Labor Day testing available at health center

COVID-19 testing will be available to students, employees, and their families this holiday weekend at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center on Sunday, September 5, and Monday, September 6, from noon to 2:30 p.m.  No appointment is necessary; an SMU ID is required (employees can use their own SMU ID for spouses and dependents). Tests will be administered at the white tent adjacent to the parking area on the north side of the Health Center.   Signs will be posted. 

Update on COVID-19 testing locations for SMU employees

With the return to in-person classes on campus this fall, the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center is providing COVID-19 testing as needed for students and will be unable to accommodate testing for SMU employees beginning on Tuesday, September 7. As offered last year, SMU is still providing access to convenient COVID-19 testing for employees and their families through Virtual Care for Families locations around the DFW area. Click here to book an appointment. Please put “SMU – COVID-19 test” in the reason for visit and click on the “self pay” button. Screening & testing costs are completely covered by SMU.

The closest location to campus is on the corner of Preston Road and Forest Lane. Other locations in Arlington, Frisco, Garland, McKinney and Plano may be convenient to your home or along your commute to and from work. They are open 7-days a week. Locations and maps are listed at the bottom of the appointment page.

Testing is also available free of cost through your SMU benefits at pharmacies, health care providers and testing sites off campus. Testing locations are also listed on the Dallas County and State of Texas websites.

More information on how to get a COVID-19 test is available on the Mustang Strong website.

Read and sign the Pledge to Protect

Dear SMU community,

Please take a moment to read and sign the “Pledge to Protect” to help keep us all Mustang Strong. You may recall that last year, our campus community embraced the “Pledge to Protect” that was developed by a cross sectional group of students, faculty and staff called SMU Community Action Network (SMU CAN) to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We signed and followed it as a reminder of the healthy habits we needed to practice to keep our campus safe.

With the vaccine now available, SMU CAN is continuing its work and has updated the pledge with a focus on the personal responsibilities needed to meet this ongoing challenge.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth Loboa, Ph.D.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

K.C. Mmeje, Ed.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs

A Message from graduate school Dean Quick at the Beginning of the fall term

Dear Graduate Students,

Welcome back to our continuing students, and to our new graduate students: welcome to SMU!  These are difficult times, and I know the recent surge in COVID-19 cases has created challenges for all of you.  You come from many different backgrounds, are at many different stages of life, and have many different living and family situations.  You also occupy many different and important roles at the University—not just taking classes but serving as teaching assistants, performing research, taking part in performances, etc.  Many of the issues you face are different from those of SMU’s undergraduate students, and they matter.  I encourage you to bring any concerns you have about your health and safety to the attention of your program faculty and staff, and especially concerns related to the teaching, research, and other responsibilities you fulfill as part of your program.  For our international students, I understand that many of you are still facing challenges with visa processing and travel delays, and I encourage you to stay in close contact with your program faculty and staff and with the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) office about any difficulties you are facing. 

SMU, like other universities across the country, is adapting to a changing situation in the interest of protecting the health and safety of our community.  I want you to know that University leaders are making decisions in consultation with health experts and local officials according to clear and carefully considered guidelines.  You can find information about the University’s operational levels as well as how the University’s current operational level is determined on the Mustang Strong website and in the 2021 Operations Plan.  As University operations are changing in response to changing conditions, it is important that you are well-informed about the University’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.  I encourage you to pay attention to messages from President Turner and SMU Information, as they will provide the most current updates.  You will find the latest information on the Mustang Strong website.  I will also be sending letters like this one throughout the year to highlight information that is important to you as graduate students.  Below are pieces of information I would like to bring to your attention right now as we begin the fall term together:

Masks Temporarily Required in Public Indoor Spaces:  President Turner recently announced that SMU is temporarily requiring masks in indoor public spaces, regardless of vaccination status.  Please wear a mask (two-ply) over the nose and mouth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers helpful guidance on effective mask-wearing.

COVID-19 Vaccinations Available at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center:  SMU strongly encourages members of the campus community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Many options are available for the administration of the vaccine and the kind you wish to receive.  Please make sure to research each vaccine as well and their potential side effects and warnings before scheduling an appointment.  More information on the Pfizer vaccine, which has now received full FDA approval, and on the other vaccines approved in the U.S. through Emergency Use Authorization can be found on the CDC’s website.  COVID-19 vaccinations are available to all members of the SMU community (ages 12 and older) and are now being administered inside the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.  All current and incoming students, SMU employees and their eligible spouse/dependents can book a vaccination appointment through the SMU Health Portal or by calling the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center at 214-768-2141 (option 1).

Reporting Your COVID-19 Vaccination Status:  If you were vaccinated on campus, your information will automatically be uploaded into your health record under immunizations (no action is necessary).  Ifyou were vaccinated off campus, please upload that information directly to the SMU Health Portal, even if you already voluntarily shared your status through the vaccine reporting tool last spring.  One good reason to report:  if you show you are fully vaccinated at the time of an exposure, you are not considered a close contact and do not need to quarantine.

COVID-19 Testing:  If you have been exposed or have symptoms, COVID-19 testing is also available at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.  Appointments are required.  Students who test positive must complete a Caring Community Connections (CCC) Form to report their status.

Contact Tracing Continuing in the Fall:  All individuals testing positive for COVID-19 are contacted and confidentially interviewed to identify people who came into close contact with the infected individual.  University employees from Human Resources, Student Affairs, Athletics and Campus Services are trained on contract tracing through Johns Hopkins University and follow county, state and federal guidelines.  The trace assesses the class schedule, living situation, activities, work locations including offices and job sites, face-to-face meetings and any other situations that may have resulted in close contact from two days before the onset of symptoms or testing (if asymptomatic).  More information about contact tracing and case management can be found in the 2021 Operations Plan.

Student Emergency Fund:  Students experiencing financial hardship or food insecurity may request support from the Student Emergency Fund. To initiate the application process, please complete a Caring Community Connections (CCC) form for yourself and select “economic hardship” at the very bottom.  An application for support from the Student Emergency Fund will then be sent to you.  Your application will be reviewed and a decision made on support that can be provided in 3-5 business days.  Please be aware that these funds are limited.  The Student Emergency Fund also does not provide support for tuition or student fees.  We are striving to meet urgent needs as best we can, but we will not be able to fulfill all requests or to provide the level of support requested in all cases.

SMU Libraries Are Open:  All campus libraries are now open, including Bridwell Library, which had been closed for renovations.  Current information about locations and hours for SMU Libraries can be found on the Libraries website.

As always, if there is anything I or my staff can assist you with, you are welcome to reach out to us by emailing smugrad@smu.edu or calling 214-768-4345.  If we are not able to assist you, we will direct you to the appropriate office to address your issue.  We are glad to have you here with us for the fall semester at SMU, and we wish you all success in your studies this academic year. 

Sincerely,

James E. Quick

Dean

Moody School of Graduate and Advanced Studies

Vaccination and mask requirement update

August 24, 2021

Dear SMU community,

It is heartening to learn that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine has received full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA endorsement should bolster confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, which will hopefully lead to an increase in vaccinations. Getting the vaccine remains the best way to protect your health and that of your fellow Mustangs.

SMU will continue to strongly encourage everyone to get the vaccine, but will not require it at this time. Besides considering federal approval, SMU generally follows state health laws for requiring vaccinations for entering students. We will closely monitor local, state and federal health recommendations and guidance following this important federal approval and work to make sure our new students and others in our community know how quick and easy it is to get the vaccine right here on campus.

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center currently has about 1,500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine available for students, faculty, staff, employees’ spouses and dependents (age 12 and older) and campus strategic partners. Limited supplies of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson and Moderna (second and third doses only) vaccines are also available. The health center currently offers third doses for moderately to severely immunocompromised individuals who are fully vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, and will provide booster shots to others when they are approved and available.

We have also transitioned to a new way of voluntarily reporting your COVID-19 vaccination through the SMU Health Portal which is maintained by the health center. The portal gives students and employees convenient access to this important health record and should provide a better estimate of our campus vaccination rate. If you received the vaccine at the health center, it was automatically recorded. If you got it at an off-campus location, please take a few minutes to upload your vaccine card, even if you used the previous reporting tool.

Some of you have asked how long SMU will maintain the temporary mask requirement. Based upon the upward trend in COVID-19 cases that occurred as students arrived on campus last fall and spring, we will continue to require masks indoors for at least the first few weeks of this semester. After that, we will review the situation on a weekly basis using our assessment tool to measure the impact of the pandemic on our campus while taking into consideration the most up-to-date health guidance from local, state and federal authorities. Factors such as the number of cases at SMU and in the county; infection and vaccination rates; local hospitalizations; and campus isolation capacity will help determine when the mask requirement should be lifted.

It is such a pleasure to see the campus filled with excitement and activity as we begin this new academic year. Let’s continue to do our part to stay Mustang Strong.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

SMU President

Important Message from the SMU Dean of Students

August 16, 2021

Dear Mustangs,

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.

Pony Up!

Melinda J. Sutton, Ph.D.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Message to students and families about fall 2021 plans

Dear students and families,

We are excited to welcome you to the Hilltop and want to share what to expect before you arrive. We are returning to a traditional semester, with some exceptions, in order to maintain a healthy and safe campus. Our faculty and staff are eagerly awaiting you and looking forward to engaging you in interactive class learning and vibrant campus life.

Rest assured that we are moving forward with careful consideration of the changing pandemic conditions in North Texas, and are continually assessing the impact to our community.

Here is some insight into how we manage the pandemic at SMU: We have an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) that closely monitors the virus trends and meets regularly with local health authorities to determine the best path for our University. This group uses key data points such as local infection and hospitalization rates as well as campus-specific information on cases, isolation capacity and vaccination reports to guide its recommendations. We know what has worked in the past, and can pivot quickly to contingency plans, if necessary.

Mask update

Effective tomorrow, August 12, SMU is temporarily requiring masks (two or more layers covering the nose and mouth) in indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms, event and meeting spaces, and common areas in all buildings and residential halls regardless of vaccination status. Masks are not required in private spaces such as residence hall rooms for students with roommates. 

All events, such as Convocation and orientation, should continue as planned with masks being used indoors. This requirement is a temporary precaution during the Delta variant surge to supplement our other pandemic protocols. We will continue to monitor and review industry-specific guidance and recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health authorities in order to make the best decisions for our community.

COVID-19 vaccinations and testing

We strongly encourage you to get the vaccine to protect yourselves, your loved ones and our SMU community. We offer vaccinations and testing right on our campus at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. I am grateful to the students and employees who have received the vaccine and voluntarily reported their vaccination status. We believe that many more are vaccinated than have reported, and are reaching out to students and employees to encourage them to report through the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center so we have a better estimate of our campus vaccination rates.

In-person learning

We are no longer offering virtual classes and look forward to having you in class and at campus events.

Contact tracing, isolation and quarantining

We continue our essential pandemic protocols such as contact tracing and case management to identify and offer resources to those who test positive for COVID-19.

For our residential students, we have set aside 44 double-occupancy rooms for isolation spaces and will provide delivery of food for three meals a day during the required 10-day stay for positive cases. A quarantine will also be required for those identified as a close contact of a positive case unless the student demonstrates proof of vaccination.Residential students can choose to isolate and quarantine on campus or at another location of their choice. An easy way to show proof of vaccination is to upload an image of your vaccine card to a secure online portal at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. If you are a returning student who was vaccinated last year on campus, that vaccination will be automatically added to your record.

Thank you for putting your trust in SMU. We understand that you may have continued concerns about the pandemic, and urge you to make decisions that support your health and the health of others, including getting the vaccine and wearing a mask. We also ask that all our community members support one another and promote a culture of respect.

Please check our Mustang Strong website for the latest updates and answers to questions about our campus response to COVID-19. Also, watch for upcoming Mustang Strong newsletters for quick reminders.

Pony Up! We’ll see you soon.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

SMU President

Message to faculty and staff about fall 2021 plans

Dear faculty and staff,

As the COVID-19 situation in North Texas remains highly dynamic, our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) will meet twice a week and remains vigilant regarding the local impact. As a reminder, some members of the EOC also meet regularly with Dallas County health officials and Dr. Robert Haley, our consulting epidemiologist, to review current trends in the area and on our campus. In addition, every week for the past year, the EOC has used key data points such as the Dallas County infection rate, hospitalizations and cases, along with SMU-specific data such as isolation capacity, cases, and, now, vaccine status reports, to recommend the operational level for the campus. Their recommendations are not made hastily, and we appreciate the hours they have poured into keeping us safe.

You may have heard that some local public school districts are considering temporary mask requirements. Along similar lines, we heard the concerns you expressed at the town hall and in your submitted questions. This was followed by the Faculty Senate’s approval of three resolutions on Tuesday regarding vaccines, masking and air quality. We continue to review air quality and vaccination issues with necessary staff and will make further announcements as soon as possible.

Your safety – that of our faculty, staff and students – is our highest priority. Effective tomorrow, August 12, we will implement a temporary requirement of masks (two or more layers covering the nose and mouth) in indoor spaces on campus, including classrooms, event and meeting spaces, and commons areas in all buildings and residential halls, regardless of vaccination status. We will follow a mask protocol similar to the one we followed earlier this year; for example, masks are not required in private spaces such as inside an office or partitioned cubicle for employees, or inside an individual residence hall room for roommates. 

All events, including Convocation, orientation, campaign kickoff and others, should continue as planned with masks being used indoors. Events held on campus by outside groups and visitors to campus will need to comply with this mask requirement as well. This requirement is a temporary precaution during the delta variant surge to supplement our other pandemic protocols. We will continue to monitor and review industry-specific guidance and recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state public health authorities in order to make the best decision for our community.

I recently sent this message to students and parents to describe what to expect when they arrive and reinforce our safety messages: the importance of getting vaccinated, sharing if they have received the vaccine and the new masking requirement. This will be followed by more detailed information in our Mustang Strong newsletters as well as outreach by our various units.

At our town hall last week, we were able to answer a few questions, but received many more prior to and during the meeting. As a result, the Mustang Strong website has been updated with dozens of new FAQs to address your questions.

Thanks to those of you who have received the vaccine and for your commitment to the safety of our campus. I encourage anyone who has not been vaccinated to get vaccinated to protect yourself, your loved ones and our community. Also, please let us know by uploading your vaccine card to the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center so you have easy access to it and to help the University estimate vaccination rates on campus.

I appreciate your dedication to our mission. Students are eagerly anticipating SMU’s excellent learning and classroom interactions, as well as our vibrant campus life. You make that possible each and every day, and I am proud to stand alongside you to welcome our students back this fall.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

Voluntary vaccine reporting tool moved to SMU’s Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

SMU Community,

As we prepare for the fall semester, SMU has transitioned to a new way of voluntarily reporting your COVID-19 vaccination status. The vaccine reporting tool previously located on the Mustang Strong website has now moved to the SMU Health Portal and is maintained by the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.

If you were vaccinated on campus, your information will automatically be uploaded into your health record under immunizations (no action is necessary).

However, if you were vaccinated off campus, we ask that you now upload that information directly to the SMU Health Portal, even if you already voluntarily shared your status through the vaccine reporting tool last spring.

Here are the steps to do that:

1. Login to the SMU Health Portal using your SMU credentials.

2. Click “Enter my COVID-19 vaccine information” on the portal’s main home screen.

3. In the appropriate fields, enter the vaccine you received and the dates they were administered.

4. Upload a photo of your COVID-19 vaccine card.

5. Click “Done.”

Reporting your vaccination information through the SMU Health Portal provides you with easy access to this important record, in case you are identified during contact tracing. 

You can always view your COVID-19 vaccination record at the Health Center via the Health Center portal. Reporting your vaccine is a voluntary submission of information that helps SMU make informed decisions regarding any additional changes to its operations and on-campus activities.

COVID-19 Vaccinations Available on Campus

SMU is strongly encouraging members of our community to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Taking this important step remains the best measure for protecting your health and that of your fellow Mustangs.

Both the Johnson & Johnson (one dose) and Pfizer (two dose) vaccines are offered at the Health Center. Additionally, second doses of Pfizer are available for individuals who may have gotten their first Pfizer dose elsewhere.

All current and incoming students as well as SMU employees and their spouse/dependents age 12 and older are eligible. Please schedule your vaccination appointment through our health portal. If you do not have access to the portal please call the Health Center at 214-768-2141 (option 1) to schedule an appointment.

Thank you for doing all you can to help keep us Mustang Strong, and we wish everyone a healthy and successful start to the new academic year!

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

SMU fall 2021 COVID-19 guidelines

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

SMU looks forward to welcoming students, faculty and staff for the upcoming fall academic semester next month. Preparations continue for a safe return to regular operations, in-person instruction and full campus activities. However, it is important to balance the desire to embrace a traditional college setting with the need to maintain healthy behaviors to keep the virus spread under control.  

Faculty may require masks

Masks will not be required at SMU for fall 2021, with a few exceptions. Individuals will continue to have the option to wear a mask anywhere and at any time on campus if they choose.

After reviewing the latest guidance from federal, state and local health authorities, as well as input from the University’s Emergency Operations Center, SMU’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee and the President’s Executive Council, SMU will allow faculty members to seek an exception to the campus no-mask policy in their classrooms through a process that includes advance notice to their department chairs, deans and the provost’s office. Instructors must clearly define their classroom mask requirements and how they will be enforced in the course syllabuses prior to the start of classes. The provost’s office will provide more details on the classroom mask exception in the coming weeks.

Additionally, the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center and public transportation to campus operated by DART may still require masks to comply with local and federal regulations. 

Vaccinations encouraged

More than 161 million people have been fully vaccinated in the United States. Texas Health and Human Services reports that almost 60% of the state population and more than half of Dallas County residents have received the vaccine. Residence Life and Student Housing recently surveyed new and returning students who will live in University-owned housing in the fall. Of the 80% who responded to the survey, more than 84% self-reported that they are fully or partially vaccinated, or intend to be vaccinated soon.

SMU continues to strongly encourage, but not require, members of the campus community to get vaccinated and is making it convenient to receive the vaccine or get tested for COVID-19 on campus. Vaccination continues to be the most effective measure an individual can take to keep learning and working without disruption or illness.

Vaccines and testing reminders

While the COVID-19 vaccines have proven to be safe and effective, including against the emerging variants, breakthrough cases are expected. Evidence indicates that vaccinations may make the illness less severe, less likely to require hospitalization and harder to spread. COVID-19 vaccinations are available at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center for current and incoming students, and for SMU employees and their eligible spouse/dependents. Book an appointment through the health portal or by calling 214-768-2141 (Option 1). After receiving the vaccine, please record your status in the voluntary vaccination reporting tool. 

The health center also provides COVID-19 testing for students and employees, but appointments are required, so call first at 214-768-2141 to schedule one. Employees also can receive a test at any DFW area Virtual Care for Families location. 

Contact tracing and case reporting

Contact tracing will continue at SMU this fall, and individuals who contract COVID-19 will be asked to identify their close contacts. Campus community members who test positive or are close contacts of a positive case must report that information through the SMU Health Reporting form for employees or the CCC form for students.  Remember that a person is not considered a close contact if they are fully vaccinated. Quarantine will be required for those who are unvaccinated should they be exposed to the virus.

Take preventive measures

SMU continues to place the highest priority on the health and well-being of our campus community and expects everyone to practice good preventive hygiene and regularly monitor their health.

For more information, please continue to check the Mustang Strong website or scan the QR Code on signs posted at the entrances of campus buildings.

COVID-19 reminders for July term

As SMU moves into Summer Session II (July term), it’s important to maintain a healthy campus by diligently following SMU’s current COVID-19 protocols.

Here are some reminders.

  • Masks may be required by faculty in their classrooms. Instructors will notify students prior to the start of class in their course syllabus. A decision about mask requirements for fall will be made within the next few weeks.
  • For more information, please check the Mustang Strong website or scan the QR Code on signs posted at the entrances of campus buildings.

Summer COVID-19 vaccinations and testing at the health center

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center continues to offer COVID-19 vaccinations and COVID-19 testing for members of the SMU community during the summer months. The Health Center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Vaccinations

COVID-19 vaccinations are available to all current and incoming students, SMU employees and their spouses/dependents. An appointment is required and may be scheduled through the health portal or by calling the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center at 214-768-2141 (option 1).

SMU strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The vaccine has shown to be safe and highly effective at protecting against COVID-19 and preventing its spread.

Vaccinations moving inside the Health Center

The vaccination tent will be removed on Monday, June 21. Moving forward COVID-19 vaccinations will be administered to patients inside the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. As a reminder, face coverings are required inside the Health Center.

Accessing your immunization record

If you or a family member received your COVID-19 vaccine at SMU, a record of the vaccination is maintained by the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. Individuals can access their vaccination records online at any time, through the health portal by following these instructions.

Vaccine Reporting

After receiving the vaccine, please remember to fill out the self-reporting tool on the Mustang Strong vaccine page. Your voluntary submission of this information is critically important to manage the health and safety of our community, and helps inform future decisions about additional operational changes to the campus.

Testing

COVID-19 testing is available at the Health Center for SMU students, faculty, staff and their dependents . Call 214-768-2141 to schedule an appointment.

