As of May 15, 2022, SMU has sunset most pandemic protocols. The following are archived messages that are not reflective of the current campus COVID-19 policy. Visit the Mustang Strong website for the latest information on testing, masking, vaccinations and more.
UPDATE [12/8/2021]: Since this announcement was initially made, a federal judge in Georgia entered a nationwide injunction that temporarily stopped the enforcement of Executive Order (EO 14042). SMU is now pausing the requirement that all employees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by January 18, 2022, unless and until the courts instruct otherwise. Follow smu.edu/coronavirus for the latest updates.
Will SMU require vaccination for employees?
Yes. Employees may seek a medical or religious exemption which must be approved prior to the January 18, 2022 deadline for compliance.
Why did SMU adopt a vaccination requirement for employees?
On September 9, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order (EO 14042) mandating, among other things, that all workplaces with certain federal contracts greater than $250,000 require all their employees to be vaccinated or seek a medical or religious exemption.
SMU evaluated the executive order and subsequent updated guidelines from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force and determined that the vaccine mandate applies to all SMU employees, regardless of whether they directly work on federal contracts. This includes faculty, staff, temporary employees, student employees, graduate research/teaching assistants/associates, and postdoctoral scholars. It does not apply to visitors or volunteers.
Other guidelines, such as masking in certain situations and social distancing where possible will also apply to SMU after the January 18, 2022 deadline.
As a private university, why is SMU considered a federal contractor?
Because SMU accepts funding from federal contracts in excess of $250,000, the executive order (EO 14042) applies to the University and all of its employees.
Do student employees need to meet the vaccine requirement?
Yes. The vaccine requirement applies to all individuals employed at SMU who are paid through the University’s payroll system including undergraduate and graduate student – employees (full-time and part-time.)
Do students have to be vaccinated?
No, unless students are employed by SMU, they are considered “visitors” under EO 14042. However, students and campus visitors must comply with other safety aspects of the order such as masking in certain situations and social distancing where possible after the January 18, 2022 deadline.
What does it mean to be “fully vaccinated”?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers an individual is “fully vaccinated” 14 days after completing their vaccine series, which means two weeks after receiving the second COVID-19 dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer and Moderna), or two weeks after the single dose (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.
Under the updated guidelines, all SMU employees need to receive all required vaccine doses by January 4, 2022, to be fully vaccinated by January 18, 2022.
Which vaccines will satisfy the vaccine requirement?
What if I am not fully vaccinated by the deadline?
The EO 14042 requires all employees to be fully vaccinated by January 18, 2022, unless they have been granted an accommodation for religious or medical reasons through SMU’s Office of Institutional Access and Equity (IAE). If a medical or religious accommodation to the vaccination requirement is granted, the University will provide reasonable accommodations under the applicable law.
The federal vaccine mandate makes the COVID-19 vaccination a condition of employment –meaning SMU employees must provide proof to SMU that they are fully vaccinated, or have an exemption request approved by SMU by January 18, 2022, to continue working at the University. Employees who do not comply with this requirement, or are not otherwise exempt, are subject to discipline under University employment policies up to and including unpaid leave and/or termination. Policies that apply include SMU Policy7.24, Corrective Action for Staff,SMU Policy 2.17 Procedural Standards for Faculty Sanctions and Dismissals, and/or SMU Policy 11.8 Infectious Diseases.
Can I work from home to avoid the vaccination requirement?
No. An unvaccinated employee who is not eligible for a medical or religious accommodation may not work remotely to avoid the vaccination requirement. Additionally, the EO 14042 and federal guidance clearly state that the vaccination requirement applies even to employees working from home.
Under the vaccine requirement, can I show proof of a negative COVID-19 test instead to continue working instead of getting the vaccine?
No, the federal mandate that applies to SMU does not permit a testing option.
How can I prove that I’ve been vaccinated?
If you received your vaccine at an off-campus location and have not provided proof yet, you will need to upload your vaccine information through the health center portal to provide a record to the University. You are urged to do this by December 1, 2021 but required to provide that documentation not later than January 18, 2022.
