The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
SMU professor to return to campus after being trapped in Gaza for 12 years
Sara Hummadi, Video Editor • May 18, 2024

SMU COVID-19 Updates

Photo credit: Audrey McClure

This article is meant to consolidate pertinent information and answer questions regarding SMU’s planned reopening in the fall. It will be updated regularly as more information is released. If there are any questions you would like us to report on, message us on Twitter or Instagram, or email us at [email protected].

Preventative Health & Safety Protocols

Campus Shutdown Criteria: SMU will indicate “the severity of COVID-19 transmission and its implications” for teaching with four operational levels: “Very High”, “High”, “Moderate” and “Low”.

“Very High” operational levels would result in a campus shutdown, meaning that “instruction is virtual, and in-person housing and programs are canceled.” Triggers that would increase operational levels and possibly lead to “Very High” operational levels are:

  • Significant increases in COVID-19 transmission on campus, occurring at a greater rate than the local community.
  • Insufficient availability of COVID-19 testing by the institution or
    local/state public health authorities, due to logistics, supply chain or
    other factors.
  • Insufficient capacity for the Dr. Bob Smith
    Health Center to provide ambulatory healthcare to SMU students, and/or
    within the local/state healthcare facilities.
  • Insufficient space to manage the number of in-residence students requiring quarantine rooms or self-isolation.
  • Local/state/federal mandates.

Social Distancing: The campus community “should maintain, to the greatest extent possible, social distance of 6 feet between individuals in public, interior spaces.” SMU has installed 750 social distancing markers in queues and elevators, and 8500 socially distant seat assignments according to SMU Facilities. Along these guidelines, all visitors and members of the campus community will be expected to “act responsibly to help protect everyone’s health and welfare” with “a spirit of cooperation”.

Masks and Face Coverings: Masks and face coverings are required for everyone in public indoor spaces (classrooms, lobbies, restrooms, etc.). Masks are not required outdoors, in private cubicles or in private residence hall rooms.

Cleaning Protocols: SMU’s cleaning staff are contracted through ABM, which has implemented more frequent and “enhanced cleaning protocols“. Frequently touched surfaces, such as elevator buttons, door handles, and chairs, will be cleaned more often, and custodians will be using hospital-grade disinfectants. Additionally, SMU has upgraded their air filtration system “from the current MERV 10 level to the highest rated filtration level effective for SMU’s air handler system – MERV 13,” according to the university blog.

When an area on campus has a confirmed case of COVID-19, there will be a custodial response within four to eight hours, according to a university flyer. This response includes a deep clean and sanitization of the affected area, as well as “adjacent rooms and public spaces” However, ABM custodians will “set expectations that [they] need to wait a minimum of 24 hours, preferably 48 hours, before performing work,” according to ABM’s official protocols.

On-Campus COVID-19 Testing: The Dr. Bob Smith Health Center will offer COVID-19 tests to students and faculty when it is “medically necessary and consistent with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.” Currently, the health center “should be able to administer approximately 50 tests per day.” The cost of COVID-19 testing “will be covered at 100% regardless of the SMU medical plan,” according to university’s blog.

Additionally, “treatment cost-sharing related to COVID-19 has also been waived.” Treatment includes “deductibles, copayments and coinsurance,” and costs related to “treatment at in-network facilities and treatment for out-of-network emergencies” will also be waived. As of July 16, SMU employees and their dependents who have COVID-19 symptoms or exposure can receive a “no cost test with same day results” at nine drive-thru D-FW locations, according to the SMU blog.

Positive and Confirmed Case Protocols

Campus Alerts: Anyone can send an empty email to [email protected] to be notified when the school updates its coronavirus case count. The case count website will no longer include location information related to the cases, such as the name of a residential or work building. The university says this is to protect individual privacy, and because “it’s conceivable [the individual] could spend close to equal time in multiple locations.”

Contact Tracing: University contact tracers will interview infected individuals to identify people with whom they may have come into close contact two days before the individual tested positive for COVID-19 or began displaying symptoms. Contact tracers will also look into an infected individual’s “class schedule, living situation, activities, work locations” and other movements provided by ID card swipes to determine with whom they have had close contact. People who are thought to have come into close contact with an infected individual will be “notified directly and given further instructions to prevent the spread.”

Quarantine and Isolation Housing: There are a total of 127 beds designated for isolation. Isolation housing will be provided for students living on campus who test positive for COVID-19. Students who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have not tested positive are expected to quarantine. SMU “does not have the housing capacity to quarantine students in a facility separate from their residence hall room.”

Isolation housing will be provided as is available, though students will either be encouraged or required to return home for isolation depending on campus capacity and individual circumstances. On campus isolation will be in Martin Hall (44 bed spaces), movable wellness pods (15 bed spaces), Dyer House (16 bed spaces), and Perkins Hall (52 bed spaces).