June COVID-19 campus updates and reminders

May 27, 2021

Dear SMU Community Member,

As SMU moves toward a fully in-person semester this fall, updates and modifications will be communicated during the summer months. Most of the changes were already shared in a letter from President Turner and are detailed in the “operations at a glance” grid that accompanied it. Here are some updates and reminders for Summer I – June term:

SMU moves to “low” operational level

After following guidelines under the University’s COVID-19 operational levels of “high” or “moderate” for more than a year, on June 1 the campus will move to “low,” which means a return to near regular activities. This designation means vaccines are widely available and infection rates are low, allowing prevention practices to be gradually lifted. The full, updated 2021 COVID-19 Operations Plan and other information about campus pandemic resources and responses can be viewed on the Mustang Strong website.

Restrictions lifted on domestic travel

Domestic travel for University-sanctioned activities is moving to Phase 4. Restrictions are no longer in place for students or employees traveling for academic and extracurricular purposes that are sanctioned by SMU. For international travel details, please visit the Global Preparedness & Response page.

Masks and distancing

Campus buildings are returning to regular occupancy levels. Instructors will notify students attending in-person prior to the start of class and include information in their course syllabus if masks are required in their classrooms.

Signs on campus about masks and distancing are being replaced with new signage displaying a QR Code that links to the most up-to-date COVID-19 requirements on campus. While masks are no longer required in campus buildings or offices, some people may not be vaccinated and/or may choose to wear a mask for their own protection and that of others. Please be respectful of individual responses to pandemic health concerns.

Vaccine and testing on campus

SMU strongly encourages students and employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center continues to offer the one-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine as well as the Pfizer vaccine, as an alternative, for the campus community and SMU employee dependents (age 12 and up).

Vaccines will continue to be available by appointment from the Health Center throughout the summer. The SMU Vaccination Tent will be removed in mid-June and all vaccines will be administered in the Health Center. After receiving the vaccine – whether on campus or at another location – please record your status in the self-reporting tool on the vaccine page of the Mustang Strong website. Submitting this information is voluntary and helpful in managing the health and safety of the SMU community.

The health center will also continue to offer COVID-19 testing for students and employees over the summer. The on-campus drive-thru test site at Expressway Towers will close on May 28, but employees can still get free tests at other Virtual Care for Families locations around the DFW area.

SMU faculty, staff, and students who test positive for COVID-19 or are close contacts of a known-positive case, must report that information to the University. Employees can utilize the SMU Health Reporting form. Students should submit a CCC form. Links to both forms are also on the Mustang Strong website.

Case count dashboard/symptom checker email

The COVID-19 dashboard that displays case counts and isolation/quarantine numbers has recorded no new cases since May 4. Updates to the site dashboard will move from daily to weekly – every Thursday – while the counts remain low.

The daily symptom checker will no longer be emailed, but students and employees should continue to monitor their health and get a COVID-19 test, if needed.

For more information

As the campus makes this transition to regular operations, please check the Mustang Strong website frequently for the latest updates and more information about SMU’s response to COVID-19.

SMU lifts mask requirements for campus

Dear SMU community,

SMU is no longer requiring masks to be worn on campus with a few exceptions. The mask requirement is lifted immediately except in classrooms and the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. Masks will continue to be required in all classrooms for the duration of the current term which concludes on May 28.

Starting with the June term, faculty will have the discretion to require masks in their instructional spaces (classrooms, labs, etc.) as well as during research activities. Faculty members will communicate this information prior to the start of the course and include a clear statement about the classroom mask requirement in their syllabus. Masks must still be worn in the health center in accordance with state requirements for health care facilities.

The President’s Executive Council (PEC) made this decision after considering input from SMU’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). Medical guidance and a sharp reduction in COVID-19 cases on and off campus, including no new cases, isolations or quarantines reported at SMU since May 5, contributed to this decision.

As SMU continues to make the transition toward regular campus operations this fall, it is important to recognize that some people in our community may not be vaccinated and/or may choose to wear a mask for their own protection and that of others. Please continue to show respect for individual decisions and responses to the health concerns of the pandemic.

For an updated timeline of the mask requirements and other modifications in campus safety protocols, click here.  

Convenient, one-dose J&J vaccine now available at Health Center

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center is now offering the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine for the campus community.

Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the J&J vaccine only requires one dose and is an especially convenient for individuals who need to be fully vaccinated before traveling. The J&J vaccine is approved for individuals 18 years of age and older. Please follow this link to schedule an appointment. 

The Health Center will continue to offer the Pfizer vaccine upon request and for dependents of SMU employees who are 12 years of age and older.

Accessing your immunization record

If you received your COVID-19 vaccine at SMU, a record of your vaccination is maintained by the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. You are able to access your vaccination record online at any time, and print it for your use, through the Health Portal by following these instructions.

Vaccine self-reporting tool

If you are a current SMU faculty, student or staff member, and you’ve already received your partial or full COVID-19 vaccination series, please fill out the self-reporting tool on the Mustang Strong’s vaccine page.

Your voluntary submission of this information is critically important to manage the health and safety of the SMU community. This information will be used to assess the quantity of vaccines SMU will request from the State of Texas, and may also help inform decisions about additional operational changes to the campus.

Vaccinations For SMU Dependents As Young As 12 Now Available At Health Center

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center is now offering the Pfizer vaccine for dependents of SMU employees who are 12 years of age and older.

Both the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently approved expanded usage of the Pfizer vaccine in children as young as 12.

You can schedule a vaccination appointment for your dependent through the Health Center Portal using your SMU credentials or by calling 214-768-2141. A parent or guardian must be physically present during the vaccination of a minor.

Accessing your immunization record

If you received your COVID-19 vaccine at SMU, a record of your vaccination is maintained by the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. You are able to access your vaccination record online at any time, and print it for your use, through the Health Center Portal by following these instructions.

President Turner Outlines Summer and Fall Plans

Dear SMU Community,

As the semester comes to a close, excitement is building for what lies ahead. We have nearly completed a full school year in the midst of a global pandemic. And we made the most of it – successfully continuing the high-quality education and engaging campus life for which SMU is known.

Now our focus turns toward preparing for a regular semester this fall. In January, we announced our plans to resume normal, in-person instruction by then. During the upcoming weeks and months, you will see modifications in our campus operations as we systematically and carefully make that transition.

This is a good time to move forward. The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center has delivered more than 2,500 vaccinations – the majority of them to students – and will continue to offer first doses with follow-up shots throughout the summer and fall. Anyone who chooses to be vaccinated has the opportunity. Many of you have already received the vaccine through SMU’s health partners or other locations as our community joined in the broader effort to stop the spread of the virus.

The drastic decline in the number of SMU cases demonstrates the current health of our campus. The Mustang Strong COVID-19 dashboard has recorded fewer than a dozen cases a day for the past month, with single-digit numbers of people in quarantine or isolation. Dallas County case numbers also remain very low, as do hospitalizations. While this is a promising trend, we are taking nothing for granted. Along with our reduced restrictions, we are also preparing a contingency plan in case it’s needed.

Over the summer, we will gradually move to normal occupancy limits in all spaces across campus and lessen other restrictions as appropriate while continuing to closely monitor federal and state health recommendations. You can view the full list of changes and their timelines below.

X = activity/procedure will take place

Additional information concerning fall operations will be provided over the summer months.

I hope you are encouraged, as I am, by our University’s campuswide response to this world-changing situation. We worked together and kept going. Now, let’s look forward to a more traditional fall on the Hilltop­­. Pony Up and stay Mustang Strong.

R. Gerald Turner

SMU President

Amazon Gift Card Opportunity from SMU

Update: The offer detailed below expired on Saturday, May 15, 2021. While returning students are still encouraged to voluntarily update their vaccine status through the same portal, the Amazon gift card incentive is no longer available.

April 27, 2021

Dear Mustang,

Greetings from the Office of the Dean of Students! I hope your spring semester is wrapping up successfully and you are looking forward to some well-deserved rest and rejuvenation.

As you know, SMU is reviewing operations and making plans. Having a good understanding of how many members of our campus community have been vaccinated will help inform key operational decisions for the summer and fall terms.

Therefore – and through consultation with SMU CAN, SMU is offering a one-time $10 electronic Amazon gift card to students in appreciation for registering their COVID-19 vaccine status in the self-reporting tool on the Mustang Strong vaccine page.

We appreciate your taking the time to participate. You’ll be asked:

  • if you have received one or both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine
  • plan to get the vaccine eventually
  • are undecided
  • do not intend to receive it

CLICK HERE TO PARTICIPATE NOW

Once you have completed the reporting tool, you will receive the e-gift card regardless of your response and vaccine intention. Please watch your SMU email address for an Amazon email with a Mustang Strong logo.

You are also eligible for this thank you gift if you already reported your vaccine status on the Mustang Strong vaccine page. You will receive an email asking if you would like to receive the one-time $10 Amazon e-gift card for your response. Just reply “yes” and watch for it to arrive in your inbox.

SMU is planning for our traditional in-person classes and on-campus activities this fall with a continued commitment to the health and safety of our students and employees. Thank you for doing your part in helping SMU stay Mustang Strong.

Pony Up!

Melinda J. Sutton, Ph.D.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

and Dean of Students

Moderna Vaccine Availability at Urgent Care for Kids Clinics for SMU Employees and Dependents

Dear SMU Employees-

Our partners at Urgent Care for Kids have notified us that they are providing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at two of their DFW clinic locations: Plano and Alliance (Ft. Worth).  The Moderna vaccine is approved for individuals who are 18 years of age or older.

SMU employees and their dependents who wish to receive the vaccine should visit the Urgent Care for Kids website to register for an appointment. Book your appointment as soon as possible as vaccine supplies are limited.

If you have already received a partial or full COVID-19 vaccination series, please complete the self-reporting tool on the Mustang Strong’s vaccine page.

Your voluntary submission of this information is critically important to manage the health and safety of the SMU community. This information will be used to assess the quantity of vaccines SMU will request from the State of Texas, and may also help inform decisions about operational changes to the campus.

We express our gratitude to Urgent Care for Kids for providing our employees with another option to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

SMU Human Resources

First-dose Vaccines Still Available to SMU Community

Dear SMU Community,

A limited number of first doses of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine are still available this week at the SMU vaccination site for students, faculty and staff, as well as benefits-eligible spouses and dependents. Retired SMU employees are also now eligible to receive the first dose of the vaccine on campus.

First Dose Scheduling

If you are a current student, faculty or staff member registering for your first dose, please follow this link to reserve a time that will work for your schedule as soon as possible.

Individuals without SMU credentials (SMU ID number), should go to this portal to make an appointment. If you have any difficulties, please contact the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center at 214- 768-2141.

If you will be leaving the campus at the end of the semester, please schedule your appointment as soon as possible to allow time to receive the second dose in three weeks as recommended or make alternative plans to receive it elsewhere.

Second Dose Scheduling

If you got your first vaccine during the initial distribution from March 29­ through April 5, it’s time to schedule your second one. Following the recommended 21-day timing, registration is currently available through April 26 for your second dose. A separate invitation will be sent next week to individuals who received their first dose on or after Friday, April 9.

Appointment Information

Both first and second doses of the vaccine are administered by appointment only at the vaccination site on the northwest side of the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. Please bring a physical copy of your vaccine record card and a photo ID with you at your scheduled time. More information about your appointment, including parking information, is available on this page.

Vaccine Reporting

Once you are fully vaccinated, please remember to fill out the self-reporting tool on the Mustang Strong vaccine page. Your voluntary submission is critical to helping the University assess campus operational changes and vaccine quantities to request from the state of Texas.

Vaccine Appointments Still Available On Campus

April 12, 2021

Dear SMU Community,

Appointments are still open for current SMU students, faculty, adjunct instructors and staff to receive their COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine at the on-campus vaccination site.

Scheduling is easy through the registration portal, and the vaccination process is fast, with most appointments sailing through in about 20 minutes.

These open slots, primarily available Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, are for individuals who have not started their vaccine treatment. If you’ve received a first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine elsewhere, please reach out to your initial provider about scheduling your second dose.

Completed your first shot? Fully vaccinated? Remember to fill out the reporting tool to help the University determine how many vaccines to request and make informed decisions about operational changes to the campus.

HEERF II – Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA)

SMU Distributes $2.3 million in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF II) as authorized by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA)

Direct payments will support low-income undergraduate and graduate students

SMU is directing an additional $2.3 million in funds from the Federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSAA) to support over 1800 undergraduate and graduate students with high financial need.  This money from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF II) is the second major financial relief package specifically for high need students facing significant financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Similar to the HEERF I disbursements, this one-time payment of either $1,500 or $1,000 will go to students who have the greatest financial need as demonstrated on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The larger grants will go to those students eligible for the federal Pell Grant or with an equivalent Expected Family Contribution (EFC).

These funds are intended to help SMU’s most financially vulnerable students with expenses associated with disruptions from the pandemic, including expenses resulting from a loss of employment, travel restrictions, and unexpected changes in housing as well as remaining tuition and fee charges.  

Eligible students will receive emails from both SMU and Chase Bank with instructions for using Chase QuickPay® to receive funds. All eligible students with a U.S. bank account can access money through Chase QuickPay® regardless of which bank they use. 

Eligible students must be currently enrolled at SMU as of March 29, 2021, and must have received need-based aid or a Federal/State loan for the Spring 2021 term.  This aid could include need-based grants, federal loans or earnings from the federal or state college work study program. 

SMU recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to create a financial burden for the families of many students who do not necessarily qualify for federal aid.  Students with additional needs should complete a request for emergency funding through Caring Community Connections (CCC).

Alumni and friends who wish to donate money to support students impacted by hardships surrounding COVID-19 may give to the Presidential Fund for Immediate Needs.

If you have additional questions about the CRRSAA-HEERF II financial relief package, please see HEERF Frequently Asked Questions page or contact the Division of Enrollment Services at enrol_serv@smu.edu or 214-768-3417.

HEERF Frequently Asked Questions

General HEERF FAQ’s

What does HEERF stand for? 

HEERF is an acronym for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. 

How will I receive the HEERF funds?

HEERF Funds will be distributed directly to students through Chase Bank’s QuickPay®.  Funds will not be disbursed to your SMU student account.  You will be required to set up a Chase QuickPay® account if you have not done so already.  However, you are NOT required to have a valid checking or savings account with Chase Bank in order to use the QuickPay®service.  Anyone with a U.S. bank account can receive money through Chase QuickPay® regardless of which bank they use.  When funds are ready, you will receive an email from SMU and a separate email from Chase with instructions on how to accept the funds.

What is a Federal EFC and where can I find mine? 

Your Federal EFC, or Expected Family Contribution, is calculated as part of the FAFSA process and is used to determine eligibility for need-based federal, state, and institutional aid programs.  The EFC can be found on the Student Aid Report (SAR) that the student receives after filing the FAFSA.  To view your Federal EFC or view your full Student Aid Report, go to the FAFSA website, www.FAFSA.gov.  

What if I don’t have a U.S. bank account or can’t complete the QuickPay® setup process? 

QuickPay® is the easiest and by far the fastest way to receive your money.  If you don’t have a U.S. bank account or encounter other problems, contact the Division of Enrollment Services at enrol_serv@smu.edu or 214-768-3417.

Can I have the funds applied to the balance on my SMU student account or toward summer/fall tuition?

You will receive the payment directly through Chase QuickPay®.  If you wish, you may then use that money to make a payment to your SMU student account with SMUpay.

I did not qualify for funds under the HEERF I or HEERF II programs, but I still need help with expenses directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Are there any other funds available to help people like me? 

SMU recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating a financial burden for many of our students and their families.  There are additional sources of assistance available to students who did not necessarily qualify for HEERF assistance, but continue to experience financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Student’s with additional needs should contact the Office of Financial Aid to determine eligibility for emergency assistance from programs that are not funded through HEERF.

In addition, the Office of Student Support is also accepting requests for emergency funds though the Caring Community Connections (CCC) program. 

Are HEERF grants considered to be taxable income?

It is our understanding that HEERF funds are not counted as Estimated Financial Assistance, taxable income, or untaxed income.  However, students should refer to irs.gov for guidance and latest information on emergency relief given through educational institutions. 

Who do I contact with additional questions about the HEERF funding? 

Questions related to HEERF funding should be directed to the Division of Enrollment Services at enrol_serv@smu.edu

More Vaccines Coming to SMU Vaccination Site

SMU is receiving another round of the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for distribution to our University community through the vaccination site near the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. Once again, all SMU faculty, staff and students are eligible.

Vaccination appointments are by appointment only on a first-come, first-serve basis. Online registration is now open to schedule vaccinations beginning on Friday, April 9.

This additional supply, a transfer allotment from Dallas County, is 1,170 “first doses” of the Pfizer vaccine, along with an equal number of “second doses” to provide required follow-up shots in 21 days.

Please use this registration link to schedule a vaccination appointment. The registration button is also on the Mustang Strong vaccine page along with information about what to expect on the day of your appointment. If you have trouble registering, reach out to the Help Desk at 8-HELP (4357). Here is some additional information for your consideration:

  • Students who are planning to leave at the end of the semester should make their first dose appointment by April 16 in order to receive a second dose on campus at (or by the CDC recommended follow-up date).
  • If you have received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at SMU’s vaccination site, you’ll be contacted soon to schedule your second dose.
  • SMU does not currently have second-dose vaccines available for individuals who have already received their first shot at another location. If your first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine was administered elsewhere, please reach out to your initial vaccine provider to complete your treatment.
  • Spouses and dependents of SMU employees are not currently eligible to register but will have an opportunity at a later date

In addition to the on-campus vaccination site, all SMU students, staff and faculty may also register for the vaccine through the Methodist Health System. Once you receive your vaccine, remember to fill out the reporting tool, which will help the University determine how many vaccines to request and inform decisions about operational changes to the campus.

Even if you have received a vaccine, please continue to follow all safety measures as you finish out the spring semester. Wear your mask, practice social distancing and wash your hands often. Pony up and Stay Mustang Safe.

SMU Connected: Enrollment Begins Next Week

It’s time to plan for the upcoming May, summer and fall terms at SMU. Enrollment begins next week as we work to safely transition over the summer to a more normal semester this fall with in-person classes and more campus events and activities.  Here’s what you need to know to get started:

Fall 2021 Enrollment

  • Make sure to clear your holds to make sure you don’t face any obstacles to enrollment.
  • Confirm your enrollment appointments in my.smu.
  • Use the new Schedule Builder feature in the Student Dashboard to design the best schedule for you. Check out this quick video for a peek at what you can expect. For detailed instructions for your important tasks, you can visit our Student Essentials page at smu.edu/OIT/Services/mySMU/StudentEssentials.
  • Spring 2021 remote student status ends on May 14.
  • More information about Fall 2021 remote status­–for a small number of students under certain circumstances, such as barriers to international travel– will be forthcoming as we receive more guidance from the Department of Education, Centers for Disease Control, and local health authorities.

May and All Summer 2021 Enrollment

Virtual and SMUFlex classes

  • Courses are identified in my.smu.edu as “Virtual” because they have a facility ID of “Virtual” assigned to them and as “SMUFlex” because they have a room assigned to them.
  • Students can choose to enroll in any combination of Virtual and SMUFlex classes for all summer sessions. (Note: For May-term, students can only enroll in one class.)
  • Students are expected to attend every class meeting regardless of Virtual or SMUFlex modality. Students who need to miss class for COVID-related reasons will be able to access recorded lectures within 48 hours.

Virtual classes.

  • Virtual classes will continue to be held with the same guidelines as in the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021, including at least 2/3 of the contact hours to be delivered synchronously.
  • All students and faculty are in a virtual environment.

SMUFlex classes.

  • Remote status. Students who do not wish to attend in person must notify SMU that they want to be “Remote” for the summer on or before the week prior to the first day of classes. Reasons for requesting “remote” status can include COVID-related concerns as well as non-COVID reasons (e.g., geographic flexibility, pursuing internships, etc.). We will provide a notification link to those enrolled in May and summer courses at the end of April and students will be able to update their status during the summer.
  • Students’ status as “Remote” will be available on the course rosters and faculty will expect you to attend via Zoom with your screens on.
  • Faculty can require that students who are not coded as “Remote” to attend in person unless they have specific documentation that they are absent for COVID-related reasons (quarantine or isolation).
  • Red/blue split. Many courses will have classrooms large enough to accommodate all students with safe social distancing. Information about the red/blue split will be available after the enrollment period begins.
  • Synchronous class time. SMUFlex classes are required to meet synchronously for all scheduled contact hours.

In-person only.

  • Only a very small number of courses in the Meadows School of the Arts require in-person attendance for all courses. Students should contact the department chair for questions related to these courses.

Vaccine Scheduling Now Available at SMU

March 26, 2021

Dear SMU Community,

It’s here!  SMU is pleased to announce the campus is receiving an allotment of the COVID-19 vaccine for distribution to our University community. All SMU faculty, staff and students are eligible. Online registration will open at noon today, March 26, to schedule vaccination appointments beginning Monday, March 29. Vaccinations will be administered by appointment only at the SMU COVID-19 vaccination site on the northwest side of the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.  

SMU’s initial allotment will be 1,170 “first doses” of the Pfizer vaccine and an equal number of “second doses” designated for the required follow-up appointments. Please use this registration link to schedule a vaccination appointment which is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The registration button is also on the Mustang Strong vaccine page along with information about what to expect on the day of your appointment. If you have trouble registering, reach out to the Help Desk at 8-HELP (4357).

