Plans unfolding for SMU's fall semester 2020 will be guided by science, common-sense expectations, and the traditional Mustang spirit

At SMU, we intend to rise to the challenge of the fall 2020 academic semester in a way that fully embraces both the outstanding personalized education that is our hallmark, and our community’s health and safety. While the ongoing pandemic has prompted us to revise fall plans, SMU will work to ensure that students have the opportunity to receive face-to-face instruction from our excellent faculty as well as experience all the campus has to offer.

We all have a role to play in keeping the campus healthy. Therefore, our approach will be guided by science and common-sense expectations:

  • The University will take pragmatic, well-thought-out measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. SMU will employ contact tracing, and will respond quickly to individual incidents of COVID-19 exposure, should they occur.
  • Each member of the campus population will act responsibly to help protect everyone’s health and welfare by practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings, remaining vigilant to changes in individual health, and responding to temporary measures related to the pandemic – all with a spirit of cooperation.
  • SMU will be prepared to adapt as necessary in response to changing circumstances.

Our University is grateful to many dedicated people who have contributed extraordinary amounts of time and talent toward the following plan. The Task Force for a Healthy Opening Fall 2020 – whose members included faculty, staff and students – began meeting in April (with some of its subcommittees meeting daily) to provide research and analysis critical to the University’s fall plan. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a standing group of University administrators and staff members that mobilizes as necessary, has worked through the day-to-day operation of the campus while forwarding issues to leadership to be considered for the fall.  The framework that follows is informed by the Task Force, the EOC, state and county health guidelines, and benchmarking from other universities. Moving forward, specific plans will be formulated and executed through the EOC structure with review and approval by the President’s Executive Council as necessary and appropriate, under the oversight of the University president.

Students will receive more details over the coming weeks about their return to campus for both the July term and the fall semester, including specifics about residence halls, advising and move-in.

Faculty and staff will also receive more detailed communications with guidance on delivery of curriculum, topics pertaining to classroom management and technology support.



The delivery of high-quality, on-campus classroom instruction will continue at SMU, providing our students with valuable in-person interaction with faculty members and with each other. Additionally, high-quality remote instruction – often in tandem with in-person classroom instruction – will provide the University with the flexibility necessary to support social distancing while encouraging the use of innovative and creative technologies.  

Classroom Instruction

Understanding that the goal is to safely maximize the on-campus experience for students, in-person, on-campus instruction will be a major component of the majority of SMU courses. Various approaches to accommodate social distancing in class will be employed to enhance faculty and student safety, such as staggered schedules, evening and Saturday classes to extend the traditional weekly calendar, the use of facilities temporarily fitted for classroom use, and limiting capacity to every other seat.  All classes will take advantage of SMU’s Canvas learning management system.

Some classes will follow a hybrid model in which faculty will teach an  in-person group at the same time as the remote group, where appropriate. The hybrid model also allows for recorded remote instruction to accommodate international students facing travel restrictions, as well as students with health conditions that may preclude their being on campus. More information about arranging for a schedule of remote-only classes will be available later.

Some courses will be offered online only. Distinct from remote instruction, SMU’s online classes will take advantage of all the effective techniques that have been developed in the last decade for high-experience online learning. Criteria for classes being offered online are still under development.

Some small classes will be offered in person only, in spaces adequate to support health and safety guidelines. Special accommodations will be made for students in the lab sciences and engineering and in the performing arts.

Adjusted Academic Semester

Reducing the number of students returning to campus after holiday travel is important to lessen the chance of spreading COVID-19. Therefore, SMU will end in-person classes before Thanksgiving.

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 their on-campus housing prior to the Thanksgiving holiday. The University will shift all class instruction to remote and online-only for the few remaining class days following Thanksgiving. (Graduate programs in some of our schools follow slightly different schedules, but they will make similar accommodations that will be explained in detail by their deans.) Of course, students living on campus who do not have access to alternate living arrangements after Thanksgiving may appeal to extend their living arrangements through the Department of Residence Life and Student Housing (RLSH) .

All final exams for the fall 2020 semester will be administered online.

Academic Support

SMU is committed to providing high-level academic support to all its students, adapting to circumstances as necessary to accommodate campus health. It is the hope that all student advising and academic support will continue to occur in person with advisors, academic counselors and tutors utilizing social distancing and masks. In situations where that is not possible, remote advising and academic support via Zoom can occur, so that the highest priority of student support and success continues without interruption. This unique time could allow for a mix of in-person and virtual advising and academic support, which would support additional service and more flexible schedules to the benefit of student academic achievement.

  • Faculty will maintain traditional office hours to work with students, both in person and online.
  • The Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (ALEC) will provide tutoring and counseling to students by appointment.
  • The University Advising Center (UAC) will provide advising by appointment.
  • Disability accommodations for students will be implemented by extending time for taking tests on Canvas. SMU’s Disability Accommodations & Success Strategies (DASS) team will remain available to help with the unique needs of DASS students, such as a reader or scribe during tests.

