Southwestern University

Reopening and Campus Health and Safety

Southwestern’s faculty and staff–led Health & Safety Committee meets weekly to monitor the pandemic and conduct an environmental scan, surveying and interpreting conditions on and off campus to inform University health policy. 

Updates on the current situation, our policies, and schedule are posted on this page. An overview of COVID-19 cases and vaccination among our students, faculty, and staff is given on the dashboard:

COVID-19 Dashboard

If you have additional questions, email .

Priority Information for Students

  • If you are not feeling well, do not go to classes, meetings, or other group activities.

Updates and Outlook

  • CDC presentation warns of delta variant risk for the unvaccinated

    Document obtained by The Washington Post illustrates dangers of delta variant for the unvaccinated, urges greater measures to promote vaccination and prevention strategies.

  • Reopening Safely

    From the start of the pandemic, the Southwestern University Campus Readiness Task Force has met to guide the University’s response.  Consulting with medical practitioners, immunologists, and public health specialists, the Task Force determined protocols on how we could live, learn, teach, and work together to reopen the campus safely. All along, every step has been taken to ensure that the University adheres strictly to best practices while still maintaining the highest standards for teaching and learning and continuing to create an engaged community. 

    Updates on the current situation, our policies, and schedule will be posted on this page. If you have additional questions, email .


      Guidance and Resources

    • Update to COVID-19 Health Protocols - May 19, 2021

      Dear Southwestern community,

      Based on increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates and the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Southwestern University is updating many of our campus health protocols. All of the following changes will become effective immediately.

      We will no longer require masks to be worn in outdoor areas on campus. Masks will continue to be required in indoor spaces, including classrooms, laboratories, the library, and all common areas. Those who are alone in private offices may remove their masks, unless others are present. We ask everyone to continue to be courteous and respectful of each other’s health by wearing masks in any indoor area that is shared or could be shared with others, including hallways, stairways, and elevators. Foot traffic flow through buildings and shared spaces will continue to be delineated with signage in order to minimize overcrowding.

      Meetings, classes, laboratory work, and events will no longer be time-restricted as long as all attendees remain masked. Faculty, staff and students will no longer need to submit their travel plans to the travel registry. No one needs to quarantine after traveling.

      Visitors, vendors, and consultants can now come to campus as long as they follow our masking, distancing, and other health protocols. As previously required, visitors must be invited and check in with the University office issuing the invitation upon arrival.

      Weekly surveillance testing will continue over the summer. Students, faculty, and staff who have registered their COVID-19 vaccination will be exempted from testing. Students may confidentially submit their vaccine records through the patient portal on the Health Center website or via email at Faculty and staff may confidentially submit their vaccine records to Cynthia Nguyen, benefits coordinator, in Human Resources by interoffice mail or via email at

      Thank you for your cooperation and diligence as we navigate the pandemic together. As always, we will continue to adjust our policies as the situation warrants. We anticipate additional refinements to our health protocols as we get closer to starting classes in the fall.


      Laura E. Skandera Trombley

      Preview of Plans for Fall 2021 - March 24, 2021

      Dear Southwestern community,

      This has been a long and stressful year, even without the unexpected ice storm, and I thank you all for everything you have done on behalf of Southwestern University. Mercifully, with the arrival of the vaccine, it appears as though the acute stage of the COVID-19 pandemic is coming to an end and we will soon begin to experience more of the activities we enjoyed in the “before times.”

      This last year, as difficult as it has been, has highlighted the best of Southwestern University. We have come together, supported one another, found innovative solutions, and most of all, demonstrated our resilience in the face of overwhelming odds. The sacrifices everyone has made to prioritize the health of the Southwestern community have paid off. Our positivity rates have remained very low, we have maintained our high educational standards, and we will end the year with a budget surplus.

      Please join me in acknowledging the members of our community who have lost loved ones due to the pandemic. You have our condolences and my prayers for comfort and peace.

      With the pandemic has come an economic downturn, and families have been struggling with the financial impact. The University is here to help. Students who need additional support should contact Connie Hicks, administrative and medical assistant, at to schedule an appointment with a counselor. Faculty and staff who need additional employee services or assistance should contact Cynthia Nguyen, benefits coordinator, at

      Although we must maintain vigilance and follow our health protocols for a few more months, we have already begun planning for the upcoming school year. Our intention is to return to full, on-campus operations and instruction for fall 2021. We will, of course, continue to monitor CDC guidelines, COVID-19 positivity rates, and progress on vaccinations across the country and adjust our fall plans as the situation warrants.