SMU does not currently have second-dose vaccines available for individuals who have already received their first shot of Pfizer or Moderna elsewhere, so please reach out to your initial vaccine provider to complete your treatment. Spouses and dependents of SMU employees and retirees are not currently eligible to register but may be at a later date

In addition to the on-campus vaccinations, all SMU students, staff and faculty may also register for the vaccine through the Methodist Health System. If the MHS system is full, please check that site frequently as more appointments will become available as supplies increase.

SMU has no information yet on when additional allotments of the vaccine might arrive on campus, so your patience is still needed. Please continue to wear your mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands often and remember to fill out the reporting tool once you receive your vaccine on the Mustang Strong vaccine website. Doing so will help the University determine how many vaccines to request and may help inform decisions about operational changes to the campus.

SMU to Remember Lives Lost on Pandemic Anniversary

March 8, 2021

Dear SMU Community,


One year ago this week, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic. Two days later, on March 13, 2020, the SMU community left the Hilltop for an extended spring break, expecting to return for normal spring activities by the end of the month. Today, it’s hard to remember full classrooms or shaking hands with a professor, but we are hopeful for that time again.


On March 11, 2020, the WHO director-general reported more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 lives lost due to COVID-19. As of Friday, there were over 116 million cases reported in approximately 218 countries, and 2.58 million people have lost their lives to COVID-19. These staggering numbers represent real people, our loved ones – members of the SMU community, our neighbors, our friends and our family. Some of us privately grieve deep personal loss as we all grieve our collective losses of the last year.


At noon on Thursday, March 11, SMU will pause to remember and reflect on these losses. Wherever you are on the Hilltop, you are invited to observe two minutes and 58 seconds of silence reflecting on the impact of this pandemic on your life, our communities and the world. At noon, a bell will toll from the carillon in Fondren Science Building, and at 12:03 p.m., a song of hope, Hymn of Promise, will play, reminding us “there’s a song in every silence.”


The words of WHO’s director-general one year ago still ring true today: “This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector – so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight …We’re in this together, to do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world.” We have now lived and experienced this truth for one full year. We have been and will continue to be world changers – masked up and caring for our neighbors from 6 feet apart! As vaccinations are distributed around the world, we are beginning to see, as the song says, “a dawn in every darkness bringing hope to you and me.”


Let us pause together at noon on Thursday to reflect, remember and look forward.


From the past will come the future;
what it holds, a mystery,
unrevealed until its season,
something God alone can see.


Mask Up! Pony Up! Stay Mustang Strong!

R. Gerald Turner
President

Rev. Lisa Garvin
Chaplain and Minister to the University

You are also invited to join Wednesday Worship at noon on March 17, 2021, for an opportunity to remember and name our personal and collective losses over the past year. The service at the flagpole will include the opportunity to write prayers on a ribbon that name your grief as part of a larger artistic display of our collective loss this year. Additional ribbons will be available in the Office of the Chaplain and Religious Life throughout March to add your prayers.

SMU Continues Current Campus Safety Protocols for COVID-19

March 3, 2021

Dear SMU Community,

Throughout the pandemic, SMU has based our safety protocols and campus operations on guidance from local, state and federal health officials. These measures, backed by our Pledge to Protect, have enabled the University to safely offer in-person classes and host important events such as commencement ceremonies and other celebrations on campus.

SMU will continue to follow our current guidelines requiring masks and social distancing on campus through the remainder of the Spring semester. In light of the Governor’s executive order to lift the state mandate on masks as well as other restrictions, we will continue to monitor and review industry-specific guidance and recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and state public health authorities before implementing any changes to our safety guidelines. We are carefully listening to and considering concerns expressed by our campus community – our students, faculty, and staff – as well as parents who have entrusted us with their children’s wellbeing and education.

As reflected on the Mustang Strong website, the numbers of SMU positive COVID-19 cases, which rose as expected following winter break, are now dropping dramatically. We continue to request vaccines from the state, and we are fully prepared to begin vaccinating our campus community in a specially-designated vaccine site once we receive an allotment. We’re pleased that many faculty and staff members, as well as some students, have already received the vaccine at various off-campus locations. We are looking forward to an outdoor commencement ceremony in the spring and returning to a normal semester in the fall.

In the meantime, let’s keep doing what we have been doing. Stay the course, and Stay Mustang Strong.

SMU Releases New Vaccination Self-Reporting Survey

Dear SMU Community,

Like most universities in Texas, we’re patiently waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine allotment from the state. With this past weekend’s news of the Food and Drug Administration granting Emergency Use Authorization of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine candidate, we’re optimistic some of the supply issues are being alleviated.

Each week, SMU requests an allotment from the State of Texas. To assess the quantity and doses that best meet the needs of our campus, it is important to know how many people have already been vaccinated or are scheduled to get either a single dose of the Johnson and Johnson or the first and/or second doses of Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. Please take a minute to fill out the self-reporting survey on this page – and keep it up to date – to report your vaccination progress.

Also, if you receive the vaccine in the future at an off-campus location, please update your vaccination status by completing the same survey. If you have not received the vaccine and are still unsure about which eligibility phase you fall into, the guided survey on the same page may also be helpful for you.

Providing information for this survey is voluntary, but is critically important to SMU’s efforts to manage the health and safety of the SMU community. Your willingness to assist SMU by sharing your vaccine status is appreciated.

Thank you for your cooperation.  

Dr. Bob Smith Health Center Still Offering Flu Shots

Stay protected as we enter the height of influenza season by getting your free flu shot at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.  This option is available for all SMU students, faculty and staff.

Remember: The seasonal flu and COVID-19 have similar symptoms, making it difficult to differentiate between the two without a lab test. You can help ease the burden on the healthcare system by minimizing your chance of getting the flu.

The Health Center offers the flu shots Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. It’s free and convenient. No appointment is necessary. 

SMU FACULTY AND STAFF

Aside from the Health Center option, SMU faculty and staff may also get a flu shot from the same drive-thru Urgent Care facility 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.

SMU COVID-19 Vaccination Update

Dear SMU Community,

Welcome back to the Hilltop for the spring 2021 semester. Many of you have been asking when the COVID-19 vaccine will arrive on campus and how it will be distributed to our SMU community. It’s not here yet. SMU has requested allocations under the state’s first and second distribution phases but has not received confirmation of when we might receive our first allotment or how many doses to expect.

Last week, the state updated its ordering system, and the University made the required formal request through that process. Rest assured, when the vaccine does arrive, we’ll be ready. You may have noticed the large white tent near the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center that will serve as our campus Vaccination Site. We have our system in place and will follow state guidelines in making the vaccine available, beginning with the 1A phase designated for campus health care workers and police. Next, the 1B phase will prioritize people 65+ and/or those with underlying medical conditions who are directly on campus. Students who fit in this category are also included along with faculty and staff.

For more details on how it will work, check out the new vaccination page on the Mustang Strong website. You’ll soon find a survey to help determine your eligibility phase, as well as steps on how to register for and receive the vaccine when the time comes. It also contains answers to frequently asked questions you may have. A map is available to help you find the Vaccination Site and additional parking spaces if needed.

Please note, we will not be registering for or scheduling vaccination appointments until the vaccine arrives on campus. However, you can help our planning efforts by confirming that your contact information is up to date in SMU’s registry. The Health Center will be using your mobile number and SMU email for communications regarding your appointment. To update your information, go to my.smu.edu, click on the Profile tile to review, and verify it. If incorrect, click ‘change number’ and make the necessary edits so that you can be sure to receive notifications about the vaccine.

While we hope to be offering the vaccines on campus in the near future, we encourage you to take advantage of the first opportunity to get it regardless of whether it is through SMU or another provider. Visit the Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Locations map for additional vaccination sites and availability.

Along with COVID-19 testing for students available through the Health Center, another quick and easy option for the next month is the Curative kiosk. It uses a self-administered oral swab to collect the test sample at no cost to SMU students, faculty, staff as well as the public. Appointments are required, and you will be asked to provide insurance. Testing is available seven days a week at the kiosk located near the Airline Parking structure at 6501 Airline Court. When you go for the test, scan the QR code on the sign to share your results with SMU.

Whether you’ve received the vaccine or are still waiting to get it, it’s important to continue with the healthy behaviors outlined in our Pledge to Protect. Mask up and Pony up to Stay Mustang Strong.

Sincerely,

Randolph Jones

Executive Director, Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

SMU Plans for Primarily in-Person Fall 2021 Semester

Dear SMU community,

It is with high hopes that we enter 2021 expecting to move toward a primarily in-person fall semester at SMU. With the understanding that vaccinations for COVID-19 will be offered widely this spring, including on our own campus, we are planning to return to regular on-campus courses and activities by fall.

It is important to let you know of our goal so that prospective and current students and their families have the latest information to help them make important decisions about enrollment, housing, travel and other aspects of campus life. This information will also allow faculty and staff to move forward with essential preparations for academic schedules and campus activities.

While we are planning for a primarily in-person fall semester, we remain vigilant in our prevention and safety protocols on campus. We also will continue to carefully monitor health trends and create contingency plans so we are ready to meet any new challenges that might arise.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, we are optimistic and excited about welcoming new and returning Mustangs to the Hilltop this fall for the educational and on-campus experiences that exemplify SMU.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

SMU COVID-19 Vaccination Plans

January 8, 2021

Dear SMU Community,

SMU has received approval from the state to be a COVID-19 vaccination provider for the campus community. Initial supplies allocated to our campus have not arrived yet but are expected in the near future. The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center will administer the vaccine in phases according to the state’s vaccination plan. The first phase (1A) allotment of a limited supply of doses is designated for campus health care workers and SMU police.

As SMU receives additional allotments, distribution to the campus community will follow the state’s 1B guidelines which prioritize both people who are 65 and older and/or who have at least one chronic medical condition that puts them at increased risk from COVID-19. This includes students, faculty and staff who fall into either category. SMU employees who were required to work on campus during the pandemic’s “essential workers only” operation last spring are eligible to receive the vaccine next in this phase of distribution.

State health officials have emphasized that no vaccine should be kept in reserve. The University will, therefore, make the vaccine available to next-level eligibility groups once the current phase has been served rather than allowing vaccines to expire.

Plans are in place to offer the vaccine to all faculty, staff, adjunct faculty and students as well as dependents of SMU employees and retirees as supplies become available. However, we encourage you to take advantage of the first opportunity to receive the vaccine regardless of whether it is through SMU or another provider. Check with your primary care physician or pharmacist or visit the Texas COVID-19 Vaccine Provider Locations map for additional vaccination sites and availability.

More information on when the allotments will arrive on campus as well as how to register for the vaccine will be forthcoming. SMU strongly encourages every member of our campus community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine to stay Mustang Strong.

Sincerely,

Dr. Randy Jones

Executive Director Health Services

Dr. Bob Smith Health Center, SMU

COVID-19 Vaccinations Coming to SMU

Dear SMU Community,

SMU is pleased to announce that the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center will be a provider of the COVID-19 vaccination for the campus community. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved an emergency authorization for a vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.

The Texas Department of State Health Services will be laying out specific procedures and timelines for distribution. Initial allocation of doses will be limited and will focus on health care workers (starting with inpatient facilities), frontline responders and vulnerable/high risk populations.  

Our Health Center will administer the vaccine in phases according to the State’s guiding principles for distribution. Supplies allocated to our campus are not expected until after the first of the year, but vaccination plans are in place for when they arrive. Our campus health care workers and frontline responders – Health Center employees and SMU police ­– will receive the initial allotment of vaccines, followed by members of the SMU community, as directed by county and state health officials. Plans are in place to make the vaccination available to spouses and dependents of SMU employees as well.

More information on what to expect and how to register for the vaccine will be forthcoming, but we wanted to let you know that SMU is making this important preventive measure available to our employees and students. We strongly encourage all members of the SMU community to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when available, and help us all stay Mustang Strong.

Sincerely,

Randy Jones

Executive Director, Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

SMU Releases 2021 COVID-19 Operations Plan

Dear SMU Community,

We hope you had a safe and restful holiday and are recharged to finish the fall semester strong.

As we prepare for winter break, planning for next semester is well underway. We learned a great deal over the past eight months about how to keep teaching, working, living and interacting on campus as safely as possible during a pandemic. We are using that information to make the SMU experience even better going forward.

Members of the University’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), who represent various departments and functions across campus, have developed and released the 2021 COVID 19 Operations Plan. The information contained in this comprehensive plan is reflected in the newly-updated Mustang Strong website, that is easier navigation. The strategy for Spring builds upon our Fall 2020 Operations Plan that guided our campus community through a successful return to classes and campus life while minimizing the spread of COVID-19.

SMU will strive to continue delivering the outstanding personal education that is our hallmark while ensuring the health and safety of our campus community. We will continue working with state and county public health officials, following federal and local COVID-19 guidelines and employing safe practices in our campus operations and services to the greatest extent possible.

Please take some time to review the 2021 Operations Plan as well as the refreshed Mustang Strong website. We encourage you to bookmark the site and check it regularly so you can stay updated on our campus response to COVID-19.

Sincerely,
Chris Casey Regis
Vice President for Business and Finance
President’s Executive Council Liaison for the Emergency Operations Center

SMU Faculty and Staff Invited to Participate in COVID-19 Study

A major challenge to stopping the spread of COVID-19 is a lack of information. You can help change that by participating in the DFW COVID-19 Prevalence Study. The results of this important study will be used to develop ways to reduce COVID-19 infections. SMU is partnering with UT Southwestern and Texas Health Resources on this study.

By participating in the study, you’ll receive:

  • A free COVID-19 nasal swab test for active infection
  • A free COVID-19 antibody blood test to see if you’ve ever been infected
  • Quick test results and advice on next steps if you have active COVID-19 infection

There is NO COST to you or SMU, and participation is completely voluntary.

STEPS FOR PARTICIPATING

  1. First, complete a brief survey by the end of the day on December 7. Enter this link into the web browser of your computer or tablet: https://redcap.link/dfwcps_smu
  1. If you complete the survey, you will receive an email or text message shortly after the survey closes on December 7 with instructions for making your testing appointment. Use the unique link provided in the message to make your appointment. Testing will be available on campus December 16, 17, and 18, 2020, at Prothro Hall, room 104 at 5901 Bishop Blvd, Dallas, Tx 75205 
  2. At the appointment, you’ll receive a simple nose swab to test for active COVID-19 infection and a blood antibody test to check for prior exposure to the virus. Testing should take 20 minutes or less. Leave time will not need to be utilized for participation in the study.
  3. If tests determine that you have an active COVID-19 infection, you will be notified within two days of the test. The results will be reported to Sheri Starkey, SMU’s Associate Vice President and Chief Human Resource Officer. SMU and public health services will work with you to minimize exposure and the spread of infection among your family, friends and fellow workers. Contact tracing on all positive cases will be conducted by the SMU contract tracing

team and you may also be contacted by Dallas County Health and Human Services department.  Notifying close contacts identified during the contact tracing process is required by law and is called “contact tracing.”  Otherwise, results of both tests will be mailed to you within two weeks.

Information collected in this study will be handled in a confidential manner, within the limits of the law. If the results of the study are published in a scientific journal or book, you will not be identified. The UTSW Institutional Review Board and other groups that have the responsibility of monitoring research may want to see study records which identify you as a subject in this study. Research policies require that private information about you be protected, and this is especially true for your health information.

Frequently Asked Questions:

More information about the DFW COVID-19 Prevalence Study can be found online at https://utswmed.org/covidwork. If you have questions, please see Frequently Asked Questions or contact SMUHR@smu.edu.

While participation is optional, we encourage you to help in this community-wide effort. Thank you.

#DFWAnswerTheCall

A Message About Holiday Travel Guidelines and COVID Testing

Friday, November 13, 2020

Dear SMU Students,

As you get ready to leave campus for Thanksgiving, it’s important to recognize the potential risks associated with going home to family members who may be vulnerable to viral spread. Your best defense is to wear a face mask to reduce the chance of catching or spreading COVID-19, but there are other things you can do. 

Before you go, closely adhere to all the safety protocols we’ve been following. You know the drill: mask up, socially distance, wash your hands frequently, avoid large gatherings and limit your exposure to others – especially those other than your roommates, housemates and regular social group. If you haven’t already, get your flu vaccine. They are available at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center and from a mobile flu shot cart that will be roving campus next week.

If you have especially vulnerable family members, you may want to take additional precautions, such as quarantining by staying home, only going out for class and picking up food or necessities, and always wearing a mask.

If your destination is outside of Texas, check with your home state for additional travel or safety restrictions. A few places may require a 14-day quarantine or COVID-19 test once you arrive. If you need a test before departure, you can schedule an appointment up to a week in advance by calling the Health Center at 214-768-2141. If you are not on the SMU Student Health insurance plan, the Health Center will bill the cost of the test to your student account. In most cases, your insurance will cover the charge after you file a claim for reimbursement. Allow up to three days to receive your results, and remember you must register by 4 p.m. the day before you go in for the test. COVID-19 testing is also available at off-campus sites with your insurance, if needed after hours. 

Keep in mind that testing for COVID-19 is not foolproof and a negative test could give you a false sense of security. The test provides a snapshot in time, meaning a negative test only indicates that you don’t have evidence of the infection at the time you are tested. However, the virus’s incubation period is up to 14 days, making it possible to test negative and simultaneously carry it. Also remember you could pick up the virus on the way home and spread it, even if you didn’t feel sick. More tips and recommendations for safe travel and celebrations are listed below. 

Thank you for your efforts in making this semester as healthy as possible. Please continue to follow these same safety measures during your winter break while enjoying time with family and friends. We look forward to seeing you again on the Hilltop next semester. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Randy Jones,

Executive Director, Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

COVID-19 Status and Travel

  • If positive, you should not travel by air and preferably alone if by car, and then isolate for 10 days once you arrive at your destination.
  • If negative, but identified as a close contact, you should not travel by air and preferably alone if by car, then quarantine for a total of 14 days.
  • If negative, you may travel using caution and following safety protocols.

Travel recommendations

  • Check for any requirements or restrictions at your travel destination.
  • By car:
    • Driving alone is best.
    • Wear a face mask if in a car with others, and sit in the back seat if someone else is driving.
    • Open the windows if conditions permit.  
    • Pack food/snacks or use drive-through or curbside pickup.
    • Wash hands after pumping gas.
  • By plane, train or bus:
    • Strictly follow safety measures such as mask-wearing and hand hygiene.
    • Take a direct route if possible, and avoid traveling at peak times if you can.    
    • Carry and use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) frequently. 
    • Use a disinfecting/sanitizing wipe to clean touchable surfaces. 
  • If sick or exposed, delay travel:
    • Anyone who is feeling ill, or has been recently diagnosed (within 10 days) or exposed to someone with COVID-19 (within 14 days) should self-isolate. 
    • Follow guidance from your health care provider regarding when recommended isolation/quarantine periods are complete and travel can be resumed. 

Upon arriving home, the most cautious approach is to quarantine for the first 14 days. This is especially important if there are vulnerable, higher-risk family members living in the home.

Quarantine recommendations

  • Wear a mask and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet when in the presence of others.   
  • Eat meals in a private space or outdoors socially distanced from others.
  • Use separate serving ware, utensils, glasses and plates.  
  • Use a separate bathroom from other family members. 
  • If a separate bathroom is not available, disinfect the bathroom after each use. 
  • Avoid physical contact, including hugging, kissing and shaking hands. 
  • Restrict movement within and outside the home.  

If quarantine is not possible:

  • Stay physically distant from family household members for the first 14 days at home.
  • Wear a face mask and avoid close contact, including hugging and shaking hands. 
  • Consider placing HEPA filter units in the home and opening windows to increase air circulation.

Extra Faculty and Staff Vacation Days Added to Holiday Break

November 2, 2020

Dear SMU Faculty and Staff,
 

We are heading into the home stretch of a successful fall semester, thanks to you and your tremendous dedication and support. I am grateful for your continued commitment and resilience in the face of this pandemic.

It was through research, planning and implementation of campuswide operational changes that our University avoided many of the difficulties that other institutions of higher education faced. You embraced learning new skills and changing many of the ways we do our work. Your ingenuity and perseverance are how we have been able to safely continue our educational mission – with students on campus and virtual – as well as many of our cherished traditions. It has required long hours under stressful circumstances with critical deadlines. And as many of you have expressed, we all need a break.

In recognition of your tireless efforts, SMU is adding two extra days to the University’s holiday break. This year, December 21 and 22 will be campus holidays, in addition to the time off scheduled for December 23 returning January 4. The hope is this will be a time for renewal that will energize us all to return with optimism and stamina for 2021.

As you plan for this holiday season, please remain diligent with safety protocols – wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large gatherings – that help prevent spread of the virus. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed their definition of close contact to within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more in 24 hours. You may want to alter some of your interactions accordingly to keep yourself and others healthy.

Knowing you will have extra days off should help with plans for the holidays and give us all an additional incentive as we wrap up this year and prepare for a new one. Please accept my heartfelt appreciation for all you do for SMU.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

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!

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

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

Sincerely,

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.

SMU Adjusts Fall Operations Assessment Tool

Since we began welcoming our students back in mid-August, we have learned a great deal about how to manage the campus through the pandemic. Some of our early expectations have changed based on experience; therefore, it is time to use the latest information to make adjustments in the metrics we use to provide the most effective and safest road map for SMU leadership to guide the University. 

In anticipating COVID-19 cases, primarily among students, we developed and have followed the Fall Operations Plan, put in place before the semester began, to both care for our SMU community and limit the spread of the virus. This detailed plan was designed to be a living document that would be updated over time as the virus and our response to it evolve. As we put these plans into place, our students, faculty and staff have remained remarkably resilient through testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine. It is also important to note that the number of faculty and staff cases has remained low, which is good news.

