Southwestern University

Reopening and Campus Health and Safety

Updates on Southwestern’s Fall 2020 reopening and ongoing information on campus health and safety.

Reopening Safely

To resume learning and living on campus this fall, we must take many steps to ensure the health and safety of everyone in our community. The Campus Readiness Task Force has been hard at work consulting with medical practitioners and public health specialists to determine protocols on how we can live, learn, teach, and work together on campus safely. The following decisions have been made based on the Task Force’s recommendations. More decisions are coming soon as we continue to gather additional information.

Fall Semester Calendar
  • Move-in for all first-years is Friday, August 14, and Saturday, August 15, by appointment. All first-years should have received an email from housing on June 16 with the link to sign up for a move-in appointment. 
  • Move-in for returning students is Friday, August 21, through Sunday, August 23, by appointment. Returning students will receive an email with instructions for signing up for their move-in appointment soon.
  • Classes start on Monday, August 24.
  • Campus and residence halls will close on Wednesday, November 25.
  • Thanksgiving Break will be Wednesday, November 25, through Friday, November 27.
  • Two days of remote instruction will take place Monday, November 30, through Tuesday, December 1.
  • Three days of remote review, music juries and capstone presentations will take place Wednesday, December 2, through Friday, December 4.
  • Final exams will be taken remotely the week of December 7.
Health and Safety Protocols on Campus
  • Starting August 1, 2020, all students are advised to restrict all non-essential travel and activity. Learn more here
  • Masks will be required at all times on campus, except when in a residence hall room, a one-person office, or while dining.
  • Reusable and washable masks (2 per person) will be provided to students, faculty, and staff. One disposable mask will be provided to visitors. The University will have extra masks on hand for purchase to replace lost or damaged masks. Students, faculty, and staff are welcome to provide their own masks as well.
  • All campus spaces, except dorm rooms and other designated areas, will adhere to a 6-foot physical distance space between individuals. Classrooms will be physically distanced with 6 feet between students and 8 feet between the faculty member and students.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be present in all classrooms and throughout all campus buildings.
  • Most classes will be held for one hour.
  • Supplies will be available for students to clean desk surfaces upon entry to each classroom.
  • Classes will be dismissed at staggered times to prevent overcrowding in passageways.
  • Class schedules will have 15-20 minutes built in between each class to allow for transit and cleaning of desks.
  • Foot traffic flow guidelines will be posted in all buildings.
  • Classroom furniture will be set up in fixed configurations to ensure physical distancing in each classroom.
  • No outside speakers will be allowed at any campus event or in classrooms.
  • Office hours and advising will be conducted electronically instead of in person.
  • On-campus Covid-19 testing plans are still under development and will be shared as soon as possible.
Instruction
  • Most classes will meet in person on a regular basis but will have remote components due to health accommodations or classroom capacity constraints.
  • In order to adapt to student and faculty circumstances, a few classes will be conducted remotely. These classes will be indicated by “remote instruction only” on WebAdvisor.
Events
  • All events and campus gatherings must follow the same physical distancing and face mask protocols.
  • Homecoming has been rescheduled to April 16-18, 2021
  • The 2020 Commencement weekend will start with Baccalaureate, Family Day, Phi Beta Kappa, Multicultural Celebration, and Lavender Graduation on Saturday, October 24. The Commencement Ceremony will be held on Sunday, October 25, on the Academic Mall. We expect 250 families for two hours on one day in a ceremony outside with seating six feet apart across the mall.
Athletics
  • As of this moment, we anticipate all fall sports will be played according to the appropriate NCAA and athletic conference guidelines.
  • The Athletics Department is creating health and safety protocols for all sports, and they will communicate the guidance to each student-athlete.
  • Visiting sport teams will be required to follow SU’s campus health and safety policies while they are on campus.
Campus Dining
  • Plans for on-campus dining options have not been finalized. We will provide notification as soon as this happens. 

    Guidance and Resources

  • Update on New Travel Policy to Students - July 10, 4:30 p.m.

    Dear student,

    We look forward to seeing you back on campus this fall! As you know, this semester will be a very different experience than we are used to at Southwestern. As the University takes a number of actions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus, we ask that you take personal responsibility to limit your exposure to and spread of the virus.

    By now, wearing a face covering and practicing physical distancing are hopefully part of your everyday routine. Once you arrive on campus, wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing will be required. We also ask that you restrict your travel to only the most essential trips to reduce your exposure.

    The following information will help guide your decision-making and preparation processes.

    Restrict Travel and Activity

    All students should strictly limit personal domestic travel and avoid non-essential travel and activity altogether.

    COVID-19 cases and deaths have been reported in all 50 states, and the situation is constantly changing. The resurgence of COVID-19 infection rates in Texas means travel to hotspots like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Fort Worth, and Austin will increase your chances of getting exposed, infected, and contagious with COVID-19.  Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick.

    Personal international travel is highly discouraged. 

    Starting August 1, 2020, all students are advised to restrict all non-essential travel and activity. Only leave your residence for essential trips. Essential trips are defined as shopping for groceries and essentials, going to medical and dental appointments, going to work, or taking trips within a short distance of your home that are absolutely necessary for your well-being.

    Travel Registry

    The University requires that all students, faculty and staff members complete and update their individual travel plans within the Travel Registry  (//forms.gle/5wzrRr5MB1xcnEmZ7 500 Internal Server Error

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    Information that is submitted through the Travel Registry will only be viewed by us and confidentiality will be maintained to the extent possible. We may contact you for additional information, if needed.