      Before we start the fall semester, I strongly urge every member of the Southwestern community to get the COVID-19 vaccination. Starting March 29, all adults in Texas will be eligible for the vaccine. You can check the Texas Health and Human Services website for updates on vaccine availability in Texas. For members of our staff and faculty, our health insurance provider will cover the expense of your vaccination. To be exempted from the vaccine, students will have to provide a notarized “Exemption from Immunizations for Reasons of Conscience Affidavit” form from the State of Texas.

      We will continue to provide updates on fall academics, athletics, student activities, and university events over the next few months. We are also determining when staff who have been working from home will return to work on campus. A number of factors will go into this decision, including vaccination rates, but we anticipate everyone returning to work on campus mid-summer. Your supervisor will notify you with specifics of your return.

      Thank you for your ongoing dedication and commitment to keeping our community safe during the pandemic. I hope everyone will look back on this most challenging year with a sense of pride and gratitude for all we have overcome together.


      Laura E. Skandera Trombley

      Spectators at Athletic Events - Feb. 3, 2021

      Dear Southwestern community,

      President Trombley and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Glenn Schwab announced today the University will continue to hold all university athletic events without spectators for the remainder of the spring semester. The “no spectators” policy will apply to all sports and all home games, regardless of the location of the competition.

      “Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our community has been determined to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe and healthy as we fulfill our core purpose of offering a liberal arts education and maintaining a healthy and empathic community,” Trombley said. “This was not a decision undertaken lightly. I know parents and Pirate fans will be disappointed; however, under the circumstances this is the responsible decision.” Trombley continued, “It was made after consulting with our faculty health and safety committee as well as taking into consideration Texas’ current rolling seven-day average infection rate of 16.6%, and Williamson County’s rate of 12.8%, which places the county in a COVID Red Phase, the most serious classification of Uncontrolled Community Spread. As good neighbors we do not want to be a contributor to the current concerning situation, therefore we made the difficult decision to continue the ‘no spectators’ policy.”
      The World Health Organization recommends holding to a positivity rate of 5% or below.

      Not allowing spectators at our athletic events will not only help safeguard student-athletes, coaches, and staff, but also ensure the University is doing its utmost to protect our entire campus. Southwestern has consistently maintained very low COVID-19 infection rates while continuing on-campus residency and in-person instruction.

      “In the interest of equity and fairness across all our sports, we could not in good conscience allow spectators at outdoor sports but not indoor sports or at off-campus venues but not on-campus venues,” Schwab said. “Because our sports span two conferences, it was necessary for us to adopt one uniform policy on spectators. Our football conference, the American Southwest Conference, left the decision regarding spectators up to each university, while the institutions in our other conference, the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference, all agreed to not have spectators. We opted for consistency for all our programs by banning all spectators.”

      Southwestern’s sports communications team will broadcast all athletic events on SHN Sports. Information about schedules and broadcasts can be found at

      On-Arrival Testing, Saturday 1/16/2021 - Jan. 11, 2021, 4:53 p.m.

      Dear students,

      With the start of the spring semester imminent, and the spread of the coronavirus unchecked in Texas, the University, in collaboration with the Campus Health & Safety Oversight Committee, has determined that in addition to pre-arrival testing, testing all students on arrival will provide our best defense against an outbreak on campus. Reminder: your pre-arrival test results must be sent to before you return to campus.

      As we did in the fall semester, we will require every student to be tested within hours or days of your arrival to campus, and ask you to self-quarantine (including not attending classes, in-person work, or any other in-person events) until your test results are available.

      The only students who will be exempted from on-arrival testing are those who are fully remote (will not be physically present on campus at any time for any reason during Spring 2021), and those who have provided documentation of having tested positive for the virus on or after October 21, 2020.  Reminder: fully remote students should have already declared their remote status, or should do so by contacting Dave Seiler (

      We have partnered with Community Labs to offer on-campus testing on Saturday, January 16th, from 1:00 to 5:00PM, paid for by the University. If you arrive on campus on Friday the 15th, or before 5:00PM on Saturday the 16th, you will be tested at the Robertson Center. Please bring a valid photo ID to the main doors of the Robertson Center (the doors north of the doors to the competition gym). You will complete a short consent form and will then be tested. No appointment is required, but you may briefly wait in line.  Results should be available by Monday morning.