Many of you are familiar with our Fall Operations Assessment Tool (Appendix 1 of the Fall Operations Plan) which helps measure the virus’s impact on our population. The weighted measurements of seven criteria add up to an overall score that feeds into in the operational level assessment at the bottom of the chart. All that information then guides leadership in decisions about campus operations – decisions that pertain to each of the University’s domains as well as the entire institution.  

In response to what we are experiencing after four weeks of classes, both the assessment tool and the operations plan need to be adjusted. These modifications will more comprehensively and accurately reflect the key factors used to evaluate and determine campus operations. 


WHAT IS CHANGING

Calculating the infection rate:

The daily update of the SMU COVID case list and dashboard on the Mustang Strong website contains all positive reports from students actively engaged on campus whether they test at the health center or an off-campus test site. However, our assessment tool was developed earlier when it was anticipated that students would choose to be tested only on campus. Since we now know students are being tested off campus as well, the first change we are making is to calculate the infection rate based on students who are engaged in on-campus activities. The infection rate is calculated by dividing the number of active student positive cases, as is reflected in on our Mustang Strong dashboard, by the number of students actively engaged on campus. Point values for this measure have also been adjusted. Previously if the county positivity rate and the campus positivity rate (based on health center data only) were less than 5%, a value of “1” was assigned to the measure. In the revised tool, if the county positivity rate is less than 5% and the campus infection rate is less than 3%, there are no points assigned to this measure. The risk to the campus and surrounding community is low at these rates.

Determining the number of infections:

Additionally, we will also update the number of infections among students using data reflecting the entire number of student positive cases, not just those detected through the health center. Previously, if there were no infections, a value of “1” was assigned to the measure. In the revised tool, if there are no infections, no points are assigned to the measure since there is no risk to the campus or community.

These two revisions will provide more inclusive measurements and more holistically reflect the campus environment. We currently do not have a measure in the assessment tool for employee cases as those numbers are low, but if that changes, we will evaluate adding this data as well.

Measuring the isolation capacity:

When the Fall Operations Plan was first drafted, SMU had identified 127 housing units on campus that could be used for isolation of infected students. At that time, the University anticipated it might be necessary to ask students to recover at home when our isolation capacity reached higher occupancy levels. However, two factors have reshaped our approach:

  • Health experts now advise that sending college students home to recover from COVID-19 could increase the spread of infection. SMU on-campus students are allowed to make personal decisions about where they wish to isolate, and while many are currently choosing off-campus locations, SMU will provide isolation spaces to students who chose to isolate on campus.
  • The University has secured additional apartment-style spaces near campus, raising our total isolation capacity to 147 units. Additional units can be secured if necessary.

The isolation capacity in the assessment tool will now use a gradual scoring methodology based on occupancy to determine the score. It will be capped at 6 points instead of 12, since we now have the ability to add more isolation beds to our inventory, if necessary, to house all students who need a space.

Adjustments in scoring: 

The numerical values for each assessment criteria, such as the ones mentioned above, are totaled to determine an overall “score.” Adjustments in the assessment tool and their values also necessitate modifications to the operational levels at the bottom of the chart. The four operational level categories will still range from “low” to “very high,” and the total score will still guide (not direct) the President’s Executive Council in determining which level best reflects the current campus situation and individual activities within and across each of the domains. There are no automatic triggers built into this approach, and, regardless of point value, the “very high” level that would likely result in total virtual learning and reduced staffing on campus could be activated at any time by a state or county order, or by the University president

It is important to remember that the Fall Operations Plan is intended to function as a flexible, responsive guide for dealing with COVID-19. These adjustments will provide campus leadership with updated evaluations from which to make informed decisions and manage the University. We will continue to monitor the overall environment and specific campus conditions, and modify the plan as necessary to best support our SMU community throughout the pandemic. 

SMU Moves To High Operational Level

Dear SMU Community,

Every week, our Emergency Operations Center group and the president’s leadership team review a number of data points regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the SMU campus, then update the University’s operational level. This week, we are increasing the overall operational level from “moderate” to “high” to reflect the number of cases on campus and other related factors.

What does this mean? One of the many factors we consider in determining our operational level is the availability of spaces to isolate our on-campus students who test positive. Students have a choice as to where they will isolate, whether that is on campus or at some other location, and they will continue to have that choice. To ensure we can accommodate those students who choose to isolate on campus, we are working this week to increase the numbers of isolation beds available. Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and our consultant epidemiologist is that it is preferable for students to isolate on campus (as long as it is feasible) in lieu of travelling home to prevent the spread of the virus to other areas. We are also opening up the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center for limited hours during the weekends to ensure students have access to testing on campus.

We should all remain vigilant about wearing face coverings, social distancing and hand-washing. We expected to see an increase in cases, as we have seen with many other universities that started fall classes before we did, and we are responding within expectations to these circumstances. Even with the current number of cases, we have a manageable situation and will continue in-person operations.

You can find a full explanation of our operation levels here (Appendix 2). We expect the following areas to continue to operate at the “moderate” level, as there is no data to support spread through these settings:
• Classrooms, lecture halls and academic buildings
• Religious group services
• Shared office spaces
• Labs and research (Human Subjects Research is already operating at “high” level)
• Library spaces
• Residence halls and common areas
• Student organizations and events (events remain at “Orange event level”)
• Dining halls
• Athletic events and activities
• Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports
• Health Center
• Meadows Museum

Thank you for all you do to keep this campus healthy.

Message to Campus on Rising COVID-19 Cases

September 4, 2020

Dear SMU Student,

With two weeks of the fall semester successfully behind us, I would want to recognize our SMU students, faculty and staff for your efforts to adapt to learning, living and working on campus during this pandemic.

As we anticipated, we are seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases as well as an increase in quarantines. The summer preparations are working: We are aggressively isolating positive cases and quarantining those who came into close contact with infected individuals. This week, we had a localized outbreak at the Sigma Chi Fraternity House. In cooperation with Dallas County Health and Human Services, SMU requested that all students residing in the house quarantine for 14 days. We also asked the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority to quarantine one floor of their house out of an abundance of caution. We greatly appreciate the positive cooperation from the fraternity and sorority members and their organizations.


We are also using more of our isolation units to house on-campus students who test positive. While the numbers are growing, we still have capacity and contingency plans, if needed. We also continue to provide resources including meals and case management for those in isolation and quarantine so they can keep up with their studies. Even with the jump in student cases, we currently have only a few known cases in faculty or staff. You can see the latest numbers on our updated COVID-19 dashboard.


We are hearing reports of students choosing to test off campus at night or during the weekend. You can find a list of nearby urgent care centers and other after-hours support if the Dr. Bob Smith Student Health Center is closed. If you are feeling anxious, remember that we have counselors available 24/7 by calling 214-768-2277. We ask that you continue to support the overall wellness of your fellow students and faculty and staff by reporting positive cases or if you came into contact with an infected individual. We are grateful for your efforts to abide by the Pledge to Protect and wear face coverings or masks, wash your hands frequently and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet when you are gathered together. Science tells us that these steps stem the spread of the virus. We have taken disciplinary action against some individuals and groups who are in violation of the pledge, and remain committed to enforcing it through the Student Code of Conduct.


Even though we will be attending class – in person and virtually – on Labor Day, please stay focused this holiday weekend and continue to follow our health and safety protocols both on and off campus. Your cooperation is critical to keeping our campus open for a full semester of activities.
Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner
President

A Message to Parents and Family From the Dean of Students About Returning This Fall

14 August 2020

Dear Mustang Parents and Family Members,

Hello from the Hilltop! I hope this message finds you and your loved ones doing well. I imagine you are making final preparations for your student’s return to Dallas and SMU, and we are excited to welcome them back.

As I have shared with you previously, I believe our parents and family members are vital partners in ensuring a student’s success, and I am reaching out to you today to share important information that we sent to students yesterday related to the enforcement of safety guidelines and expectations to help keep the SMU community as healthy as possible this fall. As our partner, I hope you will help reinforce these messages with your student as they transition to campus so that they understand their role in helping to keep themselves and others safe and the consequences for failing to take these guidelines seriously.

Last week, all students were enrolled in a Canvas course that provides “what to expect” information for the fall semester; I hope your student has reviewed that course by this time. I also expect that you along with your student have read through material shared by President Turner and others that explains the systems and processes that our faculty and staff have spent months developing to make SMU as safe as possible during the pandemic. Now, I would like to turn our focus to how our students fit into the health and safety picture:

Students have a critical role – if not the most critical rolein facilitating a successful fall semester.

If you have not read the Pledge to Protect SMUthat can be found at the conclusion of the Canvas course referenced above, please read it now. This Pledge was developed by individuals representing all campus stakeholders – including students – and the entire campus community is expected to honor the expectations outlined for keeping each other safe.

Students will get plenty of positive reinforcement and friendly reminders to keep that Pledge. However, those students who deliberately or negligently disregard the expected behavior articulated in the Pledge to Protect SMU should expect to be held accountable through the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Examples of behavior that would violate the expectations outlined in the Pledge to Protect SMU include, but are not limited to:

  • Knowingly attending class in person while exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Repeated failure to wear a face covering or disregard for requests to wear a face covering;
  • Disregard for isolation or quarantine guidance provided by a contact tracer;
  • Refusal to comply with contact tracing efforts by University officials;
  • Planning or participating in a gathering not organized according to social distancing guidelines;
  • Hosting unauthorized guests on campus; and
  • Planning or participating in student organization events that are not in compliance with the guidelines established by the Division of Student Affairs.

“Dishonesty,” “irresponsible conduct,” “failure to comply,” “interference” and/or “assault” are all potential charges under the Code of Conduct that could apply if a student were to violate the expectations outlined in the Pledge to Protect SMU. Sanctions assigned to students found responsible for violating the expectations of the Pledge could range from a warning to suspension or expulsion from the University. Those situations that put others at the most risk could result in a student’s removal from campus for the remainder of the semester and a requirement that they complete their coursework remotely. In these situations, no reimbursement of tuition or fees will be provided.

The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards will work to resolve these cases as quickly as possible. If a student is referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards for allegedly violating one of the tenets of the Pledge to Protect SMU, they will be prohibited from attending any in-person activities – including classes or student organization events – until their case is resolved. Students who fail to comply with this directive could face additional conduct charges, including suspension from the University for a period of time.

Please note that student organizations found responsible for violating the expectations outlined in the Pledge will also be subject to disciplinary action through the SMU Student Code of Conduct. If a student organization is alleged to have hosted an unauthorized party/social gathering, on- or off-campus, they will be placed on an immediate cease and desist (or interim suspension) pending the outcome of the conduct process.

Student organization leaders have a particular responsibility to plan events that do not put students at risk for contracting COVID-19. The general expectations outlined in the Pledge encompass following the event guidelines that have been developed by the Division of Student Affairs and will help ensure the appropriate safety measures are in place. A student organization found in violation of the guidelines outlined in the Pledge will likely be prohibited from hosting any events for the remainder of the semester (and possibly year).  Student leaders of student organizations may also face individual charges through the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Additional information regarding the event guidelines is forthcoming and will be included in MOM training for this year.

We expect that our students will practice behavior that keeps us all safe, but I want to be clear so that there are no surprises should violations of these expectations occur: students will be held accountable. Given the gravity of the situation, we simply cannot be complacent about enforcement, and we do not have the luxury of providing individuals multiple opportunities to comply. We must recognize we all have a responsibility to our entire campus and that means holding ourselves and others accountable.

I am optimistic about the fall and I have a strong faith in the ability of our smart, motivated students to help keep the Hilltop safe and healthy. Of course, please reach out to me if you have questions; I welcome your feedback and ideas. I look forward to seeing our students back on campus very soon.

Pony Up!

Melinda J. Sutton, Ph. D.

Assoc. VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

Important Message from the SMU Dean of Students

13 August 2020

Dear Mustangs,

Hello from the Hilltop! I hope this message finds you and your loved ones doing well. I imagine you are making final preparations for your return to Dallas and SMU, and we are excited to welcome you back.

By this time, I hope you have reviewed the Canvas course that provides “what to expect” information for the fall semester. I expect you have read through material shared by President Turner and others that explains the systems and processes that our faculty and staff have spent months developing to make SMU as safe as possible during the pandemic, but I would like to focus on how you fit into the health and safety picture:

Students have a critical role – if not the most critical rolein facilitating a successful fall semester.

If you have not read the Pledge to Protect SMUthat can be found at the conclusion of the Canvas course referenced above, please read it now. This Pledge was developed by individuals representing all campus stakeholders – including students – and the entire campus community is expected to honor the expectations outlined for keeping each other safe.

You will get plenty of positive reinforcement and friendly reminders to keep that Pledge. However, those students who deliberately or negligently disregard the expected behavior articulated in the Pledge to Protect SMU should expect to be held accountable through the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Examples of behavior that would violate the expectations outlined in the Pledge to Protect SMU include, but are not limited to:

  • Knowingly attending class in person while exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19;
  • Repeated failure to wear a face covering or disregard for requests to wear a face covering;
  • Disregard for isolation or quarantine guidance provided by a contact tracer;
  • Refusal to comply with contact tracing efforts by University officials;
  • Planning or participating in a gathering not organized according to social distancing guidelines;
  • Hosting unauthorized guests on campus; and
  • Planning or participating in student organization events that are not in compliance with the guidelines established by the Division of Student Affairs.

“Dishonesty,” “irresponsible conduct,” “failure to comply,” “interference” and/or “assault” are all potential charges under the Code of Conduct that could apply if a student were to violate the expectations outlined in the Pledge to Protect SMU. Sanctions assigned to students found responsible for violating the expectations of the Pledge could range from a warning to suspension or expulsion from the University. Those situations that put others at the most risk could result in a student’s removal from campus for the remainder of the semester and a requirement that they complete their coursework remotely. In these situations, no reimbursement of tuition or fees will be provided.

The Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards will work to resolve these cases as quickly as possible. If a student is referred to the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards for allegedly violating one of the tenets of the Pledge to Protect SMU, they will be prohibited from attending any in-person activities – including classes or student organization events – until their case is resolved. Students who fail to comply with this directive could face additional conduct charges, including suspension from the University for a period of time.

Please note that student organizations found responsible for violating the expectations outlined in the Pledge will also be subject to disciplinary action through the SMU Student Code of Conduct. If a student organization is alleged to have hosted an unauthorized party/social gathering, on- or off-campus, they will be placed on an immediate cease and desist (or interim suspension) pending the outcome of the conduct process.

Student organization leaders have a particular responsibility to plan events that do not put students at risk for contracting COVID-19. The general expectations outlined in the Pledge encompass following the event guidelines that have been developed by the Division of Student Affairs and will help ensure the appropriate safety measures are in place. A student organization found in violation of the guidelines outlined in the Pledge will likely be prohibited from hosting any events for the remainder of the semester (and possibly year). Student leaders of student organizations may also face individual charges through the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards. Additional information regarding the event guidelines is forthcoming and will be included in MOM training for this year.

We expect that our students will practice behavior that keeps us all safe, but I want to be clear so that there are no surprises should violations of these expectations occur: students will be held accountable. Given the gravity of the situation, we simply cannot be complacent about enforcement, and we do not have the luxury of providing individuals multiple opportunities to comply. We must recognize we all have a responsibility to our entire campus and that means holding ourselves and others accountable.

I am optimistic about the fall and I have strong faith in the ability of our smart, motivated students to help keep the Hilltop safe and healthy. Of course, please reach out to me if you have questions; I welcome your feedback and ideas. I look forward to seeing you back on campus very soon.

Pony Up!

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

and Dean of Students

Message from President Turner on SMU Fall Operations Plan

As we prepare to welcome our students back for the upcoming semester, SMU’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) team has finalized and posted the Fall 2020 Operations Plan, designed to ensure the safety of our campus and minimize the spread of COVID-19.

This plan formally outlines the many strategies and changes that we have already implemented and communicated in virtual town halls, SMU’s COVID-19 website and messaging to students, parents, faculty and staff. The EOC developed and finalized this comprehensive operations plan in consultation with members of the University community representing all facets of academic and campus operations. The work began with input from the President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020 and its subcommittees, and the final document has been approved by the President’s Executive Council.

Our goal is to deliver the outstanding personalized education that is the hallmark of SMU while ensuring the campus community’s health and safety through science and common-sense expectations that adhere to Texas and Dallas County guidelines. We gave you the Big Picture Overview in June, but the Fall 2020 Operations plan incorporates operational levels, flow charts and detailed procedures, protocols and contingencies that SMU will use to respond to the pandemic’s fluid nature. It is a working document that will be updated and expanded as needed.

Even with this plan and safety measures in place, it is still up to each of us to act responsibly to help protect everyone’s health and welfare – by practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings and remaining vigilant to changes in individual health. Carefully following this roadmap will help those of us working, teaching and living on campus stay healthy. It also gives our students the opportunity to receive face-to-face instruction from our excellent faculty as well as experience all the campus has to offer. I hope you will find it informative and useful as we face these unusual times together.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

Essential personnel status extended through April 30

Dear SMU Faculty and Staff, 

Following the guidance of Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s latest executive order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, SMU will extend its “essential personnel only” status through April 30, allowing most of our faculty and staff to continue working remotely.

We miss seeing all of you on campus, but I am very proud of the way you have responded to the shift to remote working and teaching. Thank you to everyone for all you are doing to keep the mission of SMU front and center during this dynamic situation. It bears repeating that all of the strategic measures that we’ve taken to move classes online for the rest of the semester, support a remote working environment, and to cancel or postpone campus events have been designed to keep the SMU community healthy as we meet our academic mission.

Here are some reminders as we extend “essential personnel only” status:

  • You will be directed by your appropriate vice president or athletics director on how your unit will continue to operate.
  • All faculty and staff, whether salaried or hourly, will continue to be paid during this extension, but please make sure you report your time as you normally would.
  • Please continue to watch for emails and updates to our COVID-19 blog for other changes prompted by new guidelines or continued restrictions.

I understand that there are questions regarding continued employment and pay. I have always placed a priority on the wellbeing of SMU employees and will continue to do so through these uncertain times. As you can imagine, when the data changes daily it is hard to make definitive decisions about the future. We are modeling scenarios for a variety of outcomes to ensure the long-term health of the University. Our goal is to preserve the staff positions within our SMU community until we can return to full campus operations, recognizing that no institution, including SMU, can predict today the impact of this crisis on its future budget.

I want to thank you all for your flexibility, cooperation and resilience during this time, whether you are still working on the Hilltop or from your home. And I look forward to the day when our entire Mustang family is back together and we can bring our now too quiet campus back to life.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner President

SMU Classes Move Online Through End of Spring Semester

Dear SMU Community,

Each day we evaluate the challenging issues created by COVID-19 and work diligently to make the best possible decisions for all of us. To align with declarations from federal, state and Dallas County health authorities, SMU is moving all classes online for the remainder of the spring semester.

We also are reducing even further the number of people working on campus. Effective Monday, March 23, the University moves to essential personnel only status until April 3.  Employees will be contacted directly by their appropriate vice president or athletics director with guidance on their individual units’ operating plans. All faculty and staff, whether salaried or hourly, will continue to be paid during this period. Please remember to report your time as you normally would.

Obviously, there will be multiple ripple effects from this decision, and they cannot all be addressed in this letter. Watch the COVID-19 blog for updates on this and other concerns. We also will continue to share important announcements via email.

Students who had planned to return to their residence halls by April 6 will now need to make arrangements for retrieving and/or storing their possessions. We must manage this check-out process very deliberately to comply with health restrictions. Students will receive detailed information from Residence Life and Student Housing by Friday, March 27. Please do not come to campus to retrieve your belongings until you receive guidance from RLSH.

SMU is currently determining the best approach for prorating refunds for certain charges such as residence halls and dining. The refund process is currently under development and will be resolved by no later than the end of the semester.

For those who left town, laws and ordinances have changed dramatically in Dallas County over Spring Break:

  • All restaurants and bars in Dallas are permitted to serve food only through take-out, delivery, or drive-through services.
  • All gyms are closed.
  • Community gatherings of 50 or more individuals (indoors or outdoors) are prohibited –   which includes worship services, meetings and conferences.
  • Recreational gatherings (indoors or outdoors) of 10 or more individuals are also prohibited – which includes parties, backyard barbecues and sporting events.

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center will be open during normal business hours. Students who feel ill should contact the center by phone first at 214-768-2141.

The scheduled May 16 Commencement is very important to all of us. We are carefully weighing the options and will make a decision at a later date.

I ask for your continued patience and understanding as we work through the many details and questions that I know you need answered. Your health is of utmost importance during this time, so we all need to take seriously  precautions about social distancing, hand washing and other preventive and protective measures. We must look out for each other – not just ourselves. 

The campus has a very different look and feel right now, but this is still SMU and we are committed to continuing our mission. Let’s all look forward to the time when we can return to life as usual on our beautiful campus.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner
President

Reduced Campus Operations

Dear faculty and staff,

In consultation with the President’s Executive Council, I have decided to move the University to “reduced operations” status until April 6 to responsibly care for our campus population in response to the spread of COVID-19. We will monitor developments in the days ahead and will revisit the possible extension of this plan, as well as our timetable for teaching remotely, on Monday, March 30. We will communicate any changes as soon as decisions are made.