Classes and Academics

Tuition: Estimated undergraduate tuition for the 2020-21 academic year is $51,958 before student fees. All costs, including tuition are “not dependent on the format of the educational programs” and “if the University is required to alter the structure of its on-campus educational programs…no reduction or refund of tuition, course fees, general student fees, room and board will be made,” according to the SMU Bursar site.

Class Formats: Classes will be offered in two main formats: SMUFlex and Remote. Remote courses make up a relatively smaller portion of all classes offered next semester, and will have “some synchronous content delivered via Zoom at the assigned time listed in My.SMU” according to a July 17 email from the office of Student Academic Engagement and Success. Remote courses will be managed through Canvas and will maintain recordings of class sessions for students to refer to throughout the semester.

SMUFlex: SMUFlex courses will be delivered in-person while also being remotely accessible. Some classes will be held in “nontraditional spaces,” such as theaters, ballrooms, and conference rooms, to facilitate social distancing. All SMUFlex classes will be delivered on-campus at their designated time. There will be an additional five minutes between passing periods to allow students and faculty to clean their desk space before the next class arrives.

While in class, all students will be required to wear face-coverings and maintain a 6-foot distance from each other. Classroom seating has been marked and reorganized to facilitate social distancing as approved by SMU’s Academic Technology Council Fall 2021 plans.

Students be divided into “red” and “blue” rotations that will allow teachers to meet with “approximately half of their students each week” while the rest attend over Zoom, according to a July 23 faculty-wide email. Students can find their color group assignment on my.SMU. All students could attend a class in-person if there is “sufficient socially distanced space,” according to the email.

Remote Learning: Classrooms have been outfitted with new technology that will allow faculty to safely teach in-person “while also providing an equivalent experience over Zoom to remote students” according to OIT’s classroom upgrade criteria. These technologies include various types of webcams and microphones to optimize video and audio quality. Students who are accessing class remotely are expected to have their cameras on.

Remote Learning Support Letters: SMU students can request a letter to access all their classes remotely, regardless of whether their classes are designated as being Remote or SMUFlex, through the fall add/drop period. Any student who receives a letter “can change their mind and return to on-campus instruction” according to the Provost‘s website. Students who receive a letter are not allowed to live on-campus and will also be expected to participate in campus organizations and activities remotely. However, remote students will still have full access to campus services such as Fondren Library, the A-LEC and the health center. SMU will also provide “regular opportunities for campus engagement” according to the Provost.

Campus Life & Events

On-Campus Residences: SMU residence halls will be housing students during the year, however non-resident access to dormitory buildings will be monitored and restricted. Students who are residents of a certain on-campus dorm will not be allowed to visit other students who are residents of a different dorm.

Roommates and Dorm Rooms: SMU will be offering “one-semester converted singles” in addition to the standard double-occupancy and single-occupancy rooms, according to the RLSH website. A one-semester converted single is a room that normally houses two students, but will only be occupied by one student for the fall semester. After the fall semester, the room will be converted back into a double.

The cost of a double-room for the fall 2020 semester is $5,482.50 ($27.50 more than fall 2019) and the cost of a single room for the fall 2020 semester is $6,834 ($34 more than fall 2019) according to the university bursar.

Dining: Dining halls and on-campus eateries will only accept cashless payments. There will be no self-serve stations, and all dining will follow health guidelines on seating capacity and distancing. This may also include “special scheduling to reduce congestion during peak periods.” If guidelines require 25% occupancy or less, dining halls will switch to a “to-go only model”. Dining hall workers “will be required to wash hands and changes gloves every 20 minutes at minimum” and “to wear face coverings and undergo health screening and temperature checks prior to starting their shifts.”

Event Guidelines: The university will establish an “events-planning team” that will develop event guidelines “in line with county, state and federal guidance,” according to SMU. All events, whether organized by the university or a student organization, will follow “density and social distancing requirements in place by county and state authorities at the time” and must record attendance for contact tracing purposes. Student groups will have access to training that will help them navigate “social distancing, food and beverage management and virtual ticketing.” It is not clear if the training will be mandatory.

Graduation/Commencement: Spring Commencement was postponed in May, and is currently scheduled to take place outdoors on August 15 in Ford Stadium. As with previous years, graduates are allowed up to four guest tickets. Everyone will be required to wear face coverings and abide by social distancing while inside the stadium. Graduate candidates will be spaced six feet apart on the field, and families will be expected to “leave six feet between another family on the same row, and leave a row empty” between themselves and other families according to the August Commencement website. There will be a livestream of the ceremony.

Visitors: Visitors are expected “to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces” and “to make appointments before traveling to campus to meet with anyone” according to SMU. With the exception of SMU Libraries, Dedman Center for Lifetime Sport, and the Meadows Museum, most campus buildings will be closed to the public and accessible only with a SMU ID.

In-person campus tours are still available by appointment with reduced group sizes. The tours will only be conducted outdoors by a student ambassador who will be safely distanced from the tour group.

Have more questions you’d like answered? Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, or by email at [email protected].

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