SMU Libraries

Hours of operation will be managed to provide optimum support for students, faculty and staff. The libraries will be accessible only with an SMU ID, however, and will be closed to members of the public for the time being. Every effort will be made to manage occupancy in a manner that accommodates academic achievement along with health and safety.

  • Appointments may be necessary for access to certain library spaces and collections.
  • Remote consultations with library staff – reservable online – will be available to provide maximum assistance to the University community.
  • The libraries will offer expanded hours for “Ask Us” chat services.

Engaged Learning/Internships

Experiential learning is integral to the SMU experience, and the University will make every effort to support these opportunities based on governmental health guidelines and medical information available at the time.

Study Abroad

Due to ongoing travel restrictions that have not been lifted in time to support long-term planning, SMU is not offering Study Abroad for the fall 2020 semester.



Everyone has a role to play in keeping the campus healthy. SMU will provide webinars and other communications venues to allow students and family members to ask questions before the start of classes. All members of the campus community – students, faculty and staff – will be required to take online training prior to returning to campus to address issues such as these, as necessary and appropriate:

  • COVID-19 Basics
  • Social Distancing and Face Coverings
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting
  • Proper Hand Hygiene
  • Respiratory Etiquette
  • Medical Self-Screening and Reporting
  • Classroom, Meeting and Meal Etiquette

Extensive informational signage and other regular reminders will support these protocols. We will foster a culture where face coverings and social distancing are the “new norm” and adapt quickly if circumstances change.

Social Distancing

The campus community should maintain, to the greatest extent possible,  social distance of 6 feet between individuals in public, interior spaces. Signage and seating arrangements in classrooms, residence halls and campus buildings will assist in this effort.

Face Coverings

As recommended by the CDC and other agencies, the University expects all individuals on the SMU campus, including visitors, to wear a face covering over the mouth and nose in public indoor spaces, including classrooms; building entrances and exits; lobbies and lounges; as well as in hallways, stairwells, restrooms and elevators. Faculty members will have access to disposable face coverings to provide to students who forget to bring one to class. For the purposes of effective teaching and recording (for remote instruction), faculty members may adopt headgear with visors or plexiglass shields. The University understands that some individuals may not be able to wear face coverings under some circumstances, such as those who experience breathing issues due to medical conditions. Face coverings 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.


All students, faculty and staff are strongly encouraged to self-screen daily to ensure they are free of COVID-19 symptoms. These symptoms may appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills or repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Diarrhea
  • Feeling feverish or measured temperature greater than 100.0 °F

Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms should stay home. Students, staff and faculty experiencing symptoms should contact the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center for a screening interview by trained medical staff and possible testing and referral for treatment. SMU employees (both faculty and staff) experiencing symptoms should then report to their supervisor and complete the SMU Health Reporting Form

Testing and Screening

When medically necessary and consistent with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, testing to diagnose COVID-19 will be available for students, staff and faculty at the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center. If testing capacity at the Health Center becomes an issue for faculty and staff, a streamlined, simple approach to testing will be provided. The cost will be covered for students as well as for employees regardless of their medical plan.

Contact Tracing

To reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus, faculty, staff and students will be included in the University Contact Tracing Program which will identify individuals who may have been in close contact with a confirmed positive case of COVID-19. This process will be conducted in accordance with county, state and federal guidelines. Medical confidentiality and privacy will be maintained for everyone: Contacts will be told only that they have been exposed to a positive case and the person they may have been exposed to will not be identified. 

Quarantine Housing

The University will provide, as available, isolation quarters for students living on campus should they contract COVID-19, and quarantine quarters for students should contact tracing indicate they have been exposed to the virus. Dining services and other accommodations will be provided to those in quarantine. Online access to classes will allow students to keep up with their studies (as their health allows) while in isolation or quarantine.

Flu Vaccine

All members of the campus community, including students, are strongly encouraged to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine as soon as it becomes available in the fall. While the flu shot will not offer protection against COVID-19, it should reduce the incidence of seasonal respiratory infections that could strain campus health care and testing services.

Cleaning and Sanitation

SMU’s custodial services company (ABM) has implemented enhanced cleaning procedures throughout the campus, including all routine cleaning and sanitizing of high-touch surfaces. You can read more about ABM cleaning protocols for SMU classrooms, campus housing and offices here.

Hand sanitizing stations will be broadly available to everyone throughout the campus.



The Residential Commons model at SMU is key to the development of our student community as well as our students’ long-term academic success. The University’s goal for fall 2020 is to offer the residential experience to as many first- and second-year students as possible while supporting community health.

The University will open with standard housing occupancy driven by student choice. For Fall 2020, the exemption process will be expanded to include exemption requests being accepted from those students within the DFW area and living at their home of record as well as those outside of the DFW area whose course load is fully remote (international students facing travel restrictions, as well as students with health conditions that may preclude their being on campus at this time). This will allow more students to achieve their preference for a single-occupancy room for the fall semester.

Move-in days for on-campus housing will begin earlier and extend longer than usual (dates and time to be announced) to reduce the congestion in elevators and hallways that typically occurs when students and their families move in belongings. Students will be required to limit those helping them move in to two (2) people. We ask that those in high-risk populations not accompany students during the move-in process. Students will receive detailed information on move-in and the expanded housing exemption process from the Department of Residence Life & Student Housing (RLSH) in the coming weeks.


University dining halls will be open only to the SMU community and will operate following the most current occupancy guidelines established for commercial restaurants in Dallas County and Texas. Dining halls will be subject to enhanced cleaning protocols, and “sanitation stations” in the dining areas will allow guests to wipe down tables. Modifications to support good health will include accommodations such as seating arrangements to support social distancing, elimination of self-serve food stations and, potentially, special scheduling to reduce congestion during peak periods.

Retail dining options such as those located in Hughes-Trigg Student Center will be open for the fall semester to SMU students, faculty and staff only, based on demand, and consistent with state and county guidelines. As with University dining halls, retail dining operations will be subject to enhanced cleaning protocols.

Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports

SMU’s center for campus fitness and recreation will serve the needs of the campus community in a manner that supports the health of people using the facility as well as Dedman Center staff. This will likely require reduced occupancy and reservations made in advance. Changes in equipment, supplies and the delivery of some services will allow the University to support student fitness while following the applicable guidelines in place at the time for commercial gyms established by state and county health agencies.

Student Organization/Events

Students organizing meetings and/or events on campus will be given autonomy to design their own programs, with guidance from the Division of Student Affairs (working with the campus events planning team discussed below), while following density and social distancing requirements in place by county and state authorities at the time. Campus procedures for holding events will also need to be followed. Training will be made available to students to assist them in planning for things like social distancing, food and beverage management and virtual ticketing. Because contact tracing will be important at all levels of University life, all events and meetings on campus must record participation.

Supporting Student Mental/Emotional Health

Each of us has learned to adapt to the pandemic in individual ways. The University recognizes that returning to campus or beginning the college experience at this time may be additionally stressful for students, and will make students aware of counseling services available to them through the Dr. Bob Smith Health Center.


SMU student-athletes began returning to campus June 15 as part of a phased plan utilizing guidance from local and national health officials and industry best practices. 

All phases include guidelines for social distancing, face coverings, enhanced sanitization, limited group size, modified use of space and other safety measures. In addition to the standard pre-participation physical exam, all student-athletes will be tested for COVID-19 before the start of any physical activity on campus. Student-athletes, coaches and staff will all be screened daily with a temperature check and health questionnaire.

Student Travel

University-sanctioned travel for students for academic and extracurricular purposes will be supported to the greatest extent possible under guidance from Dallas County, state and federal authorities and infection rates at the time of travel. University policy and procedures will also need to be strictly followed. The University will not attempt to monitor or regulate personal travel plans.



Dallas campus operations in the fall will adhere to and will be modified, as necessary, to meet health and safety guidelines in place at the time in Texas and Dallas County. Taos campus operations will be guided by health and safety guidelines in New Mexico.


An events-planning team will be established with appropriate representation from campus departments. This group will develop guidelines in line with county, state and federal guidance that must be followed by all groups holding events on campus.

Meadows Museum

The Meadows Museum will open July 5 to SMU faculty and staff, and to the public on July 7. The museum will offer tickets at reduced capacity but with regular hours, following guidelines for the state of Texas. All educational programs through the end of the year will be offered online only.

Campus Shuttle

The campus shuttle will continue to operate its normal route. The shuttle will follow the guidelines in place at the time for public transportation in Texas and Dallas County, which includes social distancing and the use of face coverings.

Visitors to Campus

SMU is in the heart of Dallas, so it is not uncommon to see residents from the surrounding neighborhoods enjoying a walk or run on our campus. However, most of our buildings, with the exception of the Meadows Museum, will remain closed to the public to help protect the health of our University community. Visitors will be expected to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces  and will be asked to make appointments before travelling to campus to meet with anyone. 

The SMU Office of Undergraduate Admission is hosting in-person information sessions and student ambassador-led tours in reduced group sizes. Visits must be scheduled ahead of time, and ambassadors will lead the walking tours using microphones to allow for safe distancing. Please note tours are conducted outside only.

Space Utilization

Some classes may meet in nontraditional spaces such as University theaters, ballrooms and conference rooms to accommodate social distancing and support in-person instruction. Patience and flexibility will be advisable for faculty, students and staff seeking meeting spaces, and it will be important to honor reservation systems in place.

The George W. Bush Presidential Center

The George W. Bush Presidential Center is currently closed. For all updates, please click here.