Each vice president has crafted a plan for their specific area of operation outlining how to meet the responsibilities of their division with reduced on-campus staffing. Those employees identified as “essential personnel” by their supervisor and emergency policy will come to campus, as will those employees identified by their vice president as needed to provide on-site services. Each staff member will hear from their vice president and each faculty member will receive instructions from the provost.

Even as the plans are being developed for specific University divisions, anyone at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19 because of age or a serious long-term health problem that compromises the immune system, or who is experiencing childcare issues, should still work with their supervisor to make alternative work arrangements. Go to the Human Resources site at https://www.smu.edu/BusinessFinance/HR/BenefitsAndWellness/Coronavirus,
review the documentation and, if needed, work with your supervisor to fill out the Emergency Telecommuting Arrangement Form.

Any employee who would like to continue coming to campus to work should do so in consultation with their manager.  All employees, however, are urged to monitor their own health judiciously and remain home (while contacting their health provider) if they develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 – dry cough, fever and body aches. And for the health of the University at large, we would appreciate it if any faculty or staff member feeling ill – whether working from campus or from home – would report the information to the University through this form. We will, of course, keep your information confidential and respect your privacy rights. 

As part of this reduced operation plan, University libraries will for the time being be staffed for virtual operations only and will not be open to the University community or the public.  The Meadows Museum and Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports will close, at least until April 6.

Thank you for your flexibility and patience as we roll out new information every day to help us all work through this unprecedented situation.  As I’ve said before, please follow SMU’s COVID-19 blog for the latest we have to share, and stay healthy.
 
Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
R. Gerald Turner
President

Employee Payroll Tax Update

Southern Methodist University will not implement the payroll tax deferment program announced by Presidential Memorandum on August 8, 2020.

The executive action is optional, allowing employers to postpone the collection of payroll taxes, specifically an employee’s portion of Social Security taxes, for affected employees. The action applies to wages paid to affected employees beginning on September 1, 2020 and ending on December 31, 2020.  Affected employees are defined as employees generally making less than $4,000 per biweekly pay period.  Currently the order also indicates that the affected employees will be responsible for withholding and paying back these taxes before May 1, 2021, or be subject to interest and penalties.

SMU will continue to collect payroll taxes on behalf of all employees to reduce possible confusion, undue hardships, or other difficulties during the filing of taxes for 2020 by employees next year.

When more information becomes available that clarifies many of the administrative questions pertaining to the payroll tax deferment, SMU may reconsider implementation.

New Digital Tools Help SMU Community Check for COVID-19 Symptoms and Log Locations

SMU is offering two new digital tools to help monitor your health and protect the campus community: a daily COVID-19 symptom checker and a contact tracing log. Daily checks for virus symptoms and support of contact tracing are two important safety measures emphasized in SMU’s Pledge to Protect.

The Mustang Daily Symptom Checker is a quick survey that students, faculty or staff can use each day before leaving for class or work. If you aren’t feeling well, the survey will help you to determine if you are currently experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19.

After answering a few questions, the symptom checker will provide guidance on what to do next, based on your results. You should receive daily emails from the Symptom Checker, or go to smu.edu/covidcheck if you do not see them.

When you complete the survey and get a green checkmark, you are clear to go to campus. If you get a red X, the symptom checker will prompt you on next steps to take, which may include staying home and filling out a form to notify the University.  Students will complete the Caring Community Connections (CCC) form and employees will fill out the faculty/staff COVID-19 reporting form.

The other tool, PathCheck, is a private location diary for your phone. This mobile app records where you have been in case you need the information to assist in contact tracing should you experience a positive COVID-19 test result.

SMU chose this app because it is a privacy-first design that started at MIT before transitioning into a non-profit foundation. PathCheck privately stores your location on your phone for 14 days. This location diary remains private unless you choose to share this information. Even then, the data will only be used once to assist in the contact tracing interview and then deleted.

To download, go to the Apple or Google store and search for PathCheck SafePlaces. SMU Office of Information Technology (OIT) has more information on how it works and how to set up your phone. If you have any questions, please contact the IT Help Desk at 214-768-HELP (4357) or email help@smu.edu.

A crucial message from Dr. Turner and Dr. Mmeje

Dear SMU Students:

As new and returning students move into their Residential Commons or apartments this week, we must reemphasize how crucial it is for each member of the SMU community to take individual responsibility for our ability to complete and enjoy the fall semester on campus.

As you have surely read or heard, several universities that just began their semesters have had to call them off or delay them due to rapid COVID-19 infections coming from off-campus parties. Every one of these cancellations has been due to the thoughtless actions of groups of students having off-campus parties without wearing masks and violating social distancing standards. Any such gathering has an almost certain probability of involving one or more students who are asymptomatic but virulent carriers of the virus. As a result, significant numbers that go to such parties become ill and then spread it to roommates and others with whom they come in contact.

For us to complete the SMU fall semester on campus, such potential parties must be cancelled before they begin. Any person or organization who organizes such a reckless party will be seriously disciplined for putting the entire campus at risk. That is not the SMU Way: Mustangs do not put other Mustangs at risk. What has happened at other universities can be prevented at SMU, but it will require those who might host such events choosing not to do so, and those invited to any that are planned, choosing not to attend. The healthy alternative is to meet in groups of 10 or fewer, all wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Surely, we can all follow this approach for three months or until a vaccine is approved. We must all make the right choices.

Therefore, as we look forward to gathering for the first day of class on Monday, we must all take responsibility during this weekend and afterward for the health and well-being of the entire campus. If we do not, we will join those universities that have had to cancel in-person classes. As world changers, let’s Pony Up and follow the health guidelines and have a great semester.

Go Mustangs,

R. Gerald Turner
President

K.C. Mmeje, Ed.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs

SMU Updates Campus Community on Testing, Travel and Facilities

August 19, 2020

As the University prepares for the start of the fall semester on Monday, August 24, please see the following updates for the SMU campus community.

No-cost, rapid curbside COVID-19 testing for employees is now available at Expressway Tower

SMU employees and families can now receive no-cost, rapid drive-through testing for COVID-19 at Expressway Tower, 6116 North Central Expressway, on the East Campus. The University covers 100% of the cost and no insurance paperwork is needed for those who have SMU health benefits. Telemedicine appointments and drive-through testing may be scheduled for this location Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The SMU curbside testing site is in addition to existing Virtual Care for Families clinic locations in the DFW area that can provide rapid COVID-19 antigen testing to SMU employees and their dependents. It is available to those who have symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus. Clinic and testing hours vary by location so call ahead to confirm availability. 

To schedule a test, complete an initial telemedicine screening at virtualcarefamilies.com/smu. Based on the screening, an appointment for curbside testing can be scheduled at one of the Urgent Care for Kids clinic locations (scroll down for the list.) 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. 

SMU eases travel restrictions, but approval is still required

Based on the August 6 decision by the U.S. State Department to lift its level 4 Global Health Advisory, SMU-sponsored international travel may resume, subject to approval. Concur Travel requests may be submitted, but are subject to location, specific health and safety restrictions as dictated by the Department of State, CDC and International SOS before approval. Please complete this form to request a review of international travel plans by SMU’s Travel Oversight Committee (TOC). The health and safety of university travelers will be a top priority when reviewing a request, and approval of travel is not guaranteed due to the ongoing global pandemic. For any questions related to the travel request form or international travel, contact Allison Russell, awitucki@smu.edu.

SMU is moving to Phase II of its COVID-19 Domestic Travel plan. SMU continues to restrict University-sponsored and/or sanctioned overnight domestic travel, either by motor vehicle or airplane, but exceptions may be requested by the traveler from their dean, vice president, athletic director, or that supervisor’s designee, for approval by using this form. Local motor vehicle travel (for day trips only) is permitted without requesting an exception.

Any authorized University-sponsored and/or sanctioned travel by faculty and staff for an SMU business purpose requires approved in advance of making travel arrangements. Reservations must be made using the University’s Online Travel and Expense System. Please review the Travel and Entertainment Management Policy 4.7 before booking travel.

SMU outdoor facilities remain closed to the public

With the return of our on-campus population and the resumption of classes, SMU outdoor facilities (such as tennis courts and other athletic fields and facilities) will remain closed to the general public to prevent the potential for virus spread. Outdoor facilities will be open to the campus community on a limited schedule to be set and posted by their managing authority – either Recreational Sports or SMU Athletics. Signs will be posted to reinforce that these venues are closed to the public.

Virtual Town Hall Invitation

 Dear Faculty and Staff,

As we prepare to welcome students and parents to campus, we invite you to a virtual town hall to address issues and questions as we begin our upcoming fall semester.

Date: Thursday, August 20, 2020

Time: 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.


Who: Hosted by President R. Gerald Turner who will be joined by:

Elizabeth G. Loboa: Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
Christine Regis: Vice President, Business and Finance
Dr. Robert W. Haley: Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Division of Epidemiology in the Internal Medicine Department at UT Southwestern Medical Center

Where: The link to the town hall will be sent closer to the day of the event.

A recording of the town hall will be posted later for those unable to join us on August 20th.

Question submission during the live presentation will be possible, but please submit your questions in advance to help establish the priority of comments and responses made by the panelists.

Please submit questions in advance here.

We look forward to hearing from you!

R. Gerald Turner
President

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.
Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner
President of SMU

Completion of Required COVID-19 Training Course Due August 24

Hello, Mustang!

As we prepare to return to campus for the fall semester, it is of the highest importance that all SMU students educate themselves on the ongoing COVID-19 situation and the updated policies and procedures at SMU. To accomplish this, all SMU students will be required to complete the Returning to Campus: COVID-19 Student Training Course through their Canvas account. 

Completing this course will ensure that all of us have a better understanding of how our campus will operate and what is expected as we work together to protect the health and safety of our entire community. 

What’s in the Course?

Through this course, you will develop skills to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on campus and learn about what SMU is doing to protect the health of our community. The course will take about 60-75 minutes to complete and will cover a variety of topics, including:

  • COVID-19 Basics
  • Proper Prevention
  • COVID-19 Testing
  • What Happens if Someone Gets Sick
  • What to Expect on Campus
  • What to Expect off Campus

You must finish all of the modules and pass the final assessment in order to complete the course successfully. As you complete your training, we invite you to reach out to the many referenced resources in order to join the larger discussion regarding these topics on our campus.

At the end of the course, you will also be asked to sign the “Pledge to Protect our SMU Community.” This pledge symbolizes each individual’s commitment to keeping our campus community healthy and safe.

What happens if a student doesn’t complete the course by the due date?

Completion of this course is REQUIRED for all SMU students. Please ensure that you have completed the course before your first day of class, which is Monday, August 24, 2020. Failure to complete the course by the assigned due date will result in a registration hold on your student account. Beginning Monday, August 24, 2020, this hold will prevent you from participating in fall add/drop and registering for future semesters.

What happens if a student completes the course before the due date?

Those completing the course before the required due date will be entered into a drawing for a FREE semester-long meal plan worth up to $1,500.

Thank you for your participation, and for helping us protect our SMU community. With your help we our campus will move forward and remain MUSTANG STRONG!

Sincerely,

Melinda J. Sutton, Ph.D.

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

and Dean of Students

Helpful Course Tips:

  • Work at your own pace from any computer or tablet.
  • You do not need to complete modules all at once. Canvas will save your progress if you need to stop and return later.
  • You must review all of the pages and complete the quiz at the end of each module in order to gain access to the next module. You must complete all of the modules and pass the final assessment in order to successfully complete the course.
  • For questions about the program, please email deanofstudents@smu.edu or call 214-768-4564.
  • If you experience any technical issues, please contact the SMU OIT Help Desk by phone, 214-768-4357 (8-HELP), via email to help@smu.edu, or submit a ticket online through help.smu.edu.

SMU Continues to Provide Options for Working Families With Children in School

August 26 Update:

With several school districts, including Dallas ISD, recently moving to extend on-line virtual ONLY learning until later in the year, we wanted to provide an update on options for employees as you navigate the ever-changing environment created by the pandemic. SMU will continue to offer flexibility and options to support parents with some slight adjustments to what had been communicated earlier this month.

Here are the options available.

  1. If the K-12 school district your child attends is offering only online learning for an extended period of time, please work with your supervisor to craft a feasible telecommuting option, if possible, considering your job responsibilities.
  2. If your school district offers/will offer both in-person and online learning, and you choose to remain home with your children during all or part of your normal working hours to support online learning, you may:
    • use vacation time
    • choose to take part or full time leave un the Working Family Leave option.

Working Family Leave offers employees either full- or part-time unpaid administrative leave through December 2020 to cover your time away from work:

• Your position will be held for you during this time.
• You’ll maintain current SMU medical and dental plans with SMU covering the full expense.
• For part-time leave, employees must work a minimum of 20 or more hours per week on campus, but schedules may be flexible to allow for work hours before 8:30 a.m. and after 5 p.m.
• Current vacation balances can be applied before the unpaid leave goes into effect, if you choose.
• Vacation and sick-leave hours will not accrue during an unpaid full leave. Vacation and sick-leave hours will accrue at a prorated amount for those on unpaid part-time leave.
• Approval from the appropriate vice president or dean will be necessary for all telecommuting and unpaid leave options.
• To start the process, fill out this form. For more information please contact returntowork@smu.edu.

Please discuss these options with your supervisor at each stage as you decide the best solution for your child’s health and education. SMU will continue to review and respond to the changes that affect our employees and their families during this pandemic.

Posted July 24, 2020:

Dear SMU staff,

We understand the difficult choices that parents face during these uncertain times – in particular as you attempt both to care for your children and fulfill your professional responsibilities. We want to support you in addressing the challenge of providing child care when schools are closed or operating only online because of the decisions of local authorities during the pandemic. School districts with children of SMU employees have reached different decisions. For example, K-12 public and private schools within Dallas County will not be allowed to hold in-person classes until after September 7, and schoolchildren in Tarrant County will not be returning for in-person classes until September 28.

Under these exceptional circumstances while K-12 is required to be online or experiencing a delayed start for in-person instruction, please work with your supervisor to craft a feasible telecommuting option if that is possible considering your job responsibilities.

We realize that even when K-12 schools in your child’s school district open again for full-time, in-person instruction, some parents might choose to keep their children at home. If your choice at that time is to remain home with your children during all or part of your normal working hours, you may use vacation time or take unpaid leave to cover the time away from work while also retaining benefits. Available options include either full- or part-time unpaid administrative leave. Employees may take such leave through December 2020, and your position will be held for you during this time. For part-time leave, it is expected that employees work a minimum of 20 or more hours per week on campus, but schedules may be flexible to allow for work hours before 8:30 a.m. and after 5 p.m.

Current vacation balances can be applied before the unpaid leave goes into effect, if you choose. Vacation and sick-leave hours will not accrue during an unpaid full leave. Vacation and sick-leave hours will accrue at a prorated amount for those on unpaid part-time leave. While on full- or part-time leave to accommodate your child’s remote learning, employees currently on the SMU medical and dental plans may retain their current benefits with SMU covering the full expense. 

Please discuss these options with your supervisor at each stage in deciding the best solution for your child’s health and education. As local authorities issue or amend orders, the fluidity of this situation dictates that these arrangements be reconsidered each month to ensure they meet both your family’s needs and the needs of SMU in supporting our students. Approval from the appropriate vice president or dean will be necessary for all telecommuting and unpaid leave options. To start the process, fill out this form. For more information please contact returntowork@smu.edu.

No cost rapid COVID-19 testing for SMU employees

No cost test with same day results available at nine DFW locations

SMU is now offering a fast and convenient option for COVID-19 testing with same day results for employees and their families. The University will cover 100 percent of the cost, and no insurance paperwork is needed for those who have SMU health benefits.

The University has contracted with Virtual Care for Families to provide curbside rapid COVID-19 antigen testing at nine clinic locations in the DFW area. Testing is available for SMU staff and faculty members and their dependents who have symptoms or circumstances in which they may have been exposed to the virus.  

To schedule a test, go online for an initial screening via telemedicine at virtualcarefamilies.com/smu. Based on the screening, an appointment for testing can be scheduled at one of the Urgent Care for Kids clinic locations. Upon arrival, a provider will complete the test at the employee’s vehicle. 

Telemedicine appointments may be scheduled every day from 8 a.m. to midnight. The testing service is available weekdays from noon or 3 p.m. (depending upon the location) to 9 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  

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. 

Flexible work arrangements for SMU faculty and staff

Dear SMU Community,

It cannot be said too often that the health and well-being of our faculty and staff are of vital importance to me and to the University we serve. We value your work, your sense of mission, and the individual talents you bring to the table. As we complete the first cycle of staff telecommuting arrangements, SMU remains committed to adjusting our campus operations, as needed, to meet the changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and to best support our community.  To reflect the most current guidance from the CDC and the State of Texas, the University is revising and expanding its guidelines for flexible work arrangements. Please access the new information here.

I want to thank you again for the careful and supportive way you have helped SMU prepare for the resumption of on-campus instruction this summer and fall, working with us to follow evolving CDC guidelines and governmental instructions.  While a relatively modest number of students will join us on campus in July, we have every indication that our students are eager to return to campus in the fall. Our planning reflects the energy our students are sharing, with the understanding that we may need to adapt to future changing conditions.

I also want to thank the University community for engaging in meaningful dialogue to help members of the President’s Executive Council refine our processes. It is our goal to be prepared for a strong, well-attended fall semester beginning in August.

I am proud of the SMU family and look forward to our continuing work together as we meet these extraordinary challenges.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

President

New Air Filter System, Cleaning Protocols, Among Enhancements to Keep Campus Healthy

SMU Air Quality Improvement Strategy

SMU Facilities Planning and Management is upgrading all air filters in air handler units across campus, as a strategy to improve air quality in all University buildings. All air filters will be updated from the current MERV 10 level to the highest rated filtration level effective for SMU’s air handler system – MERV 13. This diagram details the filtration ratings, and the types and amounts of particles captured.

COVID-19 Facilities Custodial Response Guide

The Office of Facilities Planning & Management is committed to informing students, faculty and staff of steps and measures taken to protect the SMU community, as we prepare for the fall semester. This guide communicates the cleaning protocols and strategic communication plan developed specifically with regard to prevention of the spread of COVID-19 on our campus.

More resources links:
Enhanced Cleaning Protocol
https://www.smu.edu/-/media/Site/BusinessFinance/HR/welcome-back/enhanced-cleaning-operations-procedure-manual-for-office-and-education-environments

Enhanced cleaning coverage for all buildings
https://www.smu.edu/-/media/Site/BusinessFinance/FacilitiesManagementSustainability/Covid19_info/Enhanced-Custodial-Coverage-06-20-20.pdf

Three-Step Approach
https://www.smu.edu/-/media/Site/BusinessFinance/FacilitiesManagementSustainability/Covid19_info/EnhancedClean-Reentry-Guide-WORD-SMU_new.pdf

Facilities Communication Plan and Custodial Response Guide PDF
https://www.smu.edu/-/media/Site/BusinessFinance/FacilitiesManagementSustainability/Covid19_info/Custodialresponseguide_final.pdf?la=en

UPDATE: SMU Requires Face Coverings in All Public Spaces for Fall 2020 Semester

Faculty authorized to require students to wear face coverings in fall classrooms

SMU is requiring that everyone on the SMU campus wear a face covering over the mouth and nose in all public indoor spaces. This requirement includes classrooms; building entrances and exits; lobbies and lounges; as well as in hallways, stairwells, restrooms and elevators and also extends to SMU’s Meadows Museum – both for staff and visitors.

The requirement is in line with continued orders by the State of Texas and Dallas County, and strengthens the earlier University policy that stated the University “expects” all students, faculty staff and visitors to wear a face covering in public spaces.

For the fall semester, faculty members are authorized to require face coverings in their classrooms and during faculty-student meetings. All faculty will have access to disposable face coverings to provide to students who forget to bring one to class.

Facial coverings are required public indoor spaces, including the classrooms, or anywhere on campus—including public areas of residential facilities or outdoor spaces— where social distancing cannot be maintained. They are not required in private spaces such as inside an office or partitioned cubicle for employees, or inside an individual residence hall room for students. 

SMU is prepared to maintain or adjust its “face coverings in public spaces” requirement as circumstances evolve.

Message to campus on confirmed COVID-19 cases

Dear SMU Community,

Last spring, SMU sent an emergency notification to all students, faculty and staff about the first confirmed COVID-19 cases involving our campus community. This was an important step in informing our campus about this rapidly evolving situation.

As we begin to identify additional cases, we wanted to be sure the campus community is fully informed about the process that will be followed as well as the communications that can be expected. Going forward, as we are informed, SMU will update the campus community by listing all confirmed cases on our COVID-19 site. The identification of positive cases on campus occurs through several mechanisms, including:

  • Testing through the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center
  • Local county health department notification
  • Self-disclosure by employees or students

Students or employees experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms should contact either their personal physician or the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center at 214-768-2277 for a screening interview by trained medical staff. Based on the results, testing may be required. If the test is positive:

It is the responsibility of an employee or student testing positive to immediately notify the University through the avenues presented above.

Following county, state and federal guidelines, SMU uses the University’s contact tracing protocol to identify and notify individuals who may have been exposed among the University community. All individuals testing positive for COVID-19 cases are contacted and CONFIDENTIALLY interviewed by trained University staff to identify close contacts. The tracing is based on class schedule, living situation, student activities, employee work locations including offices and job sites, face-to-face meetings and any other situations that may have resulted in close contact from two days before the onset of symptoms (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to testing). Close contact is described by the Centers for Disease Control as within six feet for more than 15 minutes (without direct respiratory droplet exposure).

