the challenges of the pandemic and, in that spirit, we want to highlight a new tool for monitoring the cases on campus, as well as provide our faculty and staff with an important reminder.

New Dashboard 
From the beginning of the pandemic, SMU committed to keeping our community well-informed on the virus’ impact on our campus. Many in our SMU community —over 2,300— signed up to receive an email notification as new cases were posted to our COVID-19 case list on the Mustang Strong website. As the semester progressed, we evolved the way we displayed information to increase transparency and clarity. Today, we’re excited to launch a refreshed COVID-19 dashboard, which accomplishes both of those goals.  

Thanks to our OIT team, the new dashboard provides an automated, more interactive and seamless experience. Here are some of the more enhanced features:

  • Follow daily positive cases, quarantine numbers and isolation capacity by hovering over the data on three distinct charts
  • Change between different time periods to spot trends more easily
  • Quickly isolate student or employee-specific information by toggling between the different populations on the drop-down menu
  • Check out a new piece of information: the on-campus infection rate. This is calculated by taking the current number of active on-campus student cases and dividing it by the number of individuals who could potentially be on SMU’s campus on a given day. 

Moving forward, we will phase out listing individual cases line-by-line as the new dashboard provides this same granular information in a more accessible, user-friendly and automated format. You will continue to receive an email linking you back to the dashboard when cases are added and we encourage you to bookmark this page for quick reference.

Even under the older version of the dashboard, it is easy to see the promising trend downward in the number of cases of COVID-19 on campus. It’s also encouraging that cases among faculty and staff have remained consistently low even when the on-campus student population saw a spike early in the semester.

After Thanksgiving break, most of our students will migrate to virtual instruction. We thank our faculty and staff in advance for continuing to come to campus for work as you normally would during this time. All of you will play a vital role as we come together to determine what worked well and consider what can be improved in preparing for another semester in the pandemic. Your individual and our collective efforts enable SMU to maintain a healthy campus and deliver the excellent educational experience for which SMU is known.

We hope you find the new dashboard to be a useful addition to the Mustang Strong website.

View Dashboard


Chris Casey Regis
Vice President of Business and Finance and Treasurer

Fall Flu Shot Information

Minimizing your chances of contracting influenza this year is one of the most important steps you can take to stay healthy and help prevent our community’s COVID-19 medical resources from becoming depleted. 

Students, getting your flu shots has never been more important.

SMU is providing students with on-campus flu vaccinations for free while supplies last. The flu shot tents offered through September and October are no longer available. After receiving our next allotment of the vaccine, plans are to offer flu shots outside of the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.

Check back and watch your email for the most up-to-date information about on-campus vaccine availability.

Free flu shots are also available at Walgreens, Kroger, Costco, CVS and CVS-Target pharmacies with your student or family health insurance.

SMU employees may get a flu shot from the same drive-thru Urgent Care tent where COVID-19 testing is available. Expressway Tower on SMU’s East campus is offering free flu shots every weekday. Please schedule an appointment in advance here and remember to bring your SMU ID.

You can avoid a consultation to receive a flu shot by typing in “flu shot” under the field titled: “Reason for visit.”

While vaccinations are mostly administered from the comfort of your own vehicle, inclement weather may slightly alter this procedure.

Free shots are also available with SMU insurance at Walgreens, Kroger, Costco, CVS and CVS-Target pharmacies.