    Guidelines and Resources

    The University will generally follow the CDC guidelines for travel in the United States .  If any student has traveled to a country that is subject to the CDC’s Level 3 or greater Travel Health Notice 500 Internal Server Error

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    The University will follow state and local travel restrictions and encourages students who plan to travel to regularly refer to the most up-to-date information and travel guidance found on the applicable state or local health department .  Information from the trip’s origination, along the route, and destination should be monitored prior to and during the trip.  For quick reference, below are the links for health department COVID-19 sites for the State of Texas and major cities:

    Texas Department of State Health Services  (Georgetown, Round Rock) Williamson County and Cities Health District
    (Austin) Travis County Health and Human Services
    (San Antonio) Bexar County Emergency Services
    (Dallas) Dallas County Health and Human Services
    (Fort Worth) Tarrant County Public Health
    (Houston) Harris County Public Health

    The University anticipates that students will comply with this Policy to the best of their ability.  Failure to comply, particularly when there has been a potential COVID-19 exposure to the student during unreported travel – which then has potentially exposed others on campus – may result in appropriate disciplinary action in accordance with the Student Handbook. 

    The fall 2020 semester will be a new and different experience for all of us. We want everyone to feel safe and supported, so please visit //www.2012nbajerseysmall.com/reopening/faqs/ , or email questions@southwestern.edu  with your questions. We also encourage you to seize this moment as an opportunity for personal growth. Just as you take responsibility for ensuring your body gets good nutrition and regular exercise, you now need to protect your body from this virus. Wear a mask, practice physical distancing, and restrict your travel. By doing so, you will also protect this community that we have all created. We are in this together, and together we will make this fall a rich and rewarding experience.

    Shelley Story, Dean of Students
    Jaime J. Woody, Vice President for Student Life


    Update from President Knobel - June 16, 8:00 p.m.

    Dear Friends,

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    Restarting learning, teaching, and living on campus is not an easy thing, and there are moments when it would be easy to chuck it all and say “We managed to get through the last month of the spring semester with no-one on campus and classes completed remotely. So why not just try it again for an entire semester.” Now it could be that developments in the disease or regulatory environments could force that upon us, but if we have a choice, I don’t think it’s optimal.

    Southwestern is not a research university, where faculty work in laboratories and libraries goes on largely independent of undergraduate education. We’re not a commuter college, where most students live away from campus, often with their immediate families, and come and go from campus as required by their curricular schedule. We’re not an educational mega-versity, “credentialing” large numbers of graduates frequently taught by graduate students and ephemeral adjuncts, often in very large classes. You know what we are. It’s what we tell students, current and prospective, every day.

    We tell them that they are “somebody” to us. We tell them that they will work closely with faculty in small classes that encourage participation and interpersonal interaction. We tell them that they will have easy and frequent access to their professors outside the classroom. We assure them that they will have one-on-one learning experiences with their professors and can expect faculty mentorship or collaboration with independent scholarly and artistic projects. We tell them that the gap between life inside the classroom and outside is illusory, that relationships in the residence halls, in student organizations, and in the chance meetings on the Mall provide opportunities for living out learning and exploring new ideas with peers. We tell them that participation in a cast or ensemble or on an athletic team can be a source of camaraderie, an exercise in collaboration, and a platform for developing leadership skills. And we tell them that we have a host of people beyond their professors who are available to help them get the most out of their college experience, from counselors and multi-cultural advisors to student activity assistants and athletic coaches.

    Of course, we share all this with both current and prospective students because we believe that this kind of education provides a superior learning experience for many young people. And we tell them this because we believe that they as individuals and social beings are advantaged by an education in the liberal arts and sciences. The emergent national confrontation with structural racism, with white privilege, and with the social construction of race underscores the importance of liberal education for students who come to us.

    One of the “hot” words in higher education administration these days is “branding.” I hate the commercial imagery of it and refuse to use it. But I do believe that when we make statements to students about who we are as an institution we are making a promise, a commitment. This last spring, in a pinch, we did what we could through various means of remote outreach by faculty and staff alike to deliver on a part of our promise, but only a part. And we only had to do it for about a month. Why are we trying to figure out how most of us can resume modified face-to-face contact on our campus? Simply because for a full semester this autumn—one-eighth of a student’s college experience—we are trying to deliver on our promise as completely as we can.

    Students and their families know what our promise is and they are pretty direct in telling us that they may not come to us or return to us if we can’t substantially deliver on it this fall. We know this from third party polling, from direct communication from students and parents, and from notification of our admissions staff that without on-campus instruction, a number of incoming students will not enroll. We have information, not just anecdotes. Are there also students who are anxious about a physical return to campus and may choose not to come? Doubtless. But the registration and deposit numbers offer evidence that this is not the prevailing view. So coming back together on campus is about keeping our promise. If circumstances, in the end, prevent us from fulfilling it completely, we’ll do the best we can remotely, hopefully improving on what we learned in the spring.

    That’s it. That’s the reason for trying to figure out how most of us can come back together with as much regard to health safety as we can muster. As I’ve shared before, there are budgetary consequences, particularly challenging in their relation to employment issues, to any direction we take for the fall, but these are consequences, not drivers.

    All of the public health authorities locally and nationally agree that, at this point in the progression of COVID-19, both society and institutions are looking at risk mitigation, not elimination. It’s pretty clear that until there is an effective vaccine, mitigation is all that is possible. Sadly, as we all have seen, there are some individuals in private life and in high office who seem to have given up on mitigation. So how can we fulfill the Southwestern promise and simultaneously mitigate risk as much as possible?