Those in the SMU community who may have come into close contact with the positive case are notified directly and given further instructions to prevent the spread. If you are not directly contacted, it was determined you did not have close contact with anyone who has tested positive. Medical confidentiality will be maintained for everyone. Employees and students who learn of positive cases should respect this important privacy concern by not commenting on any information that could identify the person and/or posting about a case on social media. Supervisors, including deans and vice presidents, will be notified when one of their faculty or staff is positive. The communication from the University is the official communication on these matters, so please refrain from sending any additional emails or messages about the case. It is important for all of us to act responsibly. If you have any questions on how to respond to a situation, please reach out directly to Human Resources for assistance.

When a positive case is confirmed, SMU custodial workers also deep clean and sanitize the area in which the person worked or lived, as well as adjacent rooms and public spaces in the building. This enhanced cleaning is performed by an expanded crew within four to eight hours of the case confirmation.

Along with communications within the affected campus location and to campus individuals who were determined to have been in close contact, the University will keep a running list of confirmed cases on the SMU COVID-19 site. Again, SMU will not give out the person’s name, and we ask that you respect this individual’s privacy as well. If you would like to be updated when a positive case is added to the campus list, please email subscribe-covidcasenotifications@list.smu.edu to receive notifications.

Fall 2020: The Big Picture

Dear SMU students, parents, faculty and staff,

Those of us who have been planning for our students’ return to campus are pleased to share with you the road map for our fall semester on the Hilltop. While you can expect more communications on a variety of topics as we work through the summer months, this “big picture” document is intended to give you an overview of how we will teach and learn, protect our health, live on campus and handle basic operations at SMU as we continue to work through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, you will have more questions, so watch your emails and the COVID-19 website for updates as we get closer to residence hall move-in, followed by the start of classes on Monday, Aug. 24.  I have missed you all, and am looking forward to welcoming the Class of 2024.
Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner
R. Gerald Turner
President

President Turner previews SMU fall semester

Dear SMU Community,

Preparing for the return of our students during the pandemic will require creativity, commitment and cooperation. Our plans for reopening the campus to students in the fall for student instruction, campus life and community programs are progressing well, and I am especially looking forward to welcoming our students back to our Dallas and Taos campuses. Informed by state and county health guidelines, benchmarking from other universities and the work of the President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020, SMU will resume activities on its campuses under the following framework:

CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION WILL RESUME ON CAMPUS

The vast majority of SMU courses will be offered in person, on campus. To accommodate safety and health concerns, some classes will follow a hybrid model when necessary, providing a virtual, off-site component and staggered attendance schedules. For these courses, teaching in person as well as online would occur simultaneously. Such simultaneous online/in-person classes will accommodate international students facing travel restrictions, as well as students with health conditions that may preclude their being on campus at this time. The classes will also be recorded, adding greater flexibility for online students who may live in dramatically different time zones, or for students to re-watch classes as needed. For classes where students are participating online, all tests will be administered online so that every student’s progress is measured under the same circumstances.

A few courses, such as large lecture classes, may be offered online only. Other small classes will be offered in person only, in spaces adequate to follow health and safety guidelines. Special accommodations will be made for students in the performing arts.

AN ADJUSTED ACADEMIC SEMESTER

As many other universities have concluded, reducing the number of students returning to campus after holiday travel is important to lessen the chance of contagion. Therefore, we will revise our semester schedule to support a healthy campus population.

SMU will resume class instruction on campus Monday, August 24, as originally scheduled. Please note that the September 7 Labor Day holiday and October 12–13 Fall Break will be suspended and used as class instruction days. This change allows students to complete their on-campus studies and leave campus housing prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The University will shift all class instruction to online only for the remaining class days following Thanksgiving. (Graduate programs in some of our schools follow slightly different schedules, but will make similar accommodations that will be explained in detail by their deans.) Of course, students who do not have access to alternate living arrangements after Thanksgiving will be accommodated on campus, as they were this spring.

As a result, all final exams for the fall 2020 semester will be administered online.

OTHER ON-CAMPUS ACTIVITIES

In the coming days, additional guidelines will be forthcoming regarding campus life adjustments and the impact of the current situation on campus gatherings, large and small, for both students and faculty, as well as for alumni and other guests. To the extent possible, we will retain SMU traditions in the fall, so that students can experience as fully as possible a rich and vibrant campus life.

The information I have shared above is provided to allow students, their families, faculty and staff to plan for the weeks and months ahead. The good news is that our first mission –

delivering high-quality, on-campus classroom instruction – will continue, so that our students can benefit from in-person interaction with faculty members and with each other. Over the coming days and weeks, we will share more details in preparation for the fall semester, including new aspects of how we offer student housing, dining services, student programming and the like. These will be shared through email, the SMU website and the COVID-19 FAQs.

As always, feel free to reach out to your academic deans, advisers, and the Division of Student Affairs with any specific questions or concerns. I look forward to welcoming our students back to our campuses this summer and fall.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

President

SMU Employees: What to expect when you get back

Dear SMU faculty and staff,

You have received quite a few messages from me over the past few months, but this is one I have been eager to deliver: I am delighted to welcome our full University workforce back to campus on Monday, June 1.

I know how hard you have worked from home, and I do not underestimate the productivity we have maintained. Thank you! We have had to reinvent the way we work, teach and learn over the past 11 weeks. However, it’s important to remember that SMU is a university that delivers a unique residential experience for our students. It requires us to be on campus to prepare for delivering that opportunity to our students.

Many of you have asked, “Why June 1? Why is it important that we come back now?” The basic answer is to prepare for the imminent return of our students.

SMU will resume in-person instruction on campus for several hundred of the 1,600 students enrolled for the Summer II term that begins July 6. We expect about 100 of these students, along with over 100 student-athletes, will join the approximately 30 students (out of the original 300) who remained in our Residential Commons through the spring.  It will take extra effort from our schools and administrative offices to be ready to serve these on-campus students. This also provides us with an important opportunity to preview issues we might face when the larger community returns in August.

Obviously, this fall is going to be a monumental challenge. The superior education that we always deliver is at stake, as is the financial health of the University. SMU is in a stronger position than many universities but our responses to the pandemic created a budget gap of more than $13 million for the fiscal year ending on May 31 – and from national projections we expect more losses in the fall. To meet these challenges, as I know we will, all of us must pull together to prepare successfully for July term, followed by the return of all students in the fall.

Our plan is to move forward with both caution and confidence. We will inform our decisions based on the best information available from government and health authorities, and also rely on your commitment to our workplace guidelines to help keep each other safe.  Should the COVID-19 pandemic shift, we will respond in kind, because health and safety are important for all of us.

As you return to campus, some things will be different. These changes have been put in place to help keep you and your co-workers healthy. I hope you will take a moment to watch this short video, so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect.

Please remember that the “Welcome Back to Campus” packet describes many of the processes the University has developed to support a healthy workplace and also provides important training for you. The special guide for supervisors will help everyone work through the individual employee issues inherent in this transition. 

We must all take extra steps to protect our health, and we will take them. You have my gratitude for outstanding work and flexibility over the last few months, and I look forward to seeing you back on campus soon. Welcome back, Mustangs.

Sincerely, 


R. Gerald Turner
President

Message from Faculty Senate President and Past-President

Dear colleagues,

President Turner is preparing to update the SMU community on Monday June 1 about our planning for the fall semester. We expect it to include information such as modality for course delivery, any adjustments to the academic calendar, initial plans for residential and dining facilities, enhanced cleaning of high-traffic areas, testing capabilities and more. To help in understanding, Tim (Rosendale) and I as well as the rest of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee wanted to send you a quick message to explain the decision-making process in greater detail.

As you may remember from President Turner’s message to the community on April 27, the taskforce, co-chaired by Provost ad interim Peter Moore and Vice President for Student Affairs K.C. Mmeje, oversees the work of six subcommittees, representing about seventy-five (75) faculty and staff members working tirelessly in extraordinarily difficult circumstances to address the charges they have been tasked with in addition to their normal work duties. 

The subcommittees have been meeting several times a week and have generated many pages of detailed recommendations that are presented to the taskforce for discussion and vote. The taskforce also receives a daily summary of the ideas submitted through the Virtual Idea Box, which are then shared with the appropriate subcommittees for consideration. We are grateful to those of you who have submitted ideas and I encourage you to do so if you haven’t. 

The taskforce meetings include all the subcommittee chairs so that they can provide feedback to the group. It is also is an opportunity to coordinate and collaborate on recommendations such as those that need input from multiple subcommittees to be fully formed. To provide an example, travel has implications for the Academic Continuity, Business Continuity and Campus Health and Wellness subcommittees so these teams collaborate to make one recommendation. Once the taskforce vets the recommendations, those agreed upon are presented to the President’s Executive Council, which makes the final decision.

The subcommittees most relevant to faculty are the Academic Continuity and the Campus Health and Wellness subcommittees. Their charges and members (I apologize for any member I forgot to include as the membership list grew after the initial announcement) are listed at the end of this email.  

I have been tremendously impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of the recommendations the subcommittees have prepared in such a short amount of time, representing a cumulative hundreds of hours of deliberation and analysis. Further, I expect that there will be continued faculty input during and after July term regarding what is working in the classroom as we continue to prepare for the fall semester. 

While other universities across the country are implementing staff and faculty furloughs, layoffs and/or contract non-renewals as a result of the pandemic, SMU is looking forward, innovating and striving to keep its faculty and staff, and we are fortunate that our planned salary raises will go ahead as scheduled. Based on the thoughtful and comprehensive recommendations of the taskforce and its subcommittees, Tim and I, who both have witnessed the process from up close, are hopeful that the plan to be announced this Monday, June 1 will give SMU the very best chance to not only avoid the fate of those other universities but also make the very best possible use of our strengths as an institution to create, expand and impart knowledge while ensuring the health and safety of students, staff and faculty in those challenging and unprecedented times. 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me or Tim or any of the Faculty Senate ExComm members for 2020-21, who are: 

Past-President Tim Rosendale (Dedman I), 
President Aurélie Thiele (Lyle), 
President-Elect Pia Vogel (Dedman III), 
Secretary Susana Solera Adoboe (Dedman I), 
David Bertrand (Simmons), 
Rob Frank (Meadows), 
Luigi Manzetti (Dedman II), 
Rebekah Miles (Perkins), 
Anna Offit (Law),
Tom Tan (Cox).

Aurélie 

for 

Tim Rosendale, Faculty Senate Past-President rosendale@smu.edu

Aurélie Thiele, Faculty Senate President athiele@smu.edu


Academic Continuity – chaired by Michael Tumeo 
Develop plans to support educational continuity through a variety of instructional modes, including in-class, online-only and a hybrid of both. Address situations where students, faculty and staff must remain away from campus for a brief or extended period of time, or must adapt to other limitations on normal academic progress due to COVID-19. Plan and develop resources to support continuing classes, strategies for maintaining graduate student research and guidance for academic events of all sizes. Assess implications for student travel for internships and global experiences, including all activities at SMU-in-Taos. Define criteria and procedures for altering academic policies, including the Academic Calendar. Assess and develop options to mitigate the financial impacts that graduate and undergraduate students may face.

Members
Provost Office
·     Patty Alvey, PhD
·     Whitney Henry, MBA
·     Sheri Kunovich, PhD
·     Dayna Oscherwitz, PhD
·     Daniel Eady, EdM
·     David Son, PhD
·     Wes Waggoner, MBA, EdD
·     Doug Reinelt, PhD
·     Jim Quick, PhD
·     Michael Robertson, PhD
·     Michael Tumeo, PhD

Associate Deans
·     David Sedman, PhD – Meadows
·     Hugo Magallanes, PhD – Perkins
·     Tom Carr, PhD – Dedman College
·     Elizabeth Killingsworth, MLS – SMU Libraries
·     Bill Dillon, PhD – Cox
·     Becca Henley, JD – Dedman Law
·     Paige Ware, PhD – Simmons
·     Rumanda Young, PhD – Taos
·     Volkan Otugen, PhD – Lyle

OIT
·     Michael Hites, PhD
·     Curt Herridge, MBA

Faculty Senate
·     Tim Rosendale, PhD
·     Matthew Wilson, PhD

Student Body Vice President
·     Austin Hickle


Campus Health and Wellness – chaired by Melinda Sutton Noss, EdD and Peter Davis, MD, FACP
Develop comprehensive recommendations and plans for testing, contact tracing, social distancing, regulation of visitors, size of nonacademic events, frequent deep cleanings of facilities and other strategies to keep the campus safe, including facilities and activities at SMU-in-Taos. Create wellness information tools and resources to share broadly with the campus community.

Members
·     Health Center—Peter Davis, MD, FACP
·     Environmental Health & Safety – Brandon Chance, MS, CCHO
·     Global Health – Eric Bing, MD, PhD, MBA
·     Health Center – Randy Jones, MPH, DDS & Diane Melcher, RN
·     Health Promotions – Griffin Sharp, MS, MPH
·     Junior Student – from Dr. Bing’s Creating Impact in Global & Public Health course 
·     Human Resources—Mai Bui, MBA
·     RLSH—Amanda Bobo, MBA
·     OIT—George Finney, JD, CISM
·     OIT – Curt Herridge, MBA

Dear colleagues,

President Turner is preparing to update the SMU community on Monday June 1 about our planning for the fall semester. We expect it to include information such as modality for course delivery, any adjustments to the academic calendar, initial plans for residential and dining facilities, enhanced cleaning of high-traffic areas, testing capabilities and more. To help in understanding, Tim (Rosendale) and I as well as the rest of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee wanted to send you a quick message to explain the decision-making process in greater detail.

As you may remember from President Turner’s message to the community on April 27, the taskforce, co-chaired by Provost ad interim Peter Moore and Vice President for Student Affairs K.C. Mmeje, oversees the work of six subcommittees, representing about seventy-five (75) faculty and staff members working tirelessly in extraordinarily difficult circumstances to address the charges they have been tasked with in addition to their normal work duties. 

The subcommittees have been meeting several times a week and have generated many pages of detailed recommendations that are presented to the taskforce for discussion and vote. The taskforce also receives a daily summary of the ideas submitted through the Virtual Idea Box, which are then shared with the appropriate subcommittees for consideration. We are grateful to those of you who have submitted ideas and I encourage you to do so if you haven’t. 

The taskforce meetings include all the subcommittee chairs so that they can provide feedback to the group. It is also is an opportunity to coordinate and collaborate on recommendations such as those that need input from multiple subcommittees to be fully formed. To provide an example, travel has implications for the Academic Continuity, Business Continuity and Campus Health and Wellness subcommittees so these teams collaborate to make one recommendation. Once the taskforce vets the recommendations, those agreed upon are presented to the President’s Executive Council, which makes the final decision.

The subcommittees most relevant to faculty are the Academic Continuity and the Campus Health and Wellness subcommittees. Their charges and members (I apologize for any member I forgot to include as the membership list grew after the initial announcement) are listed at the end of this email.  

I have been tremendously impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of the recommendations the subcommittees have prepared in such a short amount of time, representing a cumulative hundreds of hours of deliberation and analysis. Further, I expect that there will be continued faculty input during and after July term regarding what is working in the classroom as we continue to prepare for the fall semester. 

While other universities across the country are implementing staff and faculty furloughs, layoffs and/or contract non-renewals as a result of the pandemic, SMU is looking forward, innovating and striving to keep its faculty and staff, and we are fortunate that our planned salary raises will go ahead as scheduled. Based on the thoughtful and comprehensive recommendations of the taskforce and its subcommittees, Tim and I, who both have witnessed the process from up close, are hopeful that the plan to be announced this Monday, June 1 will give SMU the very best chance to not only avoid the fate of those other universities but also make the very best possible use of our strengths as an institution to create, expand and impart knowledge while ensuring the health and safety of students, staff and faculty in those challenging and unprecedented times. 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me or Tim or any of the Faculty Senate ExComm members for 2020-21, who are: 

Past-President Tim Rosendale (Dedman I), 

President Aurélie Thiele (Lyle), 

President-Elect Pia Vogel (Dedman III), 

Secretary Susana Solera Adoboe (Dedman I), 

David Bertrand (Simmons), 

Rob Frank (Meadows), 

Luigi Manzetti (Dedman II), 

Rebekah Miles (Perkins), 

Anna Offit (Law),

Tom Tan (Cox).

Best wishes,

Aurélie 

for 

Tim Rosendale, Faculty Senate Past-President rosendale@smu.edu

Aurélie Thiele, Faculty Senate President athiele@smu.edu

Academic Continuity – chaired by Michael Tumeo 

Develop plans to support educational continuity through a variety of instructional modes, including in-class, online-only and a hybrid of both. Address situations where students, faculty and staff must remain away from campus for a brief or extended period of time, or must adapt to other limitations on normal academic progress due to COVID-19. Plan and develop resources to support continuing classes, strategies for maintaining graduate student research and guidance for academic events of all sizes. Assess implications for student travel for internships and global experiences, including all activities at SMU-in-Taos. Define criteria and procedures for altering academic policies, including the Academic Calendar. Assess and develop options to mitigate the financial impacts that graduate and undergraduate students may face.

Members

Provost Office

·     Patty Alvey, PhD

·     Whitney Henry, MBA

·     Sheri Kunovich, PhD

·     Dayna Oscherwitz, PhD

·     Daniel Eady, EdM

·     David Son, PhD

·     Wes Waggoner, MBA, EdD

·     Doug Reinelt, PhD

·     Jim Quick, PhD

·     Michael Robertson, PhD

·     Michael Tumeo, PhD

Associate Deans

·     David Sedman, PhD – Meadows

·     Hugo Magallanes, PhD – Perkins

·     Tom Carr, PhD – Dedman College

·     Elizabeth Killingsworth, MLS – SMU Libraries

·     Bill Dillon, PhD – Cox

·     Becca Henley, JD – Dedman Law

·     Paige Ware, PhD – Simmons

·     Rumanda Young, PhD – Taos

·     Volkan Otugen, PhD – Lyle

OIT

·     Michael Hites, PhD

·     Curt Herridge, MBA

Faculty Senate

·     Tim Rosendale, PhD

·     Matthew Wilson, PhD

Student Body Vice President

·     Austin Hickle

Campus Health and Wellness – chaired by Melinda Sutton Noss, EdD and Peter Davis, MD, FACP

Develop comprehensive recommendations and plans for testing, contact tracing, social distancing, regulation of visitors, size of nonacademic events, frequent deep cleanings of facilities and other strategies to keep the campus safe, including facilities and activities at SMU-in-Taos. Create wellness information tools and resources to share broadly with the campus community.

Members

·     Health Center—Peter Davis, MD, FACP

·     Environmental Health & Safety – Brandon Chance, MS, CCHO

·     Global Health – Eric Bing, MD, PhD, MBA

·     Health Center – Randy Jones, MPH, DDS & Diane Melcher, RN

·     Health Promotions – Griffin Sharp, MS, MPH

·     Junior Student – from Dr. Bing’s Creating Impact in Global & Public Health course 

·     Human Resources—Mai Bui, MBA

·     RLSH—Amanda Bobo, MBA

·     OIT—George Finney, JD, CISM

·     OIT – Curt Herridge, MBA


Academic Continuity – chaired by Michael Tumeo 
Develop plans to support educational continuity through a variety of instructional modes, including in-class, online-only and a hybrid of both. Address situations where students, faculty and staff must remain away from campus for a brief or extended period of time, or must adapt to other limitations on normal academic progress due to COVID-19. Plan and develop resources to support continuing classes, strategies for maintaining graduate student research and guidance for academic events of all sizes. Assess implications for student travel for internships and global experiences, including all activities at SMU-in-Taos. Define criteria and procedures for altering academic policies, including the Academic Calendar. Assess and develop options to mitigate the financial impacts that graduate and undergraduate students may face.

Members
Provost Office
·     Patty Alvey, PhD
·     Whitney Henry, MBA
·     Sheri Kunovich, PhD
·     Dayna Oscherwitz, PhD
·     Daniel Eady, EdM
·     David Son, PhD
·     Wes Waggoner, MBA, EdD
·     Doug Reinelt, PhD
·     Jim Quick, PhD
·     Michael Robertson, PhD
·     Michael Tumeo, PhD

Associate Deans
·     David Sedman, PhD – Meadows
·     Hugo Magallanes, PhD – Perkins
·     Tom Carr, PhD – Dedman College
·     Elizabeth Killingsworth, MLS – SMU Libraries
·     Bill Dillon, PhD – Cox
·     Becca Henley, JD – Dedman Law
·     Paige Ware, PhD – Simmons
·     Rumanda Young, PhD – Taos
·     Volkan Otugen, PhD – Lyle

OIT
·     Michael Hites, PhD
·     Curt Herridge, MBA

Faculty Senate
·     Tim Rosendale, PhD
·     Matthew Wilson, PhD

Student Body Vice President
·     Austin Hickle


Campus Health and Wellness – chaired by Melinda Sutton Noss, EdD and Peter Davis, MD, FACP
Develop comprehensive recommendations and plans for testing, contact tracing, social distancing, regulation of visitors, size of nonacademic events, frequent deep cleanings of facilities and other strategies to keep the campus safe, including facilities and activities at SMU-in-Taos. Create wellness information tools and resources to share broadly with the campus community.