      If you cannot be available between 1:00 and 5:00 on Saturday, the University will provide you with an Everlywell (do-it-yourself) test, which must be self-administered and dropped off at UPS on the same day. It cannot be dropped off on Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday. If you arrive Saturday evening or later, your test cannot be administered before Tuesday, January 19th. Results should be available in 3-5 business days, and you will be required to self-quarantine until they are received. This means you may not be able to attend in-person events, including classes, for the first week of the semester or longer.

      Surveillance testing will be conducted on an ongoing basis throughout the semester. Community Labs will be on campus on Wednesday afternoons, testing up to 600 members of the SU community each week. If you are assigned to test in a given week and do not show up for your test, you will not be allowed to attend classes or other in-person events until you have been tested. Alternative testing arrangements will be made for those who have academic conflicts with the testing time.  More information will be provided.

      We are also asking all students to limit their movement, even after receiving test results, as the semester begins. We hope that circumstances will change for the better, but for now, any non-essential off-campus activity creates unnecessary risk.

      We believe this additional round of testing is necessary to give our community the best chance of a successful spring semester and appreciate your cooperation in achieving our common goal.

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

      Returning to Campus for Spring Semester - Jan 4, 2021

      Dear students,

      Happy new year! We hope the break has been and will continue to be restful and rejuvenating for you.

      Remote/In-person status:

      • If you are fully remote for Spring 2021, you do not need to read any further.
      • If you want to switch from in-person to fully remote, please contact David Seiler ( ) in the Center for Academic Success.
      • If you want to switch from remote to in-person, please contact both Mr. Seiler AND the Health Center at 512-863-1252.

      Moving on Campus:
      The residence halls will open on Friday, January 15th at 10:00AM.

      • Upper division students may move in anytime after the halls open without an appointment. Please make sure to wear your mask and continue practicing physical distancing. Housing will be sending you more detailed information about move-in soon.
      • First-year students must choose a move-in appointment here: . You will have a one-hour block to move into your room. Please make sure to wear your mask and continue practicing social distancing.

      Up to 2 guests help you move in for the spring semester. Each guest must wear a mask at all times while on campus. Please keep the door to your room closed and limit their time in your room to 1 hour.

      Sodexo will open for lunch on Friday, January 15th.

      COVID Testing:
      If you have questions about the pre-arrival COVID testing requirements, please see the email we sent on Wednesday, December 16 at approximately 4:45PM. If you still need help, email

      Finally, please remember that all students are asked to self-quarantine (avoid all non-essential travel and activity) for 14 days before returning to campus.

      • If you are returning to campus on the 17th or earlier, your self-quarantine should have already begun (if you forgot, please start immediately).
      • If you are returning to campus on the 18th, your self-quarantine should begin today.
      • If you are returning to campus on the 19th, your self-quarantine should begin tomorrow.

      Thank you and take care,

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

      Details about your Remote status for Spring 2021 - Dec. 16, 2020, 4:38 p.m.

      Dear student,

      This brief email is being sent to those of you who indicated you intend to be fully remote for the Spring 2021 semester. “Fully remote” means that you will not be physically present on campus at any time or for any reason during the entire spring semester.

      Because you have elected to be fully remote, you are not required to participate in the University’s pre-arrival or ongoing (surveillance) testing.

      If you change your mind and decide not to be fully remote, you must comply with the University’s testing protocols prior to coming to campus. To begin that process, please contact David Seiler in the Center for Academic Success ( ) and call the Health Center at 512-863-1252.

      If you have questions about this message, please email . Remember that University offices will be closed during the winter break (December 24, 2020 to January 1, 2021). 

      We look forward to seeing you (virtually) in January and wish you a healthy and happy break.

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

      Details for Spring 2021 Required COVID Testing (Everlywell test) - Dec. 16, 2020, 4:43 p.m.

      Dear student,

      This brief email is being sent to those of you who elected to fulfill your Spring 2021 pre-arrival Covid testing requirement by having the University send an Everlywell test to you.

      In the next few days, your test will ship directly from Everlywell to the address you provided to us.

      Please take the steps below to help support a successful spring semester opening:

      • Begin a 14-day self-quarantine two weeks before your intended date of return to campus (e.g., if you plan to return on January 16, begin your self-quarantine on January 2).
      • Follow all instructions in the Everlywell kit.
      • Self-administer your test seven days before you will return to campus in January (e.g., if you plan to return on January 16, administer the test on January 9).  
      • Drop off your kit at UPS the same day you administer the test. 
      • Continue your self-quarantine to reduce the chance that you will contract the virus between your testing day and the day you return to campus.

      Once you have received confirmation from the Health Center ( ) that your Everlywell test results have been received, you will be cleared to return to campus. In the case of a positive test result, you will be contacted by a Care Coordinator, who will work with you to determine next steps.

      In addition to the pre-arrival testing, we will continue to conduct surveillance testing beginning the first week of classes. We will test hundreds of students/faculty/staff each week, so you will likely be tested several times over the course of the spring semester. Because of the logistics involved in contacting, scheduling, testing, and reporting results for hundreds of people every week, it is critical that you respond promptly when assigned to testing, and make and keep your testing appointment.

      If you have questions about this message, please email . Remember that University offices will be closed during the winter break (December 24, 2020 to January 1, 2021). 

      We look forward to seeing you in January and wish you a healthy and happy break!

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

      Details for Spring 2021 Required COVID Testing (PCR test) - Dec. 16, 2020, 4:41 p.m.

      Dear student,

      This brief email is being sent to those of you who elected to fulfill your Spring 2021 pre-arrival Covid testing requirement by arranging to have a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test on your own.

      Please take the steps below to help support a successful spring semester opening:

      1. Begin a 14-day self-quarantine two weeks before your intended date of return to campus (e.g., if you plan to return on January 16, begin your self-quarantine on January 2).

      2. Decide how and where you will be tested well before the day you need to test. Consider:

        1. That the lab/clinic must administer a PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test; we cannot accept antigen or antibody tests.

        2. That the turnaround time for a result must allow for your test to be administered no more than seven days before you return to campus.

      3. Arrange to be tested seven days before you will return to campus in January (e.g., if you plan to return on January 16, administer the test on January 9).

      4. Make sure that you will receive proof of your test results directly; do not rely on the lab/clinic to send your results to SU.

      5. Continue your self-quarantine to reduce the chance that you will contract the virus between your testing day and the day you return to campus.

      6. As soon as you have them, email your results to (this should be a screenshot or attachment of the complete results provided by the lab/clinic, and should include your name, date of birth, the testing date, name of lab/clinic, type of test [PCR], and the result). 

      Once you have received a reply from , you will be cleared to return to campus. In the case of a positive test result, you will be contacted by a Care Coordinator, who will work with you to determine next steps.

      In addition to the pre-arrival testing, we will continue to conduct surveillance testing beginning the first week of classes. We will test hundreds of students/faculty/staff each week, so you will likely be tested several times over the course of the spring semester. Because of the logistics involved in contacting, scheduling, testing, and reporting results for hundreds of people every week, it is critical that you respond promptly when assigned to testing, and make and keep your testing appointment.

      If you have questions about this message, please email . Remember that University offices will be closed during the winter break (December 24, 2020 to January 1, 2021). 

      We look forward to seeing you in January and wish you a healthy and happy break.

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

      Required Pre-Arrival COVID-19 Testing for Spring 2021 - Nov. 11, 2020, 1:45pm

      Dear students:

      As the in-person portion of the Fall 2020 term comes to a close, we write to notify you of some important steps you’ll need to take in preparation for the end of this semester and the beginning of Spring 2021.

      All students, faculty, and staff will be required to be tested prior to returning to campus for the Spring 2021 semester. The residence halls will open on Friday, January 15th; more information on the move-in process will come in January. We will immediately begin surveillance testing at an increased rate the first week of classes.

      Required Pre-Arrival COVID-19 Testing for Spring 2021

      All students must be tested for COVID-19 within seven days prior to returning to campus in January. You must provide your test results to the University. The only exceptions to this requirement are:

      1. students who will be fully remote for the entire Spring 2021 semester, meaning you will never be physically present on campus for any reason, or 

      2. students who have recovered from COVID-19 within 90 days before returning to campus.

      Your negative test result must be provided to SU before your arrival on campus. You have two options for completing the testing requirement:

      1. Arrange for a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test on your own at the clinic of your choice and submit your results to . Only PCR tests will be accepted.

      2. Have SU mail an at-home test to you, which you will administer yourself and return by dropping off the testing kit at a UPS (United Parcel Service) drop off location. If you choose this option, SU will bill your student account $109 for the cost of the test.

      How To Indicate Your Choice

      Before registering for Spring classes next week, you will need to indicate your choice via WebAdvisor. Click on the link labeled “Required Pre-Arrival COVID-19 Testing for Spring 2021.” You will then complete a form to indicate one of three options:

      1. You will arrange for a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test on your own, 

      2. You request that SU send you an at-home test kit and bill you $109, or

      3. You intend to be fully remote in Spring 2021 and are not required to test.

      If you are exempted from testing because you have recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days prior to your return to campus in Spring 2021, please choose option one. Then, email to arrange to provide documentation of your recovery.

      If you choose option 2, you will provide a U.S. address in the WebAdvisor form. Your at-home test kit will be sent to that address, so please ensure that you enter it accurately and that you will be at that address to receive the test kit.

      After you have made your choice, you will receive further instructions in a confirmation email from .

      When To Complete the COVID-19 Test

      Your test should be administered within seven days prior to your return to campus for the Spring 2021 semester. If you are arranging for a test on your own, consider the turnaround time to receive results from the lab/clinic and that you will need to submit the results and have them validated by the Health Center.

      If you are receiving the at-home test through SU, administer the test one week prior to your return to campus and drop it off at UPS that same day.


      Residential facilities close at 5:00PM on Wednesday, November 25. If you live on campus, review emails from Housing to be sure you know how to check out properly, including signing up for a checkout day. If you have questions pertaining to housing, please email .

      If you have questions about pre-arrival testing for Spring, please contact the Health Center at 512-863-1252 or at

      With all good wishes for a safe and healthy break,

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

      Update of Testing, Start Date, and More - July 24, 4:45 p.m.

      Dear Members of the Southwestern Community,

      All of us at Southwestern University are excited to be on the brink of our 180th academic year. However, while we look forward to welcoming back faculty, staff, and students, we have decided to wait a little bit longer to begin the semester. Working hand-in-hand with the Campus Readiness Taskforce, the University has been planning for months to prepare a campus environment that is consistent with CDC guidelines while also abiding by the advice and counsel from faculty, public health officials, epidemiologists, and local health care providers. With all of this in mind, the start date for the fall 2020 semester will be moved back two weeks to Monday, September 7, 2020.

      At this time, we are confident in our ability to offer an outstanding Southwestern University liberal arts education, along with expanded services and co-curricular experiences. We are not alone in altering our academic calendar as several other institutions in the Associated Colleges of the South consortium have adjusted their semesters as well. In addition, the local schools in Georgetown, Round Rock, Leander, and Austin are doing the same. Because the children of many of Southwestern’s staff and faculty attend these schools, the concurrent scheduling will help ease the child care strains faced by our workforce. Supporting our staff and faculty in this way is something that I am committed to as a professional, community member, and working mother.

      While coronavirus positivity rates are currently high in Texas, the number of new cases reported in Williamson County has declined over the past several days, as has the rate of new infections. We are heartened by this but want more time to track what we expect will be a continuing trend. Thankfully, the new statewide emphasis on wearing masks and practicing social distancing appears to be having its intended effect. 

      Over the past few weeks, I have heard from many Southwestern parents and students. I appreciate that so many joined the recent video conference calls to discuss the institution’s plans and ask detailed questions. This short delay in our start date will allow all of us to better prepare for next semester. 

      Here is what we will be accomplishing over the next few weeks.

      First, Southwestern will require that all students present a negative test at the beginning of the fall semester. Students should be tested no more than 14 days before returning to campus. While we prefer students take their tests before arriving on campus, we will offer tests on campus for students unable to do so. We will also assist students who need help finding a testing facility or need financial assistance. 

      Second, we have increased the ability and staffing of the SU Health Center by establishing the Pirate Assessment Triage and Containment Hub (PATCH). Students must go to PATCH if they experience COVID-19 symptoms. PATCH healthcare professionals will ensure that each student is examined, tested, and treated. We are also expanding our mental health counseling options for students during this anxiety-inducing time and will hire an additional mental health professional. 

      Third, we are working with our dining service provider to ensure adequate food availability, quantity, and quality for students. I am pleased to share that we have expanded our food service hours. Mabee Commons will be open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.

      Fourth, as I have recently discovered, the summer weather in Texas is intense! Pushing our start date back two weeks moves us closer to more temperate weather and opens up the possibility of using the outdoors for more practical purposes. The facilities team is exploring ways to provide more outdoor seating and convening spaces across campus. 

      The health and safety of the entire Southwestern community is my top priority. This shift in the start date of the fall semester will enhance our ability to deliver the best in-person experience for our students while also safeguarding their health and the health of our staff and faculty.

      From an academic perspective, the revised semester start date provides the same number of days and instructional hours as the regular semester and meets the requirements of our accreditation agency. Classes will begin on-campus and in-person on September 7, 2020, and the semester will continue in-person until November 24, 2020 — just before Thanksgiving. All students will be required to move out of their residence halls at that time, permitting us to clean and sanitize the facilities in preparation for the spring semester. After Thanksgiving break concludes, we will have two full weeks of remote instruction followed by two days for remote review, music juries, and capstone presentations. Final exams will be conducted remotely from December 15 to December 19, 2020. Assuming this schedule remains in place through the end of the fall semester, current fees for room and board will apply. If the University must close due to worsening pandemic circumstances or an external mandate, Southwestern will apply an adjustment for unused room and board, as applicable, to spring 2021 charges. Tuition will not be discounted.

      I understand you may have a number of questions regarding exact dates, deadlines, and logistics. To address these questions and concerns, I have included key reopening details below. In cooperation with all offices on campus, we have designed a webpage that will provide a great deal of additional information.

      Students, this is a time for you to demonstrate your leadership, your empathy, and your commitment to our community. If you do not follow our masking, social distancing, and handwashing guidelines, please realize that the virus will find you. It is imperative that you observe our new health protocols. If you do not show caution and care for yourselves and those around you, we will all go home.

      We appreciate your patience and goodwill. Please understand that while we are making preparations and will do everything possible to maintain the health and safety of the campus community, we are still vulnerable to external circumstances. If need be, we will act appropriately and swiftly, with full communication to all of our community members. 

      I am grateful for your continued commitment to Southwestern University, and I have confidence in our ability to have a rewarding and memorable fall 2020 semester.


      Laura Skandera Trombley

      • Remote Instruction: While Southwestern recognizes that in-person instruction aligns with our mission and goals, the pandemic requires a new level of flexibility for both students and faculty concerning the delivery of the University’s academic program for the fall semester. All Southwestern students have the option of engaging in remote learning. Although there is not an application or approval process for remote learning, students should proceed as follows:
      • Students who need to pursue remote learning due to their personal health-related circumstances should reach out to Jennifer Smull, associate director of academic success ( ).
      • All other students planning to pursue remote learning should contact Dave Seiler, director of academic success ( ). 
      • In both cases, students should send an email to their fall semester faculty to inform them that they intend to engage in remote learning.
      • Faculty Availability: We expect faculty members to be available in-person or remotely at the time of each scheduled class. Class time can be used for lectures, class discussions, problem-solving, or office hours.
      • First-Year Seminar and Advanced Entry Seminar: Both seminars will start at the same time as other courses and run throughout the semester.
      • Housing Density: We are flexible regarding housing exemptions and cancellation requests. Our goal is to de-densify the residence halls and create more opportunities for students who want single rooms. Our current residence hall occupancy rate ranges from 68% to 96% across our various residential buildings.
      • Housing Move-in Dates: Students will be contacted by the housing office to schedule their new move-in appointments. Due to the postponed fall athletic season, athletes will not have an early campus return. The new move-in dates are as follows:
        • First-Year and Transfer Students: Thursday, September 3, through Friday, September 4, 2020
        • Returning Students: Friday, September 4, through Sunday, September 6, 2020
      Welcome Week
      • Welcome Week Programming: The first nights of arrival will allow for residential meetings and community-building. We will also review protocols, procedures, and policies. Many of the previously scheduled Welcome Week events have been moved to a virtual or small-group model. There will be opportunities for social interactions throughout the weekend. The rest of the programming elements will still happen but have shifted to the first few weeks of class. This shift will allow students to set up their rooms and self-quarantine prior to the first day of class.
      • More detailed information on the Welcome Week schedule can be found here . 
      • Hours: Dining hours have been significantly increased to de-densify the dining space and allow in-person dining for those who choose this option. Mabee Commons will be open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
      • Service: There will be no buffet or served stations For those who desire to order meals to go, there will be an app to facilitate the order and provide pick-up details. For those who would like a grab-and-go option, that is available at the Cove.
      Health Care
      • Testing, Masking, Washing Hands, Physical Distancing, and Tracking: Students, faculty, and staff are required to be tested, wear face masks, take responsibility for proper hand hygiene, and practice physical distancing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the University will conduct randomized testing and contact tracing to further contain the number of positive cases on campus.
      • Testing: The starting date modification helps with implementing a COVID-19 testing plan for students, faculty, and staff. The extra time will allow our community to be tested before they come back to campus. Here are some of the specifics about our testing process: 
      • Students: All students are required to present a negative test for COVID-19 prior to their arrival on campus. The preferred polymerase chain reaction test (PCR); antigen or antibody (serology) tests will not be accepted. Upon arrival, students must take another COVID-19 test at a designated time and place on campus. Any student with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested at PATCH and quarantined until their test results come back. In order to ensure that there is not a high percentage of asymptomatic cases on campus and to monitor infection rates, randomized testing will be conducted on campus throughout the semester. Students will be required to self-quarantine until the results of any COVID-19 test are received.
      • Staff and Faculty: All staff and faculty on campus during the fall semester are required to be tested prior to students returning to campus or as designated by Human Resources. Human Resources will contact all staff and faculty about testing options. The preferred polymerase chain reaction test (PCR); antigen or antibody (serology) tests will not be accepted. Any staff or faculty member with COVID-19 symptoms will be required to remain off campus until they have received a return-to-work release from their physician and are approved to return by Human Resources. In order to ensure there is not a high percentage of asymptomatic cases on campus and to monitor infection rates, randomized testing will be conducted on campus throughout the semester.
      • Isolation and Quarantine Process: Students who have been exposed to or tested positive for COVID-19 will be asked to quarantine/isolate at home or off campus for a period of 14 days. University care coordinators will assist students through either process. If a student is unable to go home or off campus to quarantine, they will do so in their assigned residential space with precautions. If a student is unable to go home or off campus to isolate, they will be provided, as available, a designated isolation room on campus. Currently, 5 percent of University housing beds are designated as isolation beds.
      • Face Masks: Face masks are required on campus at all times, except when in a residence hall room or one-person office or while eating. Two reusable and washable face masks will be provided to each student, faculty member, and staff member. Hand sanitizer stations will be present in all classrooms and throughout all campus buildings. Extra masks will be available in classrooms in the event a student has forgotten theirs.
      • Hand Washing: Students will receive a refillable bottle for hand sanitizer to carry with them. The container may be refilled at designated locations, and hand sanitizer stations are located across campus.
      • Physical Distancing: All campus spaces, except residential spaces and other designated areas, are arranged to accommodate a six-foot space between individuals. Classrooms are also arranged to allow six feet between students and eight feet between the faculty member and students.
      • Symptom Tracking: All students, faculty, and staff must self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms . Any individual who is experiencing these symptoms or who has come into contact with someone exhibiting these symptoms must immediately isolate themselves and contact Health Services (students) or their medical provider (faculty and staff).
      • Health Center: The SU Health Center has increased its ability to assist students by establishing the Pirate Assessment Triage and Containment Hub (PATCH). Students must go to PATCH if they experience COVID-19 symptoms. PATCH healthcare professionals will ensure each student is examined and treated.
      • Counseling: To increase mental health counseling options for students during this anxiety-inducing time, we are adding a mental health professional. 
      • Care Coordinators: The University has appointed two care coordinators to coordinate the isolation and quarantine of students, ensure that the basic needs of quarantined/isolated students are met, and manage contact tracing on campus. They will be the primary point of contact for all departments as it relates to a student’s isolation, quarantine, and contact tracing. They will work with staff from Residence Life, the SU Health Center, Facilities Management, and Academic Success as well as additional contact tracers on campus.  
      Travel Policy
      • Non-Essential Travel: Students, faculty, and staff should limit all non-essential travel starting August 17, 2020. After that, any non-essential travel will be highly discouraged.
      • Travel Registry: Students, faculty, and staff should log all travel with the University through the appropriate travel registry .

      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  ( ) with as much advance notice as possible.  For purposes of the Travel Registry, travel that is for everyday activities, such as shopping for groceries or other essentials, within your local community does not need to be reported.  Travel, whether for personal or other reasons, outside of your local county must be reported.

      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 , they will be subject to a mandatory 14-day off-campus quarantine period and may be required to provide a note from their healthcare provider prior to their return to campus.

      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 , or email  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,

      Last month, when I asked for the creation of a Campus Readiness Task Force to explore what it might take to allow us to resume learning and living (and working) on our residential campus while reducing the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus, I assumed that, while we would have some early evidence of feasibility, it would be mid-June before we had much output to talk about. Well, mid-June is here, and the task force, bolstered by input from other campus committees and outside specialists, is generating some concrete ideas. If you are a member of the faculty, you are starting to see evidence of these in Dean Gaunder’s weekly FAQs. If you are a member of the staff, you are more likely to be getting information from your supervisor or the vice president who oversees your unit. And there will be more to come.

      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.

      While the “promise” requires as many of us as possible to be available on campus to work on an appropriately arranged and outfitted campus, we have registered several faculty colleagues who have medical/epidemiological reasons for teaching remotely. Ditto for staff and their work. We recognize that there are some courses that may have both in person and remote instruction elements. With students returning to campus, it is important for as many of us as possible to be present and engaged with them in as safe a way as possible. It wouldn’t be much of a residential college campus if populated primarily by students. We’ve got a promise to fulfill as best we can under demanding circumstances. Just right now—and in the weeks ahead—our students are going to need our presence and support. I hope that this IS a special time when we as a nation are not just offering more lip service to racial justice but are seizing an opportunity to change how we operate as a society and a polity. Our students need to learn more about that, and some will require our support at a time that is emotionally and intellectually challenging.

      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.


      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.

      Setting our fall calendar gives us a marker to ensure we can now get into all of the other decisions ahead of us. The two certainties that we have are the care we have for one another and the common effort that will be called from our community to fulfill the mission of Southwestern in the year ahead.


      Dale T. Knobel

      Submit a Question

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

      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.



      Q: Will Southwestern athletics teams participate in fall sports?
      A: The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our highest priority. For now, the university is awaiting guidelines from the NCAA and finalization of scheduling from the SAC before we determine whether it is safe for our student–athletes, coaches, and staff to travel to sporting events. We will notify the Southwestern community as soon as a decision is made.

        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 .


      Employee Resources

      May 5, 3:00 p.m.

      Southwestern Announces Campus Readiness Task Force

      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.


      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. In light of these decisions and our concerns about protecting the health of our students, faculty and staff, university housing will close for the spring semester effective Sunday, March 22 at noon. Students who are currently on campus should vacate their rooms before that time. In order to adhere to social distancing protocols, we will stagger the move out and checkout process for the remainder of our on-campus students until Sunday, March 29. Our goal with this timeline is to minimize disruption during the distance learning period which begins March 30. You may reserve a time to check out through an online process that we will share with residential communities via email by noon today, March 19.

      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. Details of this process will be communicated to both students and parents in a direct communication over the next few weeks.

      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 .
      • 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.

      For any of you who have medical conditions that make you more vulnerable in the event of exposure to COVID-19, we want to support you in making accommodations to protect your health.  If you need additional information and assistance, students are asked to contact Shelley Story, Dean of Students; faculty are asked to contact Julie Cowley, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, and staff are asked to contact Elma Benavides, Associate Vice President for Human Resources

      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.


      Dale T. Knobel

      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.

      The University’s leadership team made a decision to continue campus operations and university-sponsored domestic travel for students, faculty, and staff, for the time being. The University will immediately communicate any changes to this decision.

      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