    We started with the calendar. SU wasn’t the first and it wasn’t the last to adopt it, but the most popular calendar in higher education for the fall seems to be to begin classes in August (as SU always does) and complete on-campus instruction on the Tuesday preceding Thanksgiving. By eliminating the Labor Day holiday and Fall Break, we can get in as many days of instruction as we have in past fall semesters. We can leave the first days of the week following Thanksgiving for remote course wrap-up as necessary, take Wednesday-Friday (Dec.2 -4) as days for remote review, music juried performances, and capstone presentations, and utilize the next week for the submission of papers and projects and exams completed remotely. There are two advantages to this schedule. It closes the campus from mid-to-late November through mid-January, when there may be another viral peak, and, perhaps more important, it prevents us from sending students out into the world potentially three times during the fall semester to return from all over and possible exposures. Is this calendar foolproof? No! A peak could come earlier, requiring a Plan B that is similar to what we did this spring. Will there be some coming and going from campus by students, faculty, and staff anyway? Yes. But we hope through community education we can familiarize people with ways to reduce their risk of virus exposure on and off campus.

    Most everything else that we might do is informed by consultations with specialists in epidemiology, medicine, and public health. People on our own campus with specialized knowledge have received advice from senior officials with institutions of the Texas Medical Center in Houston, the Texas A&M University College of Medicine, and St. David’s hospital, among others. What are these folks guiding us to? Well, for one, distancing protocols. Teaching spaces have been surveyed and maximum capacity consistent with appropriate interpersonal distance has been calculated. Some classes may have to move to larger spaces, some not usually used as classrooms. We are also looking at how scheduling and class size adjustments can be used to encourage distance. There are some kinds of classes that simply cannot be offered, and we’ll survive that for a semester. Likewise, science faculty have been engaged in figuring out what kind of laboratories with what kind of enrollment can be offered. Distancing in residence halls, realistically, will not easily take place between room-mates but can be applied to common areas and by limits on access to buildings other than a resident’s own hall. Committees are in regular communication with Sodexo about how food can be ordered in advance, made available to students in a way that prevents congestion, and can be consumed in a manner that disperses students across the McCombs Center. Other distancing protocols are being developed for student organizations and athletic activities. Public health specialists, actually, have shared that we are advantaged by being a residential campus. Students—and all of us—are safer when people remain in the relative sequestration of the campus and are not commuting back and forth.

    There are many personal and institutional cleanliness and disinfecting rubrics that are under development. Being a face-masked campus is critical. This requirement will apply to campus visitors as well as all who study or teach on campus. Everyone knows the advice about frequent and thorough hand washing but we’ll need to constantly educate about it. Hand sanitizer stations will be ubiquitous. Offices are being surveyed to determine which have the most public interface and how they can be arranged to eliminate lines or crowding and, if necessary, outfitted with face screens like we’ve become accustomed to at the grocery store. Custodial staff members require appropriate protective equipment, and schedules will evolve to minimize their exposure risk. This is a great opportunity to encourage students to do more routine caring for their residential spaces themselves. Sanitation of classrooms and other public spaces will be ongoing.

    Yes, there is continuing evaluation of the testing and tracing possibilities, including conversations with local health care providers. If you’ve been following the discussion in medical circles, you know that understanding about what methods are best seems to evolve weekly. We may zig zag in several directions in the days ahead until we land on what seems like the optimal approach for our particular campus community. It will be essential that we have a strong health education focus as we enter the fall. Some of this consists of simple reminders of things people already know they should do. Others are more pointed insistence that care for others means staying out of public when signs of illness are evident and quarantining if exposed to those known to be infected. Quarantining protocols for resident students are being worked out.

    You probably have read that the “super-spreader” environments are parties, concerts, and closely-packed restaurants. We’ve got to reduce the campus versions of these. It’s for this reason that the party-filled Homecoming for 3,000 celebrants has been rescheduled at this point from late October until spring. Likewise, this will not be the fall for crowd-attracting outside lectures. Our own student fine arts performances are likely to be performed outdoors and/or to remote audiences. At this point, the thinking is that 2020 Commencement can be downsized in the fall to a two-hour mid-Sunday outside event that brings graduates and families to an outdoor setting where spacing is possible and participants will come and go on the same day.

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    Gradually and carefully, the campus is being repopulated by both administrative and facilities staff members. This is not happening all at once and, in some cases, will take advantage of staggered schedules. While some folks will be able to work remotely for some or all of the next eight weeks, we expect to be operating primarily in person across the University by the time the first students return in mid-August. The first admissions office tours resumed last week, taking masked visitors on a very structured loop through the campus.

    Whew! And this is only the beginning. As I shared several weeks ago, assuming that we can resume educational activities on campus, it is going to feel like an unfamiliar environment in many respects. It’s going to require good-will, forbearance, and flexibility. I hope that together, we can carry on.

    Sincerely,

    Dale Knobel
    Interim President


    Update from President Knobel - May 27, 5:45 p.m.

    Dear Southwestern Community, 

    Let me begin by thanking you for your patience. I know everyone has been waiting to hear about our plans for the fall so that you and your family can make preparations. Based on the substantial work of the Campus Readiness Task Force, informed by the best epidemiological information available to us, we have decided to resume instruction on our residential campus on August 24th.

    Southwestern University is a mission-driven enterprise, and this start date seems most likely to allow us to fulfill our mission while promoting the safety and welfare of our campus community. We are setting the fall calendar in a way that will lead to the completion of on-campus instruction and closure of residence halls and apartments before Thanksgiving. To retain as many students on campus as possible and to maximize days of instruction, we will operate on Labor Day and not plan on a fall break.  Details of a replacement day off to compensate staff for Labor Day will be shared later.

    Let there be no doubt, the fall semester will not be the same. We are focusing on the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. To that end, we are crafting a host of measures to advance social distancing and sanitation. This involves issues about wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and a number of other health protocols. It involves creating guidelines for students including the nature of residence hall living, dining, and student activities.  

    We are working to address questions of facilities modification and class scheduling.  We know there are even some classes that should not be included in the curriculum this fall because we cannot safely accommodate them due to the instructional activity or lack of adequate space.  There are many people working on all of these things and more will be consulted as we go on.

