August 16, 2021
Greetings from the Hilltop! I hope you’re doing well and enjoying what remains of the summer. The first day of classes for the fall semester is just a week away, which is why I am reaching out to you today. While we are planning for the fall to look and feel more like a typical semester, the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and we’ve made a few changes based on the current situation and our past experience on campus.
Following are a few updates on what may be the same and what may be different as you start the academic year.
Temporary Mask Requirement
As President Turner said in his welcome letter, SMU is temporarily requiring masks indoors on campus, including classrooms, event and meeting spaces, and common areas in all buildings and residence halls regardless of vaccination status. Masks should be two-ply and cover the nose and mouth. Should the temporary mask requirement be lifted, some faculty may still require masks in their classrooms throughout the duration of the academic term (if indicated in the course syllabus). SMU is not requiring masks be worn outdoors or in private spaces such as residence hall rooms for students with roommates.
Please note that anyone can wear a mask anytime if they so choose, and we should all promote a respectful environment for those who do. So, please remember to bring a mask with you when classes begin.
What’s Different from Fall 2020
As we return to fully in-person instruction, expect your classrooms to be at full capacity without physical distancing or remote options. Also, you’ll be able to attend student organization meetings and events in person; and Boulevarding and our traditional outdoor Game Day experiences are back.
What’s the Same as Fall 2020
As you know, the virus is still circulating in our communities, and the delta variant, in particular, is concerning. While a lot of the pandemic restrictions on campus have eased due to the availability of vaccines, we are maintaining many of the same protocols aimed at keeping our campus healthy. If you test positive for COVID-19, please complete a Caring Community Connections (CCC) form so that someone from the contact tracing team can reach out to offer guidance and support. Students living on campus who test positive will be placed into isolation housing, and unvaccinated students who are exposed to someone testing positive will be required to quarantine. Students living off campus who test positive or are exposed will be asked to isolate or quarantine, respectively, in their homes.
Please keep in mind that if you are vaccinated and provide proof of your vaccination status, you will not need to quarantine. If you received your vaccine on campus, your vaccination card will be on record at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. If you were vaccinated elsewhere, you can upload it through the health portal for quick and easy reference during contact tracing. COVID-19 testing and vaccinations will continue to be available during the academic year at the Health Center.
Take care of yourself.
In addition to campus protocols to prevent virus spread, Dr. Peter Davis, Medical Director in the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center, offers these suggestions to continue to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 and other transmissible diseases:
- Wash your hands regularly.
- If you are ill, stay at home and consult with your healthcare provider or the Health Center (214.768.2141) to determine whether you should be tested or seek additional medical assistance.
- Get the COVID-19 vaccine if you haven’t already!
- Help protect yourself against the flu by getting the flu shot for free when it becomes available through the Health Center this fall.
Along with your physical wellbeing, your mental and emotional health are equally important. Counseling Services at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center and the Chaplain’s Office in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center are available if you’d like someone with whom to talk or share your struggles. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for help and support.
I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to eat well, drink water, and get appropriate amounts of sleep, too! Department of Campus Recreation staff are hoping to see you this fall in the Dedman Center or on the intramural field as you stay physically active. All of this helps to contribute to your overall wellbeing!
Take care of others.
Remember that the Caring Community Connections (CCC) program is available for students going through a difficult time. If you are concerned about a friend (or yourself), please complete the CCC form so that someone from the Office of Student Advocacy and Support may follow up.
With restrictions eased, many of us may be tempted to celebrate (and not always in a constructive manner). Be responsible when going out with your friends and help keep one another safe by not leaving your friends alone, stepping in if someone drinks too much, and designating a sober driver or arranging transportation if you are of age and plan to consume alcoholic beverages.
Take care of our community.
I am excited and optimistic about the fall semester. You play a big part in helping us navigate this healthy return to our traditional on-campus experience. During the pandemic, we’ve all repeatedly heard the saying, “We’re in this together.” That’s because it’s true. We all need to do our part by taking care of ourselves, taking care of one another, and taking care of our campus community – so we can stay Mustang Strong.
Melinda J. Sutton, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students