Infectious Diseases

Policy number: 11.8

Policy section: Risk Management

Revised Date: February 7, 2020


1.  Purpose

This policy will take effect at the direction of the SMU President in the event that the Texas Department of State Health Services or the Dallas County Health and Human Services or a relevant federal or other Texas state agency (“Agency”) declares that an outbreak of contagious disease poses an imminent threat to the health of students, faculty, staff or visitors of Southern Methodist University (“SMU”). The policy will be construed and administered in order to protect the health and well-being of persons participating in institutional activities, whether as students, employees or visitors.

2.  Policy Statement

It is the policy of the University to prepare for, educate constituents, and provide an effective response to Infectious Disease situations, ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of the SMU community.

3.  Pre-Emptive Effect of this Policy

Subject only to limitations imposed by law, the provisions of this policy, and requirements duly established pursuant to this policy, will take precedence over any inconsistent provisions of university policy to the contrary. All contractual rights for instruction, service or employment, as well as enrollment status and attendance of students are deemed to be subject to pre­ emption by actions taken pursuant to this policy.

4. Cooperation with the Relevant Agency

In the event of an actual declaration of an outbreak of contagious disease posing an imminent public health threat, all University offices involved shall cooperate with the relevant Agency as follows:

  1. Where either the Texas Department of State, Health Services, or other relevant Agency, issues directives pursuant to its authority, SMU may implement those directives.
  2. To the extent permitted under law, SMU may share information with the Texas Department of State, Health Services, and/or the relevant Agency(ies) to assist its surveillance and investigation of infection.
  3. Where the Texas Department of State, Health Services, and/or other relevant Agency recommends that the exclusion from the classroom, workplace, on-campus living environment, or extracurricular activities of persons who are infected with a communicable disease or who are at risk of infections, the University may implement those recommendations as though they were directives.
  4. Where Agency recommends vaccination of persons who are infected with a communicable disease or who are at risk of infections, SMU may condition an individual’s continued attendance, residence or participation in instructional activities or continued admission to assigned workplaces upon receipt and proof of such recommended vaccination.

5.  Pre-Emptive Actions Taken in Reliance on Reasonable Medical Judgment

In the event that circumstances arise that require immediate action without time for consultation with the Texas Department of State, Health Services, or other relevant Agency, or in which the Agency guidance is directed primarily to individuals rather than to institutions, SMU officials may institute temporary measures to restrict students, employees or visitors from participation in institutional activities, events, or classes including regularly assigned employment responsibilities, if it is determined on the basis of reasonable medical judgment that an individual's continued participation in those activities poses an unacceptable risk of contagion to others.

For purposes of this section, reasonable medical judgment must be tendered by a physician licensed to practice in Texas, and

  1. It must be based upon due consideration, given the state of medical knowledge, about
    1. the nature of the risk,
    2. duration of the risk,
    3. the severity of the risk, and
    4. the probabilities the disease will be transmitted and may cause substantial harm to a significant number of infected persons.

6.  Limited Duty to Assist Persons Displaced by Pre-Emptive Response Measures

Where measures undertaken pursuant to this Policy prevent students from participating in regularly assigned instructional or extracurricular activities, or employees from reporting to their regularly assigned workplaces, SMU, in its sole judgment, may make reasonable efforts to provide alternative means to offer educational or extracurricular activities or to carry out assigned employment responsibilities.

Efforts to accommodate temporary displacement caused by the outbreak of contagious disease that pose an imminent public health threat are not subject to the standards generally applicable to reasonable accommodations required under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if a condition that constitutes a handicap or disability within the meaning of state or federal law can be reasonably accommodated, reasonable accommodation shall be provided as required under law.


Revised: February 7, 2020

Adopted: October 28, 2014