    We are committed to creating contingency plans. If the progress of the disease and/or public policy changes prevent us from resuming instruction on campus as we design, we need to be able to turn to remote instruction. We are preparing for two semesters, one on-campus and one remote and this will involve different work rhythms in the summer and early fall.  The office of the Dean of the Faculty will be working on workshop opportunities to assist faculty with this task.

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    Sincerely, 

    Dale T. Knobel


    Submit a Question

    If you have a question about the university’s current situation or our upcoming plans, please email questions@southwestern.edu .


    May 22, 12:00 p.m.

    The Campus Readiness Task Force

    Q: What is the role of the Campus Readiness Task Force?
    A: The Campus Readiness Task Force will make recommendations to the president regarding issues related to bringing faculty, staff, and students back on campus in the fall. The final decision-making authority rests with the president. 

    Q: What is the Campus Readiness Task Force?
    A: The Campus Readiness Task Force consists of representatives of key university offices and faculty with special expertise. It is cochaired by Craig Erwin, vice president for finance and administration; Alisa Gaunder, dean of the faculty; and Jaime Woody, vice president for student life. Its charge is to recommend ways that we can offer our distinctive academic and student life program on our residential campus while ensuring that students, faculty, staff, and visitors are healthy and safe. The task force will have to consider that we are a diverse community representing different health profiles, age cohorts, and comfort levels regarding this unprecedented situation. The task force is meeting weekly to discuss and plan for the range of public-health procedures and activities that will make it possible for us to learn, teach, work, and live on campus in a way that supports the health of all.

    Q: How is the Campus Readiness Task Force structured?
    A: The Campus Readiness Task Force consists of a number of cross-functional committees, including the following:

    • Academic Operations, with the following subcommittees:
      • Instruction
      • Social Distancing and Scheduling
      • Fine Arts 
      • Library
      • Student Success and Accommodations
      • International Students
    • Student Experience
    • Events
    • Facilities
    • Health and Safety 
    • Nonacademic Business Processes 
    • Human Resources
    • Technology
    • Admission 
    • Communications

    Q: When will the Campus Readiness Task Force make decisions about reopening campus?
    A: The Campus Readiness Task Force is reviewing a number of options and plans to determine the criteria for whether and when we can open campus in the fall. President Knobel and the senior staff will make the final decisions about the opening of the campus.

     

    Start of Fall Semester

    Q: When will the fall semester begin?
    A: We hope to start the fall semester as planned on August 24, 2020. However, an on-time start for the fall depends on a number of factors. Our first priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff, so if we determine that we cannot begin the fall semester on time andin a safe manner, we will implement contingency plans for a later start. If we cannot bring students, faculty, and staff back to campus for the fall, we will transition to distance learning, as we did in spring 2020.

    Q: When will Southwestern announce plans for the fall?
    A: The Campus Readiness Task Force is reviewing all the necessary protocols and plans needed to make the reopening of our campus as safe as possible. The task force will make its recommendations to the president and senior staff in mid-June; then, a decision on a reopening date will be made.

     

    Financial Outlook

    Q: When will Southwestern announce its 2020–2021 budget? Are we planning cost-saving measures?
    A: Because next year’s budget greatly depends on fall enrollment, university leaders will need to wait until after June 1, 2020, our admission deadline, to finalize and announce next year’s budget. We are also working to gather as much information as possible about projections regarding COVID-19 and the most current economic forecasts. By being thoughtful and realistic about our financial situation, we hope to avoid significant budget cuts and/or staffing reductions.

    Q: How is the endowment doing in this economy?
    A: The Southwestern endowment is diversified, so it is structured to weather market downturns better than the major market indices. For the fiscal year to date through March 31, 2020, for example, the Southwestern endowment is currently performing better than both the benchmark and the index: it has experienced a –6.9% investment return compared with the policy benchmark return of –10.1% and the S&P 500 return of –10.8%. However, if the economy experiences a prolonged contraction or recession, the endowment’s losses will impact the university’s operating budget in future fiscal years.

    Q: Has Southwestern realized any cost savings due to the closing of campus?
    A: From a budgetary and operations perspective, even though faculty, students, and staff are not living or working on campus, we must still pay for ongoing utilities and maintenance, as well as employee payroll and benefits. In addition, when we reopen campus, we expect to incur the additional expenses of instituting necessary health and safety protocols across campus, including increases in cleaning supplies and sanitation procedures.

    Q: Will the university be providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, to the campus community?
    A: Yes, the Campus Readiness Task Force is assessing all PPE needs for students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors. The task force is also identifying sources for the needed equipment.

     

    Staffing and Working on Campus

    Q: If Southwestern has to move to distance learning for the fall, will there be furloughs or layoffs of faculty and staff?
    A: As President Knobel indicated, our goal is to have the fall semester run in our usual manner: on campus with classrooms, residence halls, and supporting offices open. This is the ideal situation from both an educational and an operational perspective. However, our first priority is the on-campus health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. If we cannot open our campus in the usual fashion, the lack of revenue usually generated by full tuition, room, and board will not support our normal operations, and difficult decisions about staffing will need to be made. We are committed to keeping you informed—and providing as much advance notice as possible—of any budget and staffing decisions.

    Q: What are the plans to have staff and faculty to return to campus and resume on-site work?
    A: Each office and department is reviewing their operations and facilities to determine appropriate staffing models and processes to maintain social distancing. We anticipate that some people will continue working remotely while others whose work necessitates their presence on campus will return in a manner that aligns with recommended health protocols. Decisions about on-site or remote work are expected to be finalized in the first few weeks of June.

