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

Fall 2020 Operations Plan Finalized

 August 7, 2020

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
R. Gerald Turner
President

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. 

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

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

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 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


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