If you received your vaccine at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center on campus, or if you have previously uploaded your vaccine information through the health center portal, you don’t need to do anything. Your vaccination card is on record with the University.
Please note that individuals who previously uploaded an image of their card/proof may not see the photo if it has already been successfully translated to the vaccination records in the system.Follow these directions to confirm.
If you would prefer for SMU not to locate your record, please check with the provider that administered your vaccine for instructions on how to retrieve your vaccination proof.
Additional information on how to obtain a new vaccination card or other evidence of vaccination also can be found on the CDC website.
What does SMU consider proof of vaccination?
SMU is accepting the following records:
A CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card (white card);
A World Health Organization Vaccine Record Card (yellow card);
Your medical records documenting the vaccination
Immunization records from a public health, state, or tribal health
Documentation of vaccination from the health care or other provider where you received the vaccine
Other official documentation containing the type of vaccine along with the date(s) and name of the health care professional or clinic that administered it
Can I get a vaccine on campus?
Yes. The University is an approved provider to make it as easy as possible for our employees (and their spouses and dependents ages 12 and older) and students to get the vaccine at no cost to them through the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. You can schedule your vaccine with your SMU credentials through the health center portal, or by calling 214-768-2141.
The vaccine is free at all locations. Some providers may charge an administrative fee which is covered by SMU Insurance if the employee is enrolled.
What are the requirements for receiving an accommodation based on medical or religious reasons?
To learn more about how to request an exemption for medical or religious reasons and receive an accommodation from SMU, click here.
How long does it take to find out if my religious/medical accommodation has been granted/denied?
Religious and medical accommodations are being processed by IAE as quickly as possible—many within one to two business days of receiving them. Applicants can ensure a timely response by filling out all the required fields.
What happens if my exemption request has not been granted by the January 18 deadline?
I have already had COVID-19. Do I still have to be vaccinated?
Yes. EO 14042 also applies to individuals who have previously contracted COVID-19.
Isn’t it a HIPAA violation to ask for vaccination status and/or require it?
No. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that the Privacy Rule does not apply to employment records and does not prohibit a person or business from asking whether an individual has received a particular vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines.
What about the legal challenges that have been filed to stop the federal vaccine requirement from going into effect?
SMU is closely following the status of these cases and will comply with any court ruling that would apply to our University. However, because of the narrow timeline to meet the federal requirements, SMU is moving forward with communications and preparation necessary to comply with the executive order by the current January 18, 2022 deadline.
If I am on an approved leave, including but not limited to FMLA, military, maternity, etc., does this requirement still apply to me?
Yes. EO14042 does not exclude individuals on an approved leave. Employees must submit vaccine documentation to the health center portal by January 18, 2022.
If I am terminated due to failure to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, do I qualify for unemployment?
Decisions about who qualifies for unemployment are made by the Texas Workforce Commission.
What if a booster shot is eventually required under the federal mandate?
Currently, the federal vaccine mandate does not require employees to receive a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated. As federal guidelines and mandates change, the University will communicate how these changes affect students, faculty and staff. Vaccinated employees must wear a mask indoors whenever Dallas County has a high or substantial rate of transmission as defined by the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
What steps should faculty take if they choose to require masks in classrooms and instructional spaces?
Faculty have the choice to require masks in their classrooms/instructional spaces for the spring 2022 semester. Faculty need to post this mask requirement to their syllabus and in Canvas at the beginning of the semester and complete this brief survey that will produce an email to the faculty member with the standard language to be used. Additional masks can be obtained within each school from these contacts within the schools if faculty request them.
How do faculty enforce the mask requirement in their classes if they choose to require masks?
You can pick up additional masks through your dean’s office contact. If a student does not wear a mask and you have made the written policy clear in your Canvas syllabus and announcements, you need to first make a verbal request for them to wear a mask. If they continue not to comply, you can ask them to leave class that day and arrange a time to meet with you and/or the chair or associate dean prior to the next class. You should then report the situation to the department chair, who will work with you and, if necessary, with the dean’s office and Provost Office, to provide further direction. Please note that you can add a professionalism grade tied to compliance to your classroom mask policy; however, you cannot add this grade requirement after the start of the term.