    Q: If I or a member of my family is immunocompromised, do I have to come back to the office?
    A: Our Human Resources team and the Campus Readiness Task Force are developing recommendations to establish a process by which members of the faculty and staff can submit their requests for accommodation due to concerns about their personal or familial health. We anticipate making these guidelines public by mid-June.

    Q: Why can’t I come back to the office now?
    A: We are continuing remote work for all possible staff until May 30. The Campus Readiness Task Force will be making health-protocol recommendations to make working on campus safe for everyone. Some of the recommendations may include working in shifts on campus and remotely, social distancing, and wearing masks. We anticipate making these guidelines public by mid-June. 

    Our facilities management team will resume working on campus on June 1. They will be practicing social distancing and wearing masks when in proximity to others. 

    Q: When can we resume university-related travel? Will business travel be restricted as part of cost-saving measures?
    A: To protect the health of our community, the university will approve essential university-related travel on a case-by-case basis. Travel will need to be approved by your supervisor and a member of the senior staff. Essential travelincludes trips by admission counselors and for other university business. Nonessential travel, such as attending professional conferences and meetings, will need to be conducted virtually until further notice. Travel for athletics will be determined based on NCAA and SAC conference guidelines.

     

    Admission and Enrollment

    Q: Are we expecting the usual number of students to return for the fall semester?
    A: Southwestern has extended the admission deadline to June 1 to provide prospective students and their families greater flexibility, and we will know more about the incoming class after that date. However, we do know that the university has not been immune to the national trend of declining enrollment due to the pandemic. According to our current tracking, our enrollment for the fall has been reduced by approximately 20%. Nevertheless, our Office of Admission staff have demonstrated great creativity and are working tirelessly in reaching out to prospective students, such as conducting virtual tours, hosting online group chats and information sessions, and using an online chat function to provide one-on-one support on our website.

    Q: When will the university resume admission tours on campus?
    A: The Admission team is collaborating with the Campus Readiness Task Force, facilities management, and university safety and health leaders to put a campus tour plan in place. We anticipate being able to host small groups of prospective students and their families as early as June 1.

     

    Athletics

    Q: Will Southwestern athletics teams participate in fall sports?
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      Q: How will the university keep athletes safe during training, in the weight room, and in locker rooms?
    A: The athletics director and Campus Readiness Task Force are reviewing how to safely bring athletes back to campus and restart training. Southwestern is awaiting guidelines developed by the NCAA and SAC before determining whether it is safe for our student-athletes, coaches, and staff to be in close proximity and/or what health precautions need to be put in place for areas of play, practice, and training. We will notify the Southwestern community as soon as a decision is made.

     

    Submit a Question

    If you have a question about the university’s current situation or our upcoming plans, please email questions@southwestern.edu .

     

    Employee Resources


    May 5, 3:00 p.m.

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    A team of faculty and staff will advise the President’s Office about campus operations during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

    Interim President Dale Knobel announced today that he is convening a Campus Readiness Task Force to help determine when and how Southwestern University will resume face-to-face learning and residential life this fall. Led by Dean of Faculty and Professor of Political Science Alisa Gaunder, Vice President for Student Life Jaime Woody, and Vice President for Finance and Administration Craig Erwin, the task force will include staff representing key offices and faculty with expertise relevant to the ongoing crisis and its local impacts on the university. The group will advise Knobel through midsummer, when it will begin providing recommendations to Laura E. Skandera Trombley, who will assume leadership as Southwestern’s 16th president on July 1.

    The group’s charge “is to recommend ways that we can offer our academic and student life program on our residential campus while helping us ensure that students, faculty, staff, and campus visitors are healthy and safe,” Knobel explains. “The task force will have to consider that we are a diverse community representing different health profiles, age cohorts, and comfort with an unprecedented situation. I am asking the task force to consider the range of public-health procedures and activities that can make it possible for us to learn, teach, work, and live on the campus in a way that supports the health of all.”

    As students complete their spring finals remotely, faculty and staff also continue to work from home—and will continue to do so until at least May 31. Staff performing essential tasks on campus, such as the facilities management team, continue to work in staggered shifts to ensure community members’ safety.

    Knobel reveals that the target for reopening campus is August 24, 2020, which was the starting date for fall semester classes approved by the administration prior to the first reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. However, given the continuing uncertainty about a number of factors, including the disease’s spread, the availability of testing and protective equipment, the logistics of implementing safety precautions, and the regulations or guidelines set forth by local, state, and federal authorities, the task force will also develop and recommend backup plans for the fall, tailored to the needs of the SU community—including transitioning midsemester to teaching and learning remotely on short notice, as it did this spring, should it become necessary.

    In the meantime, Knobel says he appreciates “the resilience of students, the resourcefulness of faculty, and the dedication of staff across the university” as this strange and historic semester comes to a close. “I continue to find uplifting the response of the Southwestern community to the demanding circumstances of 2020. We are at our best when we are united in common purpose.”


    March 24, 5:00 p.m.

    Dear SU resident,

    Today, Williamson County has issued a Stay Home Stay Safe Order for all individuals in Williamson County. This Order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 24, 2020, and will continue through 11:59 p.m. on April 13, 2020. In response to that order, the residence halls have been locked and card access suspended.

    If you are close to Georgetown and want to come to campus today, Tuesday March 24, to complete your checkout, please contact the Housing Office at 512.863.1624. We will work with you to coordinate a staggered time for you to return to campus today (Tuesday) to complete your checkout.

    If you are currently on campus and in the process of moving out, please complete your move-out before 11:59 p.m. tonight.

    For those of you who have received a housing exemption approval, more information will be coming regarding the Stay Home Stay Safe Order and how it impacts you.

    Beginning on Wednesday, March 25, all scheduled checkout times have been postponed due to the Williamson County Stay Home Stay Safe Order. We do apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you. After April 13, presuming the order is lifted, we will resume the checkouts and advise you of the revised process.