Members
·     Health Center—Peter Davis, MD, FACP
·     Environmental Health & Safety – Brandon Chance, MS, CCHO
·     Global Health – Eric Bing, MD, PhD, MBA
·     Health Center – Randy Jones, MPH, DDS & Diane Melcher, RN
·     Health Promotions – Griffin Sharp, MS, MPH
·     Junior Student – from Dr. Bing’s Creating Impact in Global & Public Health course 
·     Human Resources—Mai Bui, MBA
·     RLSH—Amanda Bobo, MBA
·     OIT—George Finney, JD, CISM
·     OIT – Curt Herridge, MBA

SMU keeps going volume 6

Dear Faculty, Staff and Students,

In spite of the rain, I hope you saw on Saturday the lights on Reunion Tower spell out SMU in honor of our 2020 graduates. Now it’s time to look to the fall as we welcome back those who started working on campus this week! I have enjoyed seeing more faculty and staff as we carefully and safely begin to bring people to our campus. We expect our first group of students to return to campus for a hybrid July term, which will offer both in-person and online classes. They will be the first to follow the recommendations under development by the hardworking members of the President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020.

Here are just a few stories about the many ways our faculty, staff and students are responding to COVID-19 through research, helping others and sharing the ways SMU has helped them prepare for a future that is very different than the one they expected.

  • From studying on Dallas Hall lawn to celebrating on the Boulevard, our May 2020 grads look back on what makes the SMU experience so special in their Stories from the Hilltop.
  • While medical professionals everywhere have been hard at work for months searching for a cure to the COVID-19 virus, Guildhall’s Corey Clark and Dedman College computational biologist John Wise have teamed together with gamers to join the fight.
  • The 200 residents of Picarus Pueblo near SMU-in-Taos remain COVID-19 free. In this PBS NewsHour story, Mike Adler, archaeologist and director of SMU-in-Taos, explains why.
  • Dedman Law faculty member Anna Offit discussed the pros and cons of a Zoom jury trial with NBC-5.

As we look to the future, incoming student and President’s Scholar Eileen Garcia gives us good reason to be optimistic. She is one of 20 students the Today Show has followed for more than a decade. Eileen and other members of the Class of 2024 started kindergarten the year after 9/11 and graduated from high school in the midst of a pandemic. Thank you to everyone working to create a safe, effective and meaningful SMU experience for Eileen and her classmates.

Please continue to send your stories to news@smu.edu. You may find more SMU stories at  smu.edu/MustangsKeepGoing.

Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

SMU employees: Welcome back to campus

Dear SMU faculty and staff,

We are looking forward to your return to the Hilltop. You have demonstrated flexibility, creativity and remarkable good humor in keeping the University on course during these trying times, and those traits will serve us well as we return to campus and prepare to welcome our students back. Some of you, on the guidance of your supervisor, will be returning to campus on May 18. The remainder of SMU employees should plan to return to campus June 1.  Given that the campus is relatively quiet in June, especially due to online classes, the month is an ideal time for staff to return.  Since buildings will continue to be locked the general public will not have open access to SMU facilities.
 
Your health is important, and your commitment to new “rules of the road” will be essential to maintain the health of our entire SMU community. Our faculty and staff must be protected, trained and adequately prepared for this new working environment. Therefore, it is vital that you read the “Welcome Back to Campus” packet and follow its links to fully understand what is required. Please communicate with your manager, department chair or dean before you return to campus, allowing time for a thorough discussion of issues related to your workspace, schedule and other individual considerations.

If you still have questions after communicating with your supervisor, please follow up with Human Resources at returntowork@smu.edu, as needed.

Our new normal is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. Rest assured, we will adjust our guidelines to meet challenges along the way. The most up to date information will be placed on the Human Resources website.  We appreciate your patience as we work together to make our work environment both healthy and productive. 

Thank you,

Peter K. Moore
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, ad interim

Chris Casey Regis 
Vice President for Business and Finance

On-campus and online classes to be held for Summer Session II


May 15, 2020

Dear Students, Faculty and Staff:

SMU, including its campus in Taos, is expecting to offer a combination of in-person and online classes for Summer Session II, commonly referred to as July term. We will continue to monitor and adjust as evolving guidelines emerge from Dallas County and the Texas governor.

You may recall that the President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020 is charged with the important mission of bringing our students, faculty and staff back to campus safely. One of the first charges assigned to the group was to evaluate the feasibility of an on-campus experience for the July term.

The task force surveyed more than 1,000 students who enrolled in July term, as well as the faculty who signed up to teach. While most students replied that they would prefer to continue their summer learning online, many students expressed that they would like the on-campus experience, provided that safety and health protocols are in place. Faculty survey results mirrored the students’ responses, with most planning to teach online and many open to teaching in person.

Informed by the latest science, along with health and safety guidelines from federal, state and local officials, the task force recommended that a hybrid model combining some on-site classes with online classes would be feasible and most responsive to the student needs. Welcoming a small community of students on campus in July will also enable SMU to fine-tune recommendations and protocols for the larger group of students returning in the fall.

Recognizing that we are paving new ground, the University is committed to ensuring a safe and healthy environment for on-campus students in July and when the fall semester begins in August.  Employees are returning to campus June 1 after receiving training on safety and health practices, which will include daily health self-assessments; face coverings; enhanced cleaning protocols; social distancing guidelines in workspaces, restrooms and elevators; as well as contact tracing. All these safety procedures will be in place for students as well.

As we prepare for July, we are layering in plans to reduce the density of academic and residential facilities and dining halls, planning for distance-conscious transitions between classes, on-campus COVID-19 testing and more. These details will be shared with you as we get closer to welcoming our July students.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate the continuously changing landscape created by COVID-19. Your safety and wellness are our highest priority, and our commitment to flexibility and responsiveness will help us give you the high-quality academic and student experience that defines SMU.

Sincerely

R. Gerald Turner
President of SMU

SMU keeps going volume 5

Dear SMU Faculty, Staff and Students,

Congratulations to the 2,634 graduating students who will receive their SMU degrees on Saturday, May 16. Here we go Mustangs is just one small way we honor our graduating students’ accomplishments. Also, keep your eyes on the Dallas skyline this Saturday night when Reunion Tower will light up with a special message in support of our graduates. We plan to recognize their achievements more fully at Commencement on August 15.  Until then, please know the Class of 2020 will always be known for its strength and perseverance, despite the anxiety and hardships of these trying times. I am also grateful to the faculty and staff who have, with determination, met the challenge to mentor and guide the Class of 2020 to the completion of the spring term.

Here are creative ways students and faculty have showcased their talents, expressed their thoughts and shared their expertise as we wrap up this most challenging semester.

I miss the proud families and smiling seniors we usually see on our beautiful campus at this time, but we haven’t forgotten the Class of 2020 and you can find here a few videos and photos of their first days on our campus. I look forward to the day soon when the entire SMU community will celebrate their success. Please continue to send your stories to news@smu.edu. You may find more SMU stories at smu.edu/MustangsKeepGoing.

Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

SMU keeps going volume 4

Dear SMU Faculty, Staff and Students,

Spring is the time we honor our students for outstanding academic, leadership and service achievements. In spite of distance, students have been initiated into honor societies, recognized for their research and honored for their contributions to the community. The work of the University continues, as evidenced by these fruits of our students’ work. Thank you to each of you for your dedication during these challenging times and your determination that SMU will emerge stronger than ever. 

Here are examples of Mustangs embodying our world changing spirit:

  • Faculty members Fred Chang, computer science, and Jo Guldi, history, co-founded the SMU AI Lab, where artificial intelligence and machine learning are used to search for trends, patterns and insight in search of a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Simmons math education faculty member Candace Walkington, takes at-home math to new heights in a video series of math activities for older kids that include Barbie bungee jumping, soap bubble magic and STEM walks.
  • Faculty members Jake Batsell and Amber Benson have found COVID-19 is particularly applicable to classes they are teaching this semester. Batsell’s students are comparing the pandemic to the 2008 economic collapse, while Benson’s healthcare advertising students are creating a coronavirus myth-busting campaign sponsored by the United Nations.

Best of luck to students preparing for final exams and faculty members preparing for stacks of grading. I admire your dedication and persistence to finish the spring 2020 semester well. Please continue to send your stories with news@smu.edu. You may find more SMU stories at smu.edu/mustangskeepgoing.

Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

SMU keeps going volume 3

Dear SMU Faculty, Staff and Students,After six weeks of online classes and stay-at-home orders, I continue to be proud of the many ways the SMU community is demonstrating innovation amid dramatic changes brought by COVID-19. By now you may have seen our plans to continue to have a majority of campus employees remain working from home until May 18 and returning to campus by June 1. We also intend to be open this fall. To that end, I have appointed a Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020, charged with the important mission of bringing our students, faculty and staff back to campus safely while ensuring high-quality instruction, academic rigor, meaningful research and campus engagement – all of which exemplify the SMU experience. Here are a few more examples of how the SMU community continues to embody our World Changing spirit. You can find these and other stories on this site.When an Italian piano company invited Fazioli-owners to submit videos of performances, Meadows’ Carol Leone, professor and chair of piano studies, responded with this inspiring performance of Scarlatti’s Sonata in G Major, K14.

More than 200 people signed in for the free webinar targeted to small business owners offered by Cox’s Caruth Institute of Entrepreneurship, “The Realities of the SBA Assistance Program.”

SMU Libraries had 196 chats, 677 email consultations and 187 zoom or phone calls from March 16 to April 16. They are here to assist you.

George Finney, OIT chief security officer, created this imaginative cybersecurity guide to working at home.

Religious studies associate professor Jill DeTemple is on research leave this semester, but she invited former students to join a weekly COVID-19 Zoom chat. She discussed the importance of courage and care to create community in an online classroom in this op-ed she co-wrote for Inside Higher Ed.

Simmons reading specialists have developed resources to help the youngest readers, and those who are teaching them at home.

SMU alum Hubert Zajicek, M.B.A. ’06, a doctor and founder and CEO of Health Wildcatters incubator, helped create the Health Hacking Crisis Network to find quick solutions to problems like the face mask shortage among healthcare workers.

Yoga, Zumba, Pilates? Find recorded and online fitness classes offered by Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports.

 We’ve had welcome glimpses on campus of students and their families moving belongings out of the Residential Commons, carefully choreographed by RLSH to maintain social distancing. But our focus is on the future, and we are evaluating various scenarios to return our community to campus in a safe and effective way. Meanwhile, keep up the wonderful work. Each of you is an inspiration to me. Please continue to share your stories with news@smu.edu.

Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

We intend to be open in fall 2020

Dear SMU Community,

It’s time to look to the future.

I am pleased to announce that SMU intends to safely open our University for on-campus teaching, learning and student living for the fall semester. We are looking forward to delivering the unique academic experience that defines SMU, and to rekindling the energy our students bring to campus.

Clearly, we will work within the boundaries of governmental guidelines as we plan for the beginning of fall classes. Be assured, every phase of our return to campus will launch with the health and safety of our campus population in mind. Your University is committed to managing this process aggressively and efficiently, using data and verifiable research to make good decisions.

It is important that we move toward the goal of an open campus with confidence, understanding that the path forward will take creativity and patience as the pandemic and our response to it continue to evolve. If you could see, as I have, the extraordinary work and innovation that have carried our University through the past few months, you would understand the source of my confidence.

Our most obvious challenges in preparing for the return of students to campus are physical. We are examining how we will safely gather and learn together in the age of social distancing. The President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020 is mapping out plans for managing the density of our campus population, from the classrooms to the residence halls.

I would encourage all of you – our current SMU family and those of you we look forward to welcoming in the fall – to embrace the pragmatic optimism that is fueling SMU’s plans for fall 2020. The start of this new academic year will be different in some ways, but what makes us SMU will stay the same. We will learn from each other, and we will take care of each other. It is what Mustangs do.

Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

President’s Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020

SMU is committed to reopening the campus as quickly as possible, while protecting the health of our University community and allowing for safe learning, working, living and socializing. To that end, SMU must have data-informed policies and procedures in place as early as midsummer that leverage the best available testing and/or screening for COVID-19, along with continued health practices such as social distancing, use of protective face coverings and other necessary measures. SMU also must plan for the unpredictable progression of the pandemic and its financial impact while preparing for related government-mandated restrictions on how we work, live and assemble.

Effective immediately, I am appointing the SMU President’s Task Force For a Healthy Opening Fall 2020, co-chaired by K.C. Mmeje, vice president for Student Affairs, and Peter K. Moore, vice president for Academic Affairs and provost ad interim. This cross-functional task force will report to me through the President’s Executive Council (PEC) and is charged with the important mission of bringing our students, faculty and staff back to campus safely while ensuring high-quality instruction, academic rigor, meaningful research and campus engagement – all of which exemplify the SMU experience.

The task force shall:

  • Create subcommittees to address Academic Continuity, Research Continuity, Business Continuity, Campus Health and Wellness, Student Continuity and Communications with specific charges assigned to each;
  • Meet regularly to analyze and take action on reports from subcommittees which will meet weekly or more, depending on need;
  • Examine existing SMU policies and procedures and propose new practices/policies to meet the needs of the University in a changeable environment;
  • Study best practices from other higher education leaders and institutions while remaining focused on approaches that meet SMU’s unique needs;
  • Remain cognizant of the financial strains and limits imposed upon the University by the pandemic;
  • Adhere to deadlines that enable communications with our campus community by:
    • May 15 for July session;
    • June 1 for Study Abroad programs;
    • June 1 for August Commencement and the beginning of the fall semester.

The task force members include:

  • Thomas DiPiero, dean of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences
  • Michael Hites, chief information officer
  • Alison Tweedy, associate vice president of Campus Services
  • Leigh Ann Moffett, director of Emergency Management, Office of Risk Management
  • Regina Moldovan, assistant vice president of Marketing and Communications, DEA
  • Melinda Sutton Noss, associate vice president and dean of Students, Student Affairs
  • Melinda Carlson, assistant vice president and dean of Residence Life and Student Housing, Student Affairs
  • Aurelie Thiele, associate professor of Engineering Management, Information, and Systems, Faculty Senate
  • Joseph Monroy, registrar and director of Academic Services (Perkins), SMU Staff Association president
  • Molly Patrick, student body president

Charges for Subcommittees

Academic Continuity – Michael Tumeo

  • Develop plans to support educational continuity through a variety of instructional modes, including in-class, online-only and a hybrid of both. Address situations where students, faculty and staff must remain away from campus for a brief or extended period of time, or must adapt to other limitations on normal academic progress due to COVID-19. Plan and develop resources to support continuing classes, strategies for maintaining graduate student research and guidance for academic events of all sizes. Assess implications for student travel for internships and global experiences, including all activities at SMU-in-Taos. Define criteria and procedures for altering academic policies, including the Academic Calendar. Assess and develop options to mitigate the financial impacts that graduate and undergraduate students may face.

Research Continuity James Quick, Brandon Chance

  • Create a protocol for expanding the opening of lab facilities, including art studios and performance practice facilities. Identify ways to protect critical research in the event of a brief or extended disruption to normal operations. Compile an inventory of sensitive research that requires continued support during the summer and fall semesters. Prepare a plan to provide that support with limited staff, resources and vendor provisions. Review existing plans for the continued care of sensitive research specimens. Develop criteria for the safe opening and operation of SMU Libraries and the Meadows Museum.

Business Continuity Michael Molina, Alison Tweedy

  • Assess and evaluate SMU’s essential operational functions, determine strategies for maintaining critical campus utilities and infrastructure and continue to evaluate procedures to enable a hybrid work model for SMU faculty and staff. Consider implications and procedures for contract staff and plans for stockpiling supplies in the event of a supply-chain disruption. Additionally, work to recover expenses associated with COVID-19 and develop a plan/brief for long-term initiatives such as capital projects, staffing, etc.

Campus Health and Wellness – Melinda Sutton Noss, Peter Davis

  • Develop comprehensive recommendations and plans for testing, contact tracing, social distancing, regulation of visitors, size of nonacademic events, frequent deep cleanings of facilities and other strategies to keep the campus safe, including facilities and activities at SMU-in-Taos. Create wellness information tools and resources to share broadly with the campus community.

Student Continuity Melinda Carlson, Sheri Kunovich (input from Athletics – Lauren Adee)

  • Explore student life issues, such as providing safe access to essentials such as campus dining services and student support and well-being programs. Continue to develop plans for disruptions to traditional student life programming, including student and athletic events and travel. Examine occupancy standards for residential communities that reinforce social distancing and refine residential communities’ guest policies, consider single occupancy options, etc. Planning and considerations should include classes and activities at SMU-in-Taos.

Communications – Kim Cobb, Dianne Anderson

  • Gather perspective from and coordinate with communications representatives from campus schools and units on frequency, consistency, accuracy and effectiveness of messaging concerning SMU’s plans in response to COVID-19. Create multipronged communications plans for different planning scenarios for summer and fall semesters and identify ways to bolster existing communications methods.

I want to thank Dr. Mmeje and Dr. Moore for leading this important effort, and the committee and subcommittee members for offering their time and expertise as we carefully coordinate the best approach to a healthy reopening this fall.

Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

SMU adapts to challenges created by COVID-19

Dear Campus Community,

Anyone walking across our beautiful campus is struck by how quiet it is. What is not visible is the increased activity behind the scenes as we work to educate our students online while adapting to the serious challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Across the country, many families and individuals are facing personal financial challenges which will have an impact on future enrollment at all universities – particularly at a private university like ours, heavily dependent on tuition income for operational expenses. Due to these financial stressors, the American Council on Education (ACE) recently predicted an estimated 15% drop in undergraduate fall enrollment and a 25% decrease in international students – especially within graduate programs. SMU also must plan for the unpredictable progression of the pandemic, along with related government-mandated restrictions on how we teach, work and assemble. Nevertheless, we intend to be prepared for a thoroughly researched, health-guided opening of the SMU campus for the fall semester, should this be possible.

In our current fiscal year, we have identified a budget gap of more than $13 million, which includes the $7.7 million we are refunding or crediting to our students for interrupted spring semester charges for housing, dining and parking. We plan to deal with these current fiscal-year impacts through expense reductions directly related to services we are no longer offering, budget reserves, and hopefully some federal CARES funding.

The financial issues are likely to become more serious as we move toward FY 21. We are modelling several enrollment scenarios for the fall semester that assume in-person classes, online classes only, and a hybrid model including both. Each scenario comes with factors that cannot be fully quantified, but we will need to be prepared for more lost revenue at a time when we also have a significant increase in demand for need-based student financial aid. Obviously, these dramatic changes will call for difficult financial decisions.

Effective immediately, SMU will impose a hiring delay through at least December 2020 on open faculty and staff positions funded by unrestricted dollars, and will reduce expenses through attrition by not filling positions that become vacant during this period. SMU also will delay implementation of most new or increased budget items for the 2021 fiscal year that begins June 1.

Nevertheless, since it was approved in January, the University intends to support the 2% pool of funds used for increases in base salaries. These continuing and one-time raises for faculty and staff for FY 21 will still be awarded beginning June 1 for staff and August 1 for faculty. However, our deans, University vice presidents, the athletic director and I will not at this time receive any compensation adjustments for the next fiscal year.

To further meet financial challenges for the FY 21 budget, additional reductions will occur in:

  • Supply, expense and travel budgets;
  • Center and institute budgets;
  • Operating expenses for SMU Professional and Online Education.

If on-campus instruction, housing and public events are not permitted this fall, as a last resort, we also may need to consider furloughs of current operational and athletics staff and faculty. University reserves will be used for temporary relief, as possible, during this period of increased financial pressure, but as I am sure you understand, such one-time funds cannot fill recurring budget gaps with no definable end in sight.

We face difficult choices, but as I wrote earlier this month, our goal is to preserve, to the extent possible, the faculty and staff positions within our SMU community until we can return to full campus operations. Of course, we have to recognize that no institution, including SMU, can predict today the impact of this crisis on its future enrollments and resulting budget implications.

First and foremost, SMU must continue to protect the health and safety of the campus community. As we look to reopen the campus, I have asked Peter K. Moore, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, ad interim, and K.C. Mmeje, vice president for Student Affairs, to co-chair an oversight group, the SMU President’s Task Force for Healthy Opening Fall 2020. This group will develop a plan based on established protocols for a safe reopening of SMU in the fall, should that be possible. Sub-groups will be formed as well to facilitate a smooth transition to reopening. We’ll share more about this initiative later.

The positive, can-do spirit reflected in our faculty and staff will help us endure – and ultimately prevail – through these tough times. Thank you for the talent and dedication you bring to your work, much of which is now being accomplished from dining-room tables and home offices, with children and household demands competing for your attention. And here on our too-quiet campus, I salute those of you who are coming in to do the essential work to support online instruction and the tasks that keep us operating.

Please remember to take care of yourselves, both physically and emotionally. What we do as a University is important for the future of humanity. The work you do is valued, and our students depend on us to help them achieve their dreams ­– perhaps now more than ever, as they navigate this challenging time. We are grateful to have this opportunity at SMU in Dallas to work through this together.

I will share more information with you after the May 8 Board of Trustees meeting.

Gratefully,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

A message from R. Gerald Turner to alumni and friends

Dear Mustang Family:

The global spread of COVID-19 is affecting all of us – the way we learn, live, work and play. I wanted to update you on how we continue to approach this situation at SMU. 

First, we hope that you and your families remain safe and healthy. Our hearts go out to those who have been impacted by the virus. We extend our warmest wishes for a swift recovery to those who are sick. And we are inspired by the many SMU alumni on the front lines working tirelessly to care for others. 

Since our last update in March, we have extended online learning through June and postponed SMU’s spring Commencement to August 15. Now we are turning our attention to assessing the financial impact this pandemic will have on our SMU community. We are evaluating various scenarios coming out of the stay-at-home restrictions and the financial implications thereof to share with our governing board in early May. We are exploring every aspect of our operations to reduce expenses while mitigating impacts to the extent possible on our students, staff and faculty. 

In particular, our students are the most vulnerable. Some have experienced loss of income and are having to consider if they are able to return to the Hilltop. And many of our recently admitted students are also having to re-examine their plans to go to college. We are planning an appeal in the coming weeks to help these students pursue their goals of graduating from SMU.

Amid this disruptive environment, we find numerous examples of creative and generous ways our community is responding. Here are just a few:

 On a more personal note, I miss the vibrancy and energy of having our community together, so I dropped in on a few online classes this past week. We continue to engage and meet with our committees, volunteer groups and the Board of Trustees through video and audio conference calls.  

Thank you for your warm prayers and kind words of encouragement. Feel free to reach out to any of us if you have any questions or needs. We are a resource for you during this stressful time, and we will get through this challenge together. We are moving ahead with plans for the fall and look forward to welcoming back our alumni and friends to our beautiful campus. Until then, please stay safe and healthy. 

With deepest gratitude,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President 

SMU keeps going – volume 2

Dear SMU Faculty, Staff and Students,

Thank you again for working so hard to maintain SMU’s vibrancy and operations during this unique time. Members of our SMU community continue to show creativity and innovation in their teaching, learning and working as we face the challenges of COVID-19. In addition to making the most of online instruction, our faculty members are sharing their expertise as thought leaders. Law students have found creative ways to support fellow students seeking internships at nonprofits, and staff continue to support all of us in our endeavors. I commend each of you for the ways that you are demonstrating resilience during this crisis.

Here are a few examples that you might find of interest:

We are turning our attention to assessing the financial impact this pandemic will have on our SMU community. We are evaluating various scenarios coming out of the stay-at-home restrictions and the financial implications thereof to share with our governing board in early May. We are exploring every aspect of our operations to reduce expenses while mitigating impacts to the extent possible on our students, staff and faculty.

In particular, our students are the most vulnerable. Many have experienced loss of income and are having to consider if they are able to return to the Hilltop. Many of our recently admitted students are also having to reexamine their plans to go to college. We are planning an appeal in the coming weeks to help these students pursue their goals of graduating from SMU.

Thank you for all you do for SMU and for sharing examples of the resourceful ways the SMU community is supporting the North Texas community, SMU students and colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please continue to share your stories with news@smu.edu. And keep up the important work you do on a daily basis. 

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner
President

Credit adjustments for housing, dining and parking

Dear student,

We miss you and the buzz of activity you bring to our beautiful campus. I hope you and your family are staying healthy and your studies are going well during this time. The resilience and flexibility you are showing during the COVID-19 pandemic reflect the strength and character of our student body. Thank you for your patience as we worked through a plan to resolve student expenses for the remainder of the spring semester.

SMU will offer credit adjustments for housing, dining and parking expenses in light of this extraordinary situation. The adjustments will vary by student, as charges are dependent upon individual room and board plans, financial aid packages, dining options and other variables. The credit applied to these expenses must take into consideration costs that the University incurs regardless of occupancy, such as year-round staff, utilities, building operations and maintenance. As a result, the credit will range from about 36% to 37.5% of the total semester’s charges for housing, meal plans and student parking.

All parking expenses will be calculated at the same rate regardless of whether a vehicle remained on campus beyond March 23 when all spring classes shifted online. However, students must arrange to move their vehicles from campus before May 18. For dining, the unused balance of any additional flex funds purchased during the spring semester will be included in the credit adjustments.

Credit Applied to Outstanding Balances

It’s important to understand that all credit adjustments will be applied first to outstanding balances on student accounts, including registration for May, summer or fall terms if already registered. For graduating seniors with no outstanding balances on student accounts, any credit balance will be automatically refunded.

As academic instruction is continuing, instructional costs such as tuition, lab or technology fees will not be credited to the student account. SMU’s online courses still reflect the same academic rigor and objectives as when they are delivered on campus. The effort and resources required are equivalent – and in some cases greater – than when the coursework is delivered in person. Other services covered by general student fees also remain available, including SMU libraries, and both telemedicine and in-person appointments at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.

Given the number of students and the complexity of these plans, packages and options, please allow time for accounts to be individually reviewed to make sure they are accurate and reflect your financial situation. The Office of the University Bursar expects to post individual credit amounts by Tuesday, April 21. Any credit balance that remains after all unpaid charges are satisfied may be refunded based on federal, state and University guidelines. All refunds should be processed by May 15.

This is a difficult time, and we understand that financial issues are sensitive and deeply personal. With that in mind, this outcome was a collaboration between the staff and leadership of Student Affairs and Business and Finance to arrive at the credit adjustments in a fair and equitable manner. For those who may be struggling to cover unexpected costs in these unforeseen circumstances, we have an SMU Student Emergency Fund. Students may complete a Caring Community Connections (CCC) form and check “Economic Hardship” to apply for assistance.

For more information about the credit adjustments, please see the Bursar’s Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) or contact SMU’s Enrollment Services at 214-768-3417. We look forward to the time when we can once again welcome you and your fellow Mustangs back to campus.

Sincerely,
University Bursar

SMU keeps going – volume 1

Dear SMU Community,

Thank you for your flexibility, patience and commitment to the mission of SMU during this time. This is the first of regular updates to help connect the SMU community in a time of social distancing. I hope everyone has seen the recent announcements: the postponement of Commencement ceremonies to August 15, a temporary spring grading policy and the decision to move May and June term classes online. These, and other changes are updated regularly on the COVID-19 website.

We can all be inspired by the creative and generous ways in which our community is responding to this challenging time. Here are just a few examples:

I have missed the vibrancy and energy of having our community together so I dropped in on a few online classes this past week. I look forward to welcoming everyone back soon.

If you have a story about the creative ways the SMU community is supporting the North Texas community, SMU students and colleagues during the COVID-19 pandemic, please share with news@smu.edu. And keep up the wonderful work.

Sincerely,
R. Gerald Turner
SMU President


SMU May and June classes move online

Dear Faculty, Students, and Staff:

As the continuation of health and travel restrictions related to COVID-19 remains uncertain for the coming months, SMU has decided to move May and June term classes online. Enrollment for May and June classes for current SMU students opens Monday, April 13, and the priority enrollment deadline is Friday, April 24. 

The University has not yet decided how classes scheduled to start in July will be offered. Courses that start in July are currently listed in the Schedule of Classes as taking place on campus, but this is under review. Enrollment opens on April 13th for all summer courses including those that start in July. Students enrolling in a summer course that starts in July need to be aware that the delivery of the course may change. An announcement will be made later.

Many of the courses previously listed for May term at SMU-in-Taos will be offered online, while others that are site-dependent, such as “Photography in Taos,” will not.  None of the field school classes previously scheduled for June at SMU-in-Taos will be available. Students with questions about SMU-in Taos courses may contact Rumanda Young at rkyoung@smu.edu or Lashanda Phillips at lashandap@smu.edu.

More than fifty percent of our SMU students who graduate in four years take advantage of the Intersession courses offered during breaks between semesters and over the summer. We understand that the availability of these courses is key to timely progress toward your degree and hope you will take full advantage of what is being offered online. May and June courses can provide opportunities for students whose internships have been cancelled or shortened due to COVID-19, and it’s not too late for students to request specific May/summer courses through the SMU Intersession “Wish List” or the SMU-in-Taos “Wish List.”

Thank you for your patience as we continue to adapt to the changing health needs of our SMU community and neighbors.

Sincerely,
Peter K. Moore
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs ad interim

SMU Alert: An important message regarding a COVID-19 case.

SMU Alert: COVID-19

April 2, 2020

SMU has been notified that an employee of the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center on the University campus has tested positive for COVID-19. The employee was tested Tuesday, April 1, received the positive results today, April 2, and will self-isolate for the next two weeks.

The potential for contact between the affected employee and other people on campus is minimal as all teaching is occurring online and the University is operating with essential staff only. A limited number of students have physically visited the Health Center in the past 14 days, and the center’s medical director is reaching out to each of these students to inform them of what is perceived to be limited risk of exposure. The University will also contact any other employees, such as health center, custodial, and facilities staff as well as any vendors who may have been in the building during the last two weeks.

No student has tested positive for the coronavirus at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. Only three other health center employees worked in close proximity with the staff member who has tested positive. These three health center employees will self-monitor at their homes for the next two weeks. 

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center is currently closed and will undergo a thorough, medical-grade disinfection over the next few days. Under advice of the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department, the health center will re-open after this deep cleaning on Monday, April 6, as usual.

This notification serves as a timely warning to the SMU campus in compliance with the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act.)

Letter to Undergraduate Students on Spring 2020 Temporary Grading Policy

Dear SMU Undergraduate Students:

I hope you are adjusting to your studies online in response to efforts to keep our campus community as safe as possible during the COVID outbreak. We received many emails and calls from you requesting that we modify our grading policies because of this unusual semester. After carefully consulting with faculty, deans and records administration, we developed a Temporary Grading Policy for Spring 2020, which has been endorsed by the Faculty and Student Senates.

The policy is designed to provide flexibility for individual students’ circumstances and encourage you to finish your courses. Basically, the way it will work is professors will report letter grades as normal. Then, students will have the option to keep that grade or choose Satisfactory (S), Satisfactory Minus (S-) and No Credit (NC) based on the guidelines in the policy. Students may make this selection course-by-course after the letter grade is posted at the end of the term. Seniors must act promptly as the deadline will be quick – May 19, 2020, at 5:00 pm CST. This temporary grading policy should relieve anxiety and uncertainty about course grades and GPAs.

Please carefully review the policy specifics to learn more about the grade options and how these detailed scenarios may apply to you. I hope these accommodations will help you successfully navigate this challenging time.

Thank you.
Sincerely,
Peter K. Moore
Provost and Vice President for
Academic Affairs ad interim

COVID-19 update from the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

Hello Mustangs, 

We understand that this is a very stressful and confusing time. Please know that our staff here at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center are still here working hard to support both your physical and mental well-being. We will remain OPEN Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. to provide care for students both on and off campus. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic and the new virtual learning environment at SMU, we have made adjustments to our Health Center operations. Medical and Counseling professionals are now utilizing virtual visits as much as possible. Please read below for information on how you can continue to access both our medical and counseling services.

All virtual visits are HIPAA compliant and integrated with your Student Health Portal.

To schedule an appointment with a medical professional or to speak with Counseling Services, please call 214-768-2141.  Based on the information you provide, you will be scheduled for an appointment either in person or via virtual visit (walk-in appointments are not available at this time). Limited counseling services are available to students outside the state of Texas. 

*Students in crisis, who feel they need immediate help from Counseling Services should call 214-768-2277 to reach a counselor on call 24/7.

Additionally, the Health Center Pharmacy is still open during this time and can assist with the filling and/or transfer of any and all prescriptions. To request a prescription transfer contact the receiving pharmacy. Your pharmacy will then contact the SMU Pharmacy to begin the prescription transfer.  

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to give us a call. You can also find more information on our website or by visiting the COVID-19 webpage. Thank you for your cooperation as we work together to keep you and our community safe!

The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center

Three SMU students positive for COVID-19: All tested during Spring Break, none currently on campus

Dear SMU Community,

Because we are committed to doing all that we can to help keep our University population healthy, we are sharing information that three of our students, none currently on campus, have tested positive for COVID-19.

All three students were tested after leaving campus for Spring Break.

The first student, a graduate student in the Cox School of Business who lives off campus, attended one class on March 11 after returning from an international study trip and tested positive at a local hospital on March 15.

The second student, an undergraduate in Dedman College who was living in Loyd Commons with no roommate, was last on campus on March 13 and was subsequently tested, with positive results, after returning to the family home out-of-state.

The third student, a Dedman College undergraduate who lives in a private, off-campus residence, was last on campus on March 13 and was subsequently tested, with positive results, after returning to the family home out-of-state.

In all three of these instances, the time between the student’s last presence on campus and their confirmed positive tests for COVID-19 were within the estimated 14-day incubation period for the virus. All three students who have reported positive tests are recovering at home under the care of their personal physicians.

Because the University must protect the medical and privacy rights of these students, we will not share with the broader community their names or information specific enough to identify them.  However, the University is making every effort to inform individuals most likely to have been in close proximity to these students, such as classmates, faculty members and members of the graduate student’s international study team. Those persons more likely to have been in contact with them are being advised to self-monitor for symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.

By moving our classes online and requiring only essential personnel to come to campus, SMU has dramatically reduced its campus population to support social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19. Wherever you currently live, please do your part to comply with federal, state or local laws regarding shelter-in-place or other government orders. Because community spread of COVID-19 is now a reality in Dallas and across the country, we hope you will follow CDC guidelines to stay healthy and protect your family and friends. This message is intended in that same spirit.

We will continue to notify the SMU community of significant developments on the COVID-19 webpage. Thank you for your patience and cooperation.

Sincerely,

Dr. R. Gerald Turner
SMU President

This notification serves as a timely warning to the SMU campus in compliance with the federal Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (Clery Act.)

A message from R. Gerald Turner to alumni and friends

Dear Mustang Family:

We hope that you, your family, and your loved ones remain safe and healthy during this unprecedented time. Responding to the rapid and relentless expansion of COVID-19 has challenged us all. As I see our faculty and staff prepare for this first full week of online instruction and remote working, I am grateful for the resilience, strength and determination of our community to rise above it all with even stronger commitment to our mission. Many of you have received our emails and monitored the SMU blog, so you know that we have responded strategically to the threat of the pandemic to our on-campus community.

We have had to pivot and adapt rapidly these past few weeks by moving instruction online for the remainder of semester, enabling employees to work from home, and cancelling spring sports and usual spring events.
Nevertheless, as we work toward meeting these current demands, we are planning for the future when students and the entire SMU community can once again gather on our campus. In 105 years our University has successfully addressed many crises. I often refer to the words of SMU’s first president, Robert S. Hyer, who said, “Universities do not grow old but live from age to age in immortal youth.” The commitment of the University to enhancing human knowledge, ensuring social progress and shaping our students for successful futures will prevail beyond this difficult time. To paraphrase William Faulkner, we must not only endure this crisis but prevail against its destructive forces. And we will.

As you can imagine, the complexity of managing the needs of the entire SMU family is immense and requires diligent effort on our staff and faculty as well as the students themselves. I am proud of our campus community for the courage, patience and grace they have demonstrated. Our alumni and friends have always made sure that SMU has the commitment, support and resources to meet whatever challenges the University confronts.

This history grounds our continued optimism for the future. We look forward to all members of the SMU family returning this fall to the Hilltop to enjoy anew the beauty and ties of “Varsity.” Until then, we will keep you updated. Please stay safe and healthy.

With deepest gratitude,
R. Gerald Turner
President

SMU suspends all University–sponsored and/or sanctioned international travel

Please note latest updates reflect more flexible travel guidelines.

Following federal and local guidelines recommended to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), SMU is suspending all university-sponsored and/or sanctioned international travel. Students (undergraduates and graduate students) as well as faculty and staff members currently studying or working abroad are requested to return to the U.S.  In addition, SMU requests that those returning from university-sponsored and/or sanctioned international travel follow the CDC’s self observation protocol for symptoms for 14 days after leaving that destination.

SMU Abroad has cancelled all summer abroad programs and is not authorizing university-sponsored and/or sanctioned international travel by students, faculty or staff for the immediate future.

New guidelines issued March 1 by the Centers for Disease Control and amplified by Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) encourage higher education institutions to consider these measures given the speed of spread and number of countries experiencing human-to-human transmission. We understand the inconvenience this creates and ask for your patience as we work through challenges related to this request.

Any member of the SMU community who chooses to disregard University recommendations for international travel must understand they will do so at their own risk and may face difficulties in return travel to the U.S. and/or possible restricted access to the SMU campus.

Undergraduate students currently abroad and the provider companies that support them have all been notified of the international travel suspension for university-sponsored and/or sanctioned program and activities.  SMU is evaluating alternative ways for students to complete their courses and educational requirements. SMU Deans and their staffs are working to inform graduate students of this international travel notification.

We are also in the early stages of notifying undergraduate students signed up for summer programs of these changes. Our SMU Abroad office is committed to providing alternatives by working with SMU Intersessions, SMU-in-Taos and other entities to offer alternative summer options to meet student degree requirements.

SMU has developed a campus-wide plan to address potential challenges created by the Coronavirus. We have established this blog that will be updated regularly. Please see the post from last week on tips to preventing the spread of the virus.

Please understand that people across the SMU campus are diligently working to address this rapidly changing situation surrounding the Coronavirus, its potential impacts on our campus, and alternative curriculum options to allow students to continue and complete their studies. Thank you for your understanding as we work through these challenges together.

Research continuity update

Dear Colleagues,

As SMU takes precautions to respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19), I’d like to offer additional information on how to continue our academic work and protect our research during this unusual period.

The move to online instruction for the two weeks after Spring Break and other cautionary actions announced in Dr. Turner’s March 12 email do not affect Ph.D. dissertation defenses, nor do they prevent faculty, staff, and graduate students from conducting research in laboratories. Scheduling and the conduct of Ph.D. defenses should continue without change unless notified otherwise. Likewise, faculty, staff, and graduate students may continue conducting research in laboratories currently.

Research is an essential component of SMU’s mission, and the University’s emergency response planning must ensure the security and continuity of essential laboratories and research facilities if it becomes necessary to promote remote teaching or limit campus access. Consequently, it is prudent to prepare continuity plans to ensure that mission-critical laboratories and research facilities are maintained with no substantial risk or harm to ongoing research.

To ensure this happens, please work with your Department Chairs and appropriate faculty to prepare a list of all mission-critical research labs and facilities in your school, and then complete this on-line questionnaire no later than March 20, 2020.

Responses should include:

  1. Facilities within which on-going research cannot be interrupted
  2. Facilities with equipment or animals that require continued attention or oversight
  3. Facilities requiring environmental monitoring
  4. Facilities for which continued operation is essential to meeting grant obligations
  5. Facilities that are operating under security protocols or that contain hazardous materials

The situation around the Coronavirus remains fluid and can change rapidly. Please check emails and the blog for frequent updates and answers to other questions.

Sincerely,
Peter K. Moore
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs ad interim

SMU to temporarily move classes online after Spring Break

Dear SMU community,

Due to rapidly changing issues related to the spread of Coronavirus, SMU will move students from classrooms to online instruction for the first two weeks following Spring Break, beginning Monday, March 23.  The University is requesting that as many students as is possible leave the residence halls during Spring Break and remain home until April 5, as we expect normal operations to resume on April 6.

International and other students who need to remain living in the residence halls should formally request approval from the Office of Residence Life and Student Housing to stay on campus. RLSH will send a message directly to residents containing additional information outlining the process. The campus will remain open and operational. Limited food service will still be available, the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center, the Meadows Museum and the SMU Childcare Center will remain open, as will Fondren Library. However, Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports will close during this period.

Faculty and staff should plan to report to campus as usual during this period.  As a reminder, the University is providing training March 18-19 to upgrade faculty skills in delivering online instruction.  We also recognize that some faculty or staff members may have medical vulnerability or childcare issues to consider moving forward, and we will direct you to the process for requesting special accommodations via this website.

Some types of instruction may not be fully deliverable online, as in the visual and performing arts and laboratory sciences, and these will be addressed individually.  Our goal is to prevent interruption of anyone’s degree plan – particularly graduating seniors.

Student advising for May term, summer, August and fall classes will also be handled online during the two-week period following Spring Break.

In addition to moving classroom instruction online, SMU is canceling or postponing on-campus gatherings of more than 50 people through the end of April. We are establishing an appeals process to consider exceptions for some types of events. At this time, we still intend to hold  Commencement Convocation on May 16.

These decisions raise questions for many of you, and we will continue to address them in coming days.  Please continue to monitor this site and the FAQ section.

We do not make these decisions lightly, but out of an abundance of caution. As I noted previously, we are currently planning for normal classroom instruction to resume April 6, but everyone is asked to remain patient and flexible as we work through this challenging time.  We are determined to deliver on our education mission while maintaining the priority of the  health and well-being of our campus community.  Please understand that if circumstances mandate further change, we will continue to adjust. SMU is  a community of smart, motivated and compassionate people who will work through this.

Thank you all for your patience, and stay healthy.

Sincerely,

R. Gerald Turner

President

CARES Act funding from SMU

Following the guidance received from U.S. Department of Education,  SMU is distributing funds received as part of the CARES Act to students with the greatest demonstrated need and financial hardship due to the ongoing pandemic.  
 
To be eligible, students must meet the following criteria:  
·       Enrolled as of April 30th for the Spring 2020 term.
·       Eligible to receive Federal Title IV funding as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
·       Received Federal Title IV grants or loans for the spring 2020 term.
o   For undergraduate students, received need-based aid for the spring term.
o   For graduate and professional students, received federal or state loans for the spring 2020 term.
·       Enrolled in a campus-based academic program (Online programs are not eligible).
 
Also, check out these FAQS for additional information.