If one of my students has a medical condition which prevents them from wearing a mask for extended periods of time, how do they seek an exception if I am requiring it in my classroom?
Students who indicate a medical reason for not wearing a mask must go through the DASS Office for accommodations. Until they have DASS Office approval, which would be communicated to you in the same protocol as all DASS accommodations, they are required to comply with your classroom mask requirement. Faculty should not independently grant accommodations to students or exceptions for mask wearing based on a medical reason.
Can I require masks during office hours with students?
You can request that individuals wear a mask in offices, or arrange to host office hours in a larger space, including outdoors, during regular weekly office hours. You may also offer to meet virtually via Zoom for students who refuse to wear a mask or you can meet via Zoom outside of regular office hours.
Do graduate or professional programs have different mask or vaccine requirements than the undergraduate programs?
Graduate and professional programs are under the same parameters as undergraduate programs within the umbrella of the university guidelines, so the parameters are the same across programs.
Attendance expectations and academic continuity
Do I need to record my classes?
You are required to provide academic continuity. In most cases, recordings are the primary avenue for academic continuity in your area. However, each School or College dean has submitted a list of courses (or course types) that have clear alternative academic continuity plans. If you believe your class (or class type) is on this list, you should contact your chair or associate dean for confirmation. Otherwise, yes, you need to make the recordings available to affected students with these guidelines:
Record your classes for one week or until the student is able to return to class.
Start recording (or activate the alternative continuity plans), starting either from the date of any direct communication from your student, or from the date you receive a Faculty Notification letter that a student in your course has tested positive.
We recommend that you add the following statement to your communications with the student who receives a recording: “Students are prohibited from posting the lecture recordings of in-person classes or syllabi to any external sites.”
Do I have to teach in the “Flex” mode and stand at the podium?
You can continue to teach based on your pedagogical approach. The goal of recordings (and other academic continuity plans) is to provide flexibility and reasonable access to students who cannot be present because of a documented COVID-related illness. This does not require a shift in pedagogy to podium-based instruction. You could, for example, create a solo Zoom (just the faculty member and the camera and microphone) to record the class. This would create a recording that would be shared automatically after the class. Additionally, you could also turn off the camera and create an audio-only lecture that would automatically be uploaded to Panopto. This technology is in place and working today. Additional options for providing this flexibility to augment the required recording can be found at this reminder prepared by CTE.
Who should I contact if I am not familiar with these technology options?
To discuss available options for audio and video recording, please contact the OIT Help Desk or contact your school’s ATSD (listed here) so we can help determine technology options that meet the need.
What guidance is in place if students in my class test positive for COVID-19?
You will receive a Faculty Notification Letter through email from Associate Provost Sheri Kunovich, who works with the Dean of Students and the Health Center to ensure that faculty are notified when they have a student who tests positive for COVID-19. This will provide you with more detailed information about options, including clear directions to work closely with your associate dean to have your questions answered or to develop options.
What if I need to quarantine or isolate?
Faculty should report a positive test case to the employee reporting portal here. The option of taking the class to Zoom temporarily must first be cleared through the dean’s office by contacting the associate dean within each School/College. The associate deans can choose to consult with the chairs in making a determination. Options will vary depending on the situation (e.g., arranging for a substitute; arranging for an in-class facilitator, shifting temporarily to Zoom, etc.). The Associate Deans of each School/College report all temporary shifts to Zoom to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What if I have a significant proportion of students in a class who need to isolate or quarantine?
How do I request additional accommodations for other concerns not addressed above?
As with the previous semesters, faculty with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation on the basis of a disability through the Office of Institutional Access and Equity as outlined in the Needs of Persons with Disabilities Policy (3.2): https://www.smu.edu/IAE. All other quarantine and/or isolation issues due to a positive COVID test or a potentially positive COVID test by either the faculty or a member of the faculty’s household will be managed by the Dean’s Office as described above for temporary solutions.