    After 11:59 p.m. tonight, we ask that you not return to campus until we advise you differently. Because of the Stay Home Stay Safe Order, staffing and services on campus will be limited to essential employees.

    Sincerely,

    Joe Watkins
    Director of Residence Life


    March 19, 10:00 a.m. Message from President Knobel

    It is with a heavy heart that I share with you the details of several very difficult decisions Southwestern University has ma­­de as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

    For Students

    Distance learning goes into effect March 30. Based upon the news of the first diagnosed cases of Coronavirus in Williamson County, our home county, we have determined that starting on March 30 it will be necessary for our students to complete spring semester­­­ through distance learning. Our faculty is already putting distance learning curricula in place. Our professors will communicate to their students all information regarding grading policies and assignments. If students have specific questions about a class I urge you to contact your professor.

    As Dean Gaunder communicated to you yesterday, the changes you might experience with distance learning include, but are not necessarily limited to, more frequent communication via email, greater use of Moodle, and/or class discussions/lectures via Google Hangouts Meet.

    The goal of the University is to keep courses as similar as possible to their original design, in many cases faculty will have to make significant adjustments and everyone will have to try new ways of doing things. More information will be coming to you soon from your professors as well as from staff who remain available to assist you in your coursework.

    Commencement is postponed. Williamson County has ordered a ban on all public events, as well as dining in common areas of restaurants and bars. This ban has been mandated through May 11, 2020. Unfortunately, this necessitates that we postpone Commencement, which was scheduled for May 9. We are heartbroken to have this long-held and meaningful tradition interrupted in this way. We will be reaching out to representatives of the graduating class so that together we can find a proper way to honor the class and their great achievements at Southwestern. Members of the Class of 2020, please look for a preliminary survey in your email in the next few days.

    All other campus events are also cancelled starting immediately.

    Residence halls will close on March 22. 500 Internal Server Error

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    If returning to campus to move out before March 30 presents a significant hardship or if you have absolutely no other option for safe housing, you may apply for an exemption using this form . Limited exceptions will be made for only the most difficult of circumstances.

    Room and board will be prorated for the semester. 500 Internal Server Error

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    For Faculty

    Continue preparations for distance learning. I urge faculty to continue the process of adjusting your courses for remote teaching.

    Reach out to students. This is an uncertain time for all of us, but especially our student body. I ask each of you to keep your students apprised of your plans and changes to your courses as you adapt to remote teaching. Please provide extra support to our students as we all step into this unfamiliar territory.

    Attend faculty development sessions . We are holding faculty development sessions so you can learn about new technologies or teaching strategies that can help them adapt course learning goals. Changes you might experience include, but are not necessarily limited to, more frequent communication with students via email, greater use of Moodle, and/or class discussions/lectures via Google Hangouts Meet

    For Staff

    Thank you for your dedication. The burden falls on you to m aintain critical mission services on campus such as facilities management, public safety, core administrative functions, IT support for online learning, and essential business operations . Each department has set up work schedules to encourage social distance while maintaining essential services.

    If you are sick, stay at home. Your health and wellness are important to us. Please remember it is just as important to protect the health of your co-workers. Contact your supervisor to make arrangements to work remotely. Contact Elma Benavides, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, if you need additional information or assistance.

    Discuss your schedule with your supervisor. Although we will not have students on campus for the rest of the semester, there are many ongoing operations that will need to be staffed. Please talk to your supervisor to understand their expectations and to let them know if you have extenuating circumstances that require you to work remotely or care for a loved one.

    Continue to practice virus prevention measures. Review the Coronavirus FAQs on the website for more information about symptoms and prevention  

    For the entire Southwestern Community

    Our lives have changed dramatically. I, along with our university leadership team, understand the COVID-19 pandemic is incredibly challenging for everyone. We have not made these decisions lightly or without a great deal of deliberation. We will continue to keep you updated on all relevant information and decisions. Please visit this webpage  for ongoing updates.  

    Our Southwestern community is very special. I ask each of you to support one another as well as our family, friends, and neighbors during these trying times.  


    March 17, 4:07 p.m. Update

    COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS FAQs updated

     

    March 17, 4:32 p.m. Update

    Dear students,

    I am writing today as Dean of the Faculty to give you an idea of what to expect when remote learning begins on March 30th after our extended spring break.

    As you know, distance learning is a significant departure for Southwestern. So right now, faculty are beginning the process of adjusting their courses to prepare for remote teaching.  Within the next week, they will begin reaching out to you to update you on changes to your courses and to find out how they can support your learning within whatever circumstances you find yourself.

    We are holding faculty development sessions where faculty are learning about new technologies or teaching strategies that can help them adapt course learning goals.  Changes you might experience include, but are not necessarily limited to, more frequent communication via email, greater use of Moodle, and/or class discussions/lectures via Google Hangouts Meet. 

    Although our goal is to keep courses as similar as possible to their original design, in many cases faculty will have to make significant adjustments and everyone will have to try new ways of doing things. Expect to see syllabus updates to the course schedule and some course policies as a first step to this transition. More information will be coming to you soon from your professors as well as from staff who remain available to assist you in your coursework. 

    In the meantime, we are sending you our hopes for your health and safety, and for that of your families and friends.  And we look forward to seeing and hearing from you in class soon, even at a distance. 

    With best wishes,
    Professor Gaunder


    March 12, 6:22 p.m. Update

    Dear Southwestern Community,

    These decisions are not easy, but my commitment to you is to communicate all pertinent information as quickly and effectively as possible.

    In trying to protect both the welfare of the campus community and the ability of students to complete their spring coursework, and, in some cases, their degrees, in the face of COVID-19, we have been taking a step by step approach—taking one step and then evaluating before considering the next.

