Reopening and Campus Health and Safety

Reopening and Health and Safety FAQs

 Campus & Community

Academic Affairs

General Reopening and Health and Safety FAQs


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 an as-needed basis. Members of the Southwestern community are encouraged to forward their questions to their supervisors, department chairs, and/or senior staff.


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: Given the strong possibility that community members will need to continue social distancing this fall and winter, what is the plan for student on-campus housing?
A: Plans for living in the residence halls this fall have yet to be determined, but the health and safety of our students will be the priority as we make those decisions. If health precautions are deemed too onerous to maintain in the residential campus environment, alternate off-campus residential arrangements (with the corresponding reductions in room and board charges) may need to be made, or else the university will delay the start of the fall semester until it is safe for students to return to the residence halls.


Q: Will the university be providing personal protective equipment (PPE), such as masks, to the campus community?
A: Reusable and washable masks (2 per person) will be provided to students, faculty, and staff. One disposable mask will be provided to visitors. The University will have extra masks on hand for purchase to replace lost or damaged masks. Students, faculty, and staff are welcome to provide their own masks as well.


Q: Has anyone on campus been diagnosed with this disease?
A: Yes. Through June 30, 2020, there have been two campus community members who have been confirmed to have contracted the COVID-19 virus.  Both members 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 member. Neither campus member will return to campus until their healthcare provider certifies that they do not pose a risk of spreading the virus.

Q: What is Southwestern doing to stay informed?
A: The University’s Emergency Management team is staying in close contact and coordinates routinely with Williamson County & Cities Health District , which receives updates several times per day that help our county and campus plan for the potential spread of the virus.
The Emergency Management Team has scheduled regular meetings to assess the situation, work through potential issues, and create plans to address all scenarios regarding the spread of the disease on campus.


Q: What is the basis for the University’s decision making regarding COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS response and planning?
A: Southwestern’s Emergency Management Team places the highest priority on the health, safety and protection of our students, faculty and staff. We are closely monitoring the Center for Disease Control website and public information announcements about outbreak news and containment recommendations. The Emergency Management Team and University leadership are now meeting daily to review the situation and make recommendations. Our goal is to keep the campus community updated and provide appropriate guidance for preventing the spread of the virus to our campus.


Q: Where can I find more