What if an exam is scheduled during a time period when students need to isolate or quarantine?
This situation may require alternatives for any in-person tests that were scheduled to take place during their period of quarantine or isolation. We ask that you maintain flexibility with the student to help them complete all assignments and exams on their originally scheduled date, assuming that the student is feeling well enough and you are able to find a remote solution.
Remote or virtual options
Can faculty teach virtually for the spring term or the start of the spring term?
Based on SMU’s accreditation status, we are a primarily in-person, on-campus university. Only those programs and classes previously approved for online delivery will be allowed to remain in the online format (e.g., OMBA, Masters in Data Science, etc.). Faculty with a disability may request a reasonable accommodation on the basis of a disability through the Office of Institutional Access and Equity as outlined in the Needs of Persons with Disabilities Policy (3.2): https://www.smu.edu/IAE.
I have undergraduate students who are requesting to take my class virtually. What are my options?
You may allow an undergraduate student to attend synchronously via Zoom for a few class periods if they need to be in Covid-related quarantine or isolation, but you are not required to do so. If any undergraduate student requests to remain on Zoom for longer than a typical isolation or quarantine period, you need to submit a CCC form so that our student support team can reach out to them.
I have graduate students who are requesting to take my class virtually. What are my options?
Contact your dean’s office and contact person for clarification about how your School/College is approaching exemptions for graduate students based on medical or other extenuating circumstances.
May I hold all of my office hours exclusively on Zoom?
We want our students to have an opportunity for in-person office hours. If you request mask wearing in your office and students do not comply, you can move the office hours to Zoom. Also, for additional office hours, Zoom is an option.
Changes in the virus and the University’s response/other questions
What are the plans if case numbers continue to rise? How will the SMU community know about any changes in plans?
The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) meets every week to review information from all campus units, including risk management, academic affairs, student affairs, development and external affairs, legal affairs, etc. They review ongoing changes in the pandemic, including Dallas county, city, state, and local case numbers, hospitalization reports, and vaccination status; SMU community case numbers and self-reported vaccination numbers; governmental orders; federal, state, and local compliance requirements; and student/faculty/staff feedback. Any changes to operations will be announced via email and through the Mustang Strong website.
After reviewing all of this information, if I still have questions, to whom should I reach out?
The University uses the definitions as provided by the CDC. Isolation separates sick people with a contagious disease from people who are not sick. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease and monitors for symptoms. Students living on campus will quarantine in their room and watch for the development of any symptoms.
An individual may not need to quarantine if they’ve been fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.
A member of the contact tracing team will reach out to you if you’ve come into close contact with an individual who has tested positive. Close contact is defined by the CDC as being unvaccinated and within 6 feet of another person for 15 minutes or more who has COVID-19.
Students who have tested positive, or have come into close contact with an individual who has tested positive, should stay home and submit a CCC form. They will receive a phone call from a member of the SMU contact tracing team to discuss symptoms, current living situation, isolation procedures, close contacts and academic support.
Employees who test positive should complete the SMU Health Reporting Form and remain at home. If a dependent tests positive, employees should contact their supervisor for additional instructions.
When medically necessary and consistent with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, testing to diagnose COVID-19 will be covered at 100% regardless of the SMU medical plan you and your family may be covered under. Testing will not be subject to copays or the deductible or co-insurance, and no prior authorization is needed.
Treatment cost-sharing related to COVID-19 has also been waived. Treatment related to COVID-19 includes deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. The waiver applies to costs associated with COVID-19 treatment at in-network facilities and treatment for out-of-network emergencies.
Parents may register for SMU Alert by texting SMUParent to 888777. Visitors may register for SMU Alert by texting SMUVisitor to 888777. Check out the Office of Risk Management site for more information.
faculty, and staff should already be signed up, but may login to my.smu.edu to add/update their SMU Alert contact information.