    To allow for faculty to rework their courses for distance delivery and to provide us all with a better sense of the trajectory of and effective responses to COVID-19, we are extending spring break for a full week rather than two days.  Spring break will now end on Sunday, March 29.  Beginning Monday, March 30, Southwestern will deliver coursework to students through distance learning mechanisms for a period of at least two weeks, ending April 9 due to the Good Friday holiday.  During that period, we will assess whether face-to-face, on campus instruction can resume on Monday, April 13, or whether it will be more prudent to continue with distance learning.

    We have conferred with local and state health authorities and other institutions of higher education.  We have also been in communication with the NCAA, which has just announced the cancelation of winter and spring championships.  Likewise, we have been communicating with study abroad provider organizations.

    On the strength of those consultations, we are 1) suspending all athletic competition, 2) instructing all students currently studying abroad to repatriate to the United States (these students will not return to campus until cleared to do so), 3) cancelling summer study abroad programs because of international uncertainties, and 4) in the interests of social distancing, cancelling or reorganizing campus gatherings.

    Because the situation is fluid, we are discussing and assessing our operational plans every day. We will communicate as quickly as possible, any changes in the day-to-day operation of the campus. This means that we all must plan ahead to make whatever transitions may be necessary at short notice in the coming days and weeks. I have some very specific requests for all of you:

    •  Students, please do take your laptops, books and course materials with you over Spring Break in case you are detained during personal travel or the University makes changes in how your classes are delivered. You are strongly encouraged to stay away from campus during the extended Spring Break.  During this time, food service will end on Friday, March 13 and will resume on Sunday, March 29.  There will be no programming and services will be limited. If you need to remain on campus or need special assistance, please contact the Office of Student Life at 512-863-1624 or reslife@southwestern.edu .
    • Faculty, please refer to the email from Julie Sievers, Center for Teaching, Learning and Scholarship, regarding information on faculty development and know that I appreciate all the work you are doing to prepare for contingencies. And accept my thanks for your diligence and commitment during this difficult period.
    • Staff, please watch for guidance from Human Resources to help ensure you can work remotely, should it become necessary. And know that I appreciate the long hours under stressful circumstances that you are putting in to prepare for various contingencies.

    The best and most recent information can be found on the website Emergency Information page.  I am sure you understand that as the volume of questions has increased, we are attempting to deliver answers in a way that shares information with everyone who needs them—through the FAQs  on the Emergency Information page.

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    Finally, I ask you to Be Southwestern—treat each other with respect and think about what is best for our community as we work through this trying time. The bonds of our community are more important now than ever before. We are all working to keep one another safe and to end the Spring semester in a celebratory and successful way. I ask you to take a deep breath, do what you feel is right for you, and engage in the tough work necessary to get us through this challenge.

    Sincerely,

    Dale T. Knobel
    President


    March 11, 6:02 p.m. Update
    Southwestern University has made the decision to extend Spring Break for our students by two days in an effort to better prepare the campus for any additional actions that need to be taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS. This means that for students Spring Break will begin on Monday, March 16 and continue through Tuesday, March 24.

    The University strongly recommends that all students remain off campus during the entirety of Spring Break. There will be no classes or programming on campus during this period. Students also need to be aware that all food services will be closed during Spring Break ending with dinner on March 13.  Food services will resume full operation for dinner on the evening of Tuesday, March 24.

    The Spring Break extension only applies to students. Faculty will be expected back on campus on Monday, March 23 in order to participate in all-faculty workshops to review and prepare for distance learning, should it become necessary.

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    We also determined that due to the current conditions in Spain and the need to make an immediate decision, the Summer Abroad trip to Granada, Spain will be cancelled. The University will continue to monitor the factors surrounding other summer abroad programs and will make a decision about each one in the coming weeks.

    Students, faculty, and staff are urgently asked to continue to practice prevention measures similar to those utilized against the common cold and flu. Those measures include frequent hand washing and avoiding touching one’s face with unwashed hands.

    The University also asks all students, faculty, and staff to complete the Travel Registry. If any member of the campus community feels sick during or after any travel they need to self-quarantine before returning to campus.

    Given that this situation may escalate, we encourage staff to consider and prepare what they would need on a daily basis to work from home (e.g. laptop, files, contact information, etc.) As a precautionary measure, students are encouraged to take their school and personal essentials over Spring Break.

    The University’s Emergency Management Team and leadership continue to monitor developments in the COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS situation. We will provide ongoing updates on our plans.

    March 9, 5:00 p.m. Update

    COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS FAQs updated


    March 6, 3:45 p.m. Update

    Southwestern University places the highest priority on the health and safety of everyone entrusted to our care – students, faculty, and staff.  During this global outbreak of COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS, we urge the entire campus community to take every precaution to ensure we all remain healthy and to reduce the likelihood of the disease spreading to our campus.  As this virus continues to spread, affecting more countries around the globe, Southwestern University will continue to follow all government-issued advisories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. State Department, and the Williamson County and Cities Health District.

    One precautionary step we are taking is to know where members of our community are traveling.  All students, faculty, and staff are asked to register all planned professional and personal travel between now and the end of the semester with the University by completing the form at the appropriate link below as soon as possible.

    The registration process is intended to provide a sense of the overall travel profile of our community, which will allow us to make decisions about campus planning and preparation. The information collected will remain private to the extent possible. 

