Reopening and Campus Health and Safety

Reopening and Health and Safety FAQs




Q: Has anyone on campus been diagnosed with this disease?

A: As of August 4, 2020, five staff members have contracted the COVID-19 virus. Each person has recovered and received clearance to return to work. Infected individuals followed University policies and took immediate voluntary action to self-quarantine. The University conducted its standard cleaning and response protocol and communicated directly with anyone who may have been in close contact with the affected campus members.


Q: How will the university alert SU community members to COVID-19-related updates going forward?

A: We will continue to update this website and send emails to faculty, staff, and students on a regular basis. Members of the Southwestern community are encouraged to forward their questions to their supervisors, department chairs, and/or senior staff, or submit them to


Q: When will students return?

A: We will resume on-campus instruction on September 7. On-campus instruction will be completed before Thanksgiving, and the remainder of the semester will be conducted remotely. 

September 7: Classes begin on campus

November 24: In-person instruction ends

November 25: Move-out deadline for campus housing

November 30–December 11: Remote instruction

December 12 and 14: Remote reviews, music juries, and capstone presentations

December 15–19: Final exams

We are creating contingency plans for returning to remote instruction should an outbreak of COVID-19 occur and/or public-policy changes prevent us from continuing instruction on campus.


Q: With the growing number of COVID-19 cases in Texas, is Southwestern considering changing the previously announced fall schedule or moving to online learning?

A: Yes, on July 24, we announced that the start date for the fall 2020 semester will be moved two weeks later, to Monday, September 7, 2020. However, as we all know, the pandemic has created the need to constantly assess and make adjustments. Southwestern is constantly monitoring the situation, working with medical experts, and seeking advice from local government agencies. We have contingency plans in place and will notify everyone should we make additional changes to our plan for reopening.

Health & Safety

Q: Do I need to wear a mask? What health protocols are required on campus now?
A: As part of our return-to-work plan, all persons (staff, faculty, students, vendors, and visitors) on campus will be required to practice the following health protocols:

  • A mask or cloth face covering that covers an individual’s nose and mouth is required at all times in all indoor and outdoor campus spaces unless an individual is  alone in a private office or a private space, this includes students’ dorm rooms..
  • Everyone must practice physical distancing ‚Äì maintaining a separation of six feet ‚Äì at all times and in all indoor and outdoor campus spaces.
  • Individuals need to practice good hand hygiene by frequently washing their hands and/or using hand sanitizer.
  • You must monitor your health symptoms on a daily basis. Anyone who is exhibiting a high fever or other symptoms must stay away from campus.


Q: Will the university be providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, to the campus community?

A: Yes. Southwestern is providing every student, faculty member, and staff member two high-quality nonmedical-grade masks. These are reusable and washable masks. One disposable mask will be provided to visitors. The University will have extra masks on hand for purchase to replace lost or damaged masks.


Q: Will SU require COVID-19 testing for students before returning to campus?

A: Yes, all students are required to present a negative COVID-19 test that has been taken no earlier than 14 days prior to arrival on campus. The test is the preferred polymerase chain reaction test (PCR); antigen or antibody (serology) tests will not be accepted. Upon arrival, students will take an intake test at a designated time and space on campus. Any student with COVID-19 symptoms will be tested at the campus Health Center. 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. Students will self-quarantine until the results of any COVID-19 test are known. 


Q: Will SU require COVID-19 testing for staff and faculty before returning to campus?

A: Yes, all staff and faculty on campus for the fall semester are required to have a negative COVID-19 test that has been taken 14 days prior to students returning to campus or as instructed by Human Resources. Human Resources will contact all staff and faculty about testing options. The preferred test is the 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 have been approved to return by Human Resources. 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.


Q: How will Southwestern make sure students, staff, and faculty are following the health and safety guidelines?

A: We ask all students, faculty, and staff to sign the Pirate Pledge and promise to take personal responsibility for following University guidelines for protecting the health and safety of our community. The Pirate Pledge can be found here. Student Life will manage the process for distributing and collecting signed Pirate Pledges from students.

Facilities Management has spent the month of June physically going through every single building on campus and mapping out a traffic flow to utilize physical distancing. Signage has been placed in buildings and on floors as reminders. They have also removed excess furniture and set existing furniture in a layout that respects physical distancing. 

All students, faculty, and staff must self-monitor for the following symptoms. Any individual who is experiencing these symptoms or has come into contact with someone who has exhibited these symptoms must immediately isolate themselves and contact Health Services (students) or their medical provider (faculty and staff).

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea


Q: How will physical distancing be enforced on campus?

A: Many precautions will be in place upon the return to campus. Classrooms have been physically distanced. Travel paths in buildings and around campus have been identified. Traffic flow in residential spaces has been created. The Commons and overall dining experience is being revised to embrace physical distancing. RAs will be important advocates for compliance within the residential spaces.  What will be incumbent upon all of us is to monitor behavior and be active bystanders should non-compliance be noticed. To that end, Mosaic and the residential experience students are creating programming on how to be an active bystander in many situations, including COVID response. 


Q: Will publicly used spaces such as laundry rooms and various seating areas be cleaned more regularly?

A: Facilities Management is working on a cleaning schedule, with more focus on community areas (lounges, laundry rooms).  


Q: If a student tests positive for or has been exposed to COVID-19, will they be quarantined?

A: Students who have been exposed to COVID-19 will be asked to quarantine—and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be asked to isolate at home or off campus for a period of 14 days. University care coordinators will assist the students through either process. If the 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% of University housing is dedicated as isolation facilities.


Q: What are you doing to eliminate student travel in order to avoid bringing the virus to campus?

A: Students are asked to limit all nonessential travel starting August 17. Thereafter, any nonessential travel will be highly discouraged and will be logged with the University. In that spirit, Labor Day and fall break have been eliminated to decrease the opportunity for leisure travel. See travel policy FAQ for more detail. 


Q: What are the health and safety protocols for classes and classrooms?


  • Masks will be required during class.  
  • Classrooms will be physically distanced with six feet between students and 8 feet between the faculty member and students.
  • Hand sanitizer stations will be present in all classrooms, in hallways, and other common areas. 
  • In most cases, classes will be limited to one hour to limit viral load. 
  • Supplies will be available for students to clean desk surfaces upon entry (we are working on the logistics of this one)
  • Class dismissal times will be staggered to lessen traffic flow in hallways and other common areas. 
  • Scheduling includes 15-20 minutes between classes to provide time for desk cleaning and hand washing. 
  • We will have traffic flow guidelines in all buildings to help with physical distancing and unnecessary contact.
  • Classroom furniture will be arranged in a fixed manner to reinforce safe physical distancing.
  • No outside speakers will be allowed on campus for the fall semester in order to limit contact with people outside of the university community.
  • Office hours and advising will be remote to reinforce safe physical distancing practices.


Q: How is the University making adjustments to common spaces in academic buildings?

A: All common areas on campus will be reconfigured to accommodate social distancing. To accomplish this, some furniture will be stored and some may need to be discarded.


Q: Due to health conditions, or other concerns, I am worried about participating in in-person courses this fall. Do I have options for remote learning?

A: Southwestern recognizes that in-person instruction aligns with our mission and goals, yet the pandemic has required 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. Students who need to pursue remote learning because of their health-related circumstances should reach out to Associate Director of Academic Success Jennifer Smull ( All other students should contact Director of Academic Success Dave Seiler ( to engage in remote learning.


Q: Will the new shorter instruction times and release times cause conflict between scheduling back-to-back classes? 

A: The changes that are being made to the course schedule grid will not result in any class conflicts for students. Additional information will be made available in the coming weeks.


Q: Due to new physical distancing rules in the classroom, one of my classes got canceled. If all the other classes that would mean something towards my degree are full, what can I do?

A: Please contact Director of Academic Success Dave Seiler,, to explore other course options that will allow you to make progress towards your degree plan. 


Q: Will Southwestern still be able to offer all of their majors the classes necessary to graduate?

A: Absolutely. The University is committed to supporting students in making progress toward their degree. 


Q: If Southwestern moves to remote learning, will tuition be discounted?

A: No, Southwestern University will not discount tuition. The University is committed to offering an outstanding educational experience centered on the student-faculty relationship within a small class atmosphere, whether in person or virtual.


Q: How will the Sarofim School of Fine Arts accommodate new physical distancing guidelines?

A: Each of the department chairs in the Sarofim School of Fine Arts is working with the Dean of the Faculty to ensure that courses and experiences are structured in such a way that the health and safety of students and instructors are prioritized. We encourage you to reach out to your department chair for more information.

Life at Southwestern

Q: What will on-campus dining look like this fall?

A: Dining hours are significantly increased to allow de-densified and in-person dining for those who choose to eat in Mabee Commons. There will be no buffet or self-serving options. 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.


Q: When will Fall 2020 guidelines for student organizations be shared?

A: Student Activities is working on a comprehensive communication for all student organizations.  The communication will include information on hosting meetings, events, advertisement, logistics, and many other facets of organization life. There will be an initial communication and then subsequent messaging with much more detail as the beginning of the semester draws closer.


Q: Will on-campus parties be banned?

A: Student organization leaders will be receiving specific guidance and training from Student Activities over the next several weeks with regard to planning activities on campus. Any in-person gathering will be required to follow all safety protocols, including physical distancing, reduced capacity of indoor spaces, and mask-wearing practiced by all attendees. No event will be approved unless its organizers can first demonstrate how they will successfully follow these protocols. There are additional specific limitations that will prevent groups from congregating, and those will be described in upcoming communications.


Q: Will the fall and winter sports programs have a season and what might that look like? 

A: We are currently working with the NCAA, SCAC, and the ASC to ensure a quality playing experience for all our student-athletes. It is our desire to move all of our 2020 competitive schedules to the spring of 2021. The SCAC and ASC offices are working on schedules that will be made available once approved by the NCAA.

During the fall, all of our athletic teams will conduct conditioning, strength training, and other practice opportunities, as health and safety conditions allow. This includes training for spring sports such as golf and tennis that utilize the fall for non-traditional activities. While the workouts will be limited, coaches will have the opportunity to work directly with our student-athletes. 

We will update you when more information is available.


Q: How does this news affect arrival dates for the fall student-athletes?

A: All student-athletes will now be notified of their new date for arrival on campus. Each student-athlete will follow the regular fall schedule with the rest of the student body. An email will be sent to student-athletes updating them on their new move-in date and time for their residence hall. 


Q: How will this impact athletic eligibility? 

A: Student-athletes who participate in an NCAA-sanctioned season will still use one year of eligibility. However, if we are unable to participate, no year of eligibility will be used. Decisions on partial seasons or the student-athlete clock will have to be determined by the NCAA. Please address any eligibility concerns with our Associate Director of Athletics and NCAA Compliance Coordinator, Doug Ross, at


Q: Will student-athletes have access to Athletic Training services? 

A: Athletic Training services will continue to be available to all student-athletes. As long as health and safety protocols can protect student-athletes, there is still an expectation athletes will be working out and practicing during the fall semester. With our transition to Healthy Roster this year, we now have access to telemedicine appointments for evaluations by athletic trainers. There will also be limited face-to-face appointments scheduled as needed. This year, it is more important than ever for all student-athletes to go into the Healthy Roster Portal and upload all of the requested information before Aug. 1, 2020


Q: Will student-athletes be able to participate in their strength & conditioning program? 

A: Yes, as long as health and safety protocols are observed by all student-athletes. We will continue to offer strength and conditioning opportunities for all of our student-athletes. All sessions will remain completely voluntary with every team participating in their nontraditional season as defined by the NCAA. Coach Norcott has been working on ways to incorporate a dynamic program with limited weight room time allotted for each session. 


Q: Will Southwestern reimburse tuition since the fall semester is starting late or if we have to move to remote learning?

A: There will be no reduction of tuition regardless of the mode of instruction. All students will have access to faculty and student services, and all will be receiving academic credit. The fall semester will have the same number of days of instruction (69) as previous semesters. Classes start on September 7 and end November 25, then we break for Thanksgiving and wrap-up the fall with remote learning November 30 through December 11. Finals are December 15 to 19. If we need to move all or part of the semester to remote learning due to COVID-19, instruction will continue as scheduled.


Q: Why isn’t Southwestern offering a tuition discount for the fall, given the limitations that the pandemic will place on the student experience and learning?

A: While the fall semester will be different in many ways, we are confident in our ability to deliver on our mission as a residential liberal arts institution. We have improved teaching technologies to enhance the experience for students who choose remote learning for the semester. To mitigate the risk of on-campus transmission of COVID-19 we are providing personal protection supplies, equipment, and instruction to our students, faculty, and staff.  We have made investments in our facilities to improve physically distanced foot traffic flow and air filtration across campus. The University is also implementing testing protocols and hiring additional staff.


Q: Will Southwestern refund any room and board if we move to remote learning?

A: After examining all of the factors that go into room and board charges, including COVID-19 related schedule changes, Southwestern will make any adjustments for unused room and board at the end of the fall semester and apply them to spring 2021 charges.


Q: Will Southwestern refund any room and board for the days lost on campus due to the later semester start?

A: After examining all of the factors that go into room and board charges, including COVID-19 related schedule changes, Southwestern will make any adjustments for unused room and board at the end of the fall semester and apply them to spring 2021 charges.


Q: Why did Southwestern change the fall calendar after tuition bills had been mailed?

A: The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic means everyone’s scheduling and plans are subject to change. Our billing process was in place and in motion before Texas experienced the June wave of new infections. While the timing was not perfect, the University made the decision to delay the start of the fall semester after careful deliberation and an abundance of concern about the health of our students, faculty, and staff.


Q: In what ways is Southwestern addressing the financial needs of students during this pandemic?

A: Any student whose financial circumstances have changed due to COVID-19 related economic hardship should reach out to the Financial Aid Office to discuss your options. For students experiencing financial difficulties the University has established the Southwestern Emergency Fund. You may apply through this online application: Southwestern Emergency Fund Application. 

Residence Halls

Q: When can students move back into their residence halls for the fall semester?

A: Students will be contacted by the housing office to set their move-in date. 

First-Year and Transfer Students: September 3–4

Returning Students: September 4–6


Q: Do students have to live on campus?

A: No, the goal is to de-densify campus housing by being flexible about exemptions and cancellation requests.


Q: If students come back and the residence halls are full what will you do?

A: We may have some unexpected flexibility within halls to place students in alternate locations. We may also consider utilizing the housing exemption process and possibly make more liberal exemptions to the housing requirement.


Q: Will students be able to stay in their residence halls over winter break? 

A: All residential facilities will be closing on November 25, as we work to de-densify and thoroughly clean the campus between the fall and spring semester. Students are asked to bring only the minimum of what they need for the fall semester and then completely move out before the start of the spring semester. Housing and Residence Life will be providing more information on the fall move-out process as early as possible to ensure students can make the proper arrangements.


Q: If students are sent home during the fall semester will they receive refunds for their remaining room and board costs?

A: We will follow the same process as we did for the Spring semester. If the pandemic necessitates that we close campus, room and board costs will be prorated.


Q: What is Southwestern doing in order to decrease a students’ risk of exposure in residential areas? 

A: Housing, in collaboration with health services and facilities, will implement protocols to decrease students’ risk of exposure, while allowing for some of the community-building benefits of the residential experience. In accordance with established guidelines, we are planning for changes such as:

  • requiring residents to wear masks or facial coverings while on campus and in community  areas
  • restricting building access to residents of that building only
  • configuring community areas for physical distancing per current guidelines
  • educating residents about proper hand and respiratory hygiene
  • educating residents on proper cleaning of their private spaces
  • providing hand sanitizer across campus
  • using isolation/quarantine spaces for residents who test positive and/or have had exposure to the virus
  • cleaning common areas with OSHA-approved disinfectants and on an OSHA-recommended schedule
  • optimizing HVAC systems for better ventilation and increased percentage of outdoor air.

As we have seen in the past few months, conditions change quickly, as do recommendations for safe practices. We will communicate more specific information and guidelines to residents later in the summer.

Travel Policy

Q: What are you doing to eliminate student travel in order to avoid bringing the virus to campus?

A: Students are asked to limit all nonessential travel starting August 17. Thereafter, any nonessential travel will be highly discouraged and will be logged with the University. In that spirit, Labor Day and fall break have been eliminated to decrease the opportunity for leisure travel.


Q: What is considered essential travel?

A: 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.


Q: My family has a trip planned after August 17. Will I be subject to a 14-day quarantine period? 

A: The guidance is that there is a 14-day quarantine after travel. It is our recommendation and preference that students be home no later than 8/16 in order to prepare for move-in.

If you are planning on traveling after August 17, please report this travel on the Student Travel Registry.


Q: Does moving back to campus require quarantine?

A: The University is considering travel from home to campus (for the purpose of moving back to campus) as “essential travel,” so — at least as of now — we do not intend to require quarantine of students on arrival. We still expect a 14-day quarantine at home prior to travel, and of course we expect students to take all possible precautions while traveling, to reduce their risk of exposure to the virus.

As conditions change in different parts of the country, it is possible that our protocols could change. 


Q: What is the travel policy for staff and faculty?

A: University-sponsored travel for faculty and staff should be limited and must be approved. All students, faculty, and staff are asked to (1) restrict all nonessential travel for 14 days prior to the start of the fall semester and (2) enter travel into the appropriate Travel Registry Google Form.

Georgetown Community

Q: Due to Georgetown Mayor’s Dale Ross’ edict on June 29, masks are not required when exercising outside. Am I still required to wear a mask on your campus when exercising?

A: In order to prepare our campus - buildings and all outdoor spaces - for the return of our students in the fall, we have instituted a face mask requirement for everyone who works on or visits our campus. We ask our neighbors to assist us by serving as role models for our student body and wear a mask if you are on our campus.

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