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