    If you are traveling internationally over spring break please keep in mind the following:

    • It is likely that international travelers may face further restrictions while they are traveling or upon returning to the United States. Presently, the CDC does not recommend travel in China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Because this list may expand, we encourage international travelers to consult the CDC’s website .
    • If any student, faculty, staff, or campus visitor has traveled to a country that is subject to the CDC’s Level 3 or greater Travel Health Notice, they will be subject to a mandatory 14-day off-campus quarantine period.
    • If you are planning any international travel over spring break—on behalf of the University or personally—we also strongly urge you to register with the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program . This will help us coordinate with you if your travel plans unexpectedly change. Understand and routinely check any travel and border government-imposed restrictions in transit, at your proposed destination, and upon your return. These restrictions could  include denial of entry or a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival. 

    The Office of Study Abroad and International Student Services has been in contact with all students who are currently studying abroad,  advising them to follow the directions of their program provider and to follow CDC preventative measures to avoid the transmission of viruses.

    For more information on traveling during the COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS outbreak, see the Travel section of our CORONAVIRUS FAQs.

    Other Resources

    Resources are updated by respective organizations.


    March 3, 5:00 p.m. Update

    Southwestern University puts the highest priority on the health and safety of everyone entrusted to our care – students, faculty, and staff. During this global outbreak of COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS, we urge the entire campus community to take every precaution to ensure we all remain healthy and that the disease does not spread to our campus. The University’s Emergency Management Team is actively monitoring the situation and will provide ongoing updates.

    The most important thing every member of the SU community can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS is to practice disease prevention procedures . This includes frequent hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, and consulting a healthcare professional if you feel sick.

    Students, faculty, and staff who are feeling sick with fever, or experiencing other significant symptoms such as trouble breathing and a cough, should avoid exposing others and visit the Health Center or your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

    The University Emergency Management Team is also monitoring all government-issued advisories, including travel guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , the World Health Organization (WHO), and the U.S. State Department as they are issued. If you plan to travel abroad in the future, please understand that these guidelines may change at any time and thus may affect your return to campus.

    We will continue to update the information on this site, so you have the most current information possible. You can also review our CORONAVIRUS  FAQs  and visit the CDC webpage  for more details. 

    Helpful Links


    • Starting August 1, 2020, all students are advised to restrict all travel and activity. Only leave your residence for essential trips. Essential trips are defined as shopping for groceries and essentials, going to medical and dental appointments, going to work, or taking trips within a short distance of your home that are absolutely necessary for your well-being. Learn more here.  
    • Review the updates on this page and the FAQ , and contact Shelley Story, Dean of Students, if you need additional information or assistance.
    • Continue to follow the best practices for prevention outlined in the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others.
    • A closely managed, phased return to campus by employees began June 1 with the return of the Facilities Management team. Starting on this date, faculty with research labs can request access to their labs through the Office of the Faculty Dean. A small number of the Admission team will resume a limited schedule of campus visits on June 8. A very limited number of employees from other departments will be allowed to return to campus in controlled phases starting June 15. Remote work continues to be strongly encouraged where it is feasible.
    • As part of our return-to-work plan, all persons (staff, faculty, students, vendors, and visitors) on campus will be required to practice the following health protocols:

      • A mask or cloth face covering that covers an individual’s nose and mouth is required at all times in all indoor and outdoor campus spaces unless they are alone in a private office or a private space.
      • Everyone must practice social distancing – maintaining a separation of six feet – at all times and in all indoor and outdoor campus spaces.
      • Individuals need to practice good hand hygiene by frequently washing their hands and/or using hand sanitizer.
      • Anyone who is exhibiting a high fever or other symptoms must stay away from campus.
    • University-sponsored travel for faculty is suspended until further notice. 
    • In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, we are continuing the University’s Travel Registry Policy . The main highlights are that all faculty and staff are required to:

      • Restrict all non-essential travel for 14 days prior to the start of the fall semester. For most campus members, this will be August 10, 2020.
      • Enter all travel into the Travel Registry Google Forms for Faculty and Staff
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    • Continue to follow the best practices for prevention outlined in the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others.
    • Review the updates on this page and the FAQ , and contact Julie Cowley, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, if you need additional information or assistance.
    • A closely managed, phased return to campus by employees began June 1 with the return of the Facilities Management team. Starting on this date, faculty with research labs can request access to their labs through the Office of the Faculty Dean. A small number of the Admission team will resume a limited schedule of campus visits on June 8. A very limited number of employees from other departments will be allowed to return to campus in controlled phases starting June 15. Remote work continues to be strongly encouraged where it is feasible.
    • As part of our return-to-work plan, all persons (staff, faculty, students, vendors, and visitors) on campus will be required to practice the following health protocols:

      • A mask or cloth face covering that covers an individual’s nose and mouth is required at all times in all indoor and outdoor campus spaces unless they are alone in a private office or a private space.
      • Everyone must practice social distancing – maintaining a separation of six feet – at all times and in all indoor and outdoor campus spaces.
      • Individuals need to practice good hand hygiene by frequently washing their hands and/or using hand sanitizer.
      • Anyone who is exhibiting a high fever or other symptoms must stay away from campus.
    • University-sponsored travel for staff is suspended until further notice.
    • In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19, we are continuing the University’s Travel Registry Policy . The main highlights are that all faculty and staff are required to:

      • Restrict all non-essential travel for 14 days prior to the start of the fall semester. For most campus members, this will be August 10, 2020.
      • Enter all travel into the Travel Registry Google Forms for Faculty and Staff
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    • Continue to follow the best practices for prevention outlined in the CDC’s How to Protect Yourself & Others.
    • Review the updates on this page and the FAQ , and contact Elma Benavides, Associate Vice President for Human Resources, if you need additional information or assistance.
  • During the COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS outbreak, we are taking the precautionary step of asking members of our community to let the University know where they are traveling. All faculty and staff are asked to register all planned professional and personal travel between now and the end of the semester by completing the form at the appropriate link below as soon as possible.

    For more information on the travel registry: