SMU will move students from classrooms to online instruction for the first two weeks after spring break beginning March 23 amid growing concerns about COVID-19.
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. Campus officials are establishing an appeals process to consider exceptions for some events and expect to have the commencement convocation May 16.
“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,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said in a letter to the campus community. “We are determined to deliver on our education mission while maintaining the priority of the health and well-being of our campus community.”
SMU is also requesting that as many students as possible leave the residence halls during spring break and remain home until April 5.
“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,” Turner continued. “Our goal is to prevent interruption of anyone’s degree plan – particularly graduating seniors.”
International and other students who need to remain living in the residence halls are asked to request approval from the Office of Residence Life and Student Housing to stay on campus.
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 are asked to plan to report to campus as usual during this period, and the university is providing training March 18-19 to upgrade faculty skills in delivering online instruction. Those with medical vulnerability or childcare issues can request special accommodations.
The announcement comes a day after Dallas County announced its third presumptive positive case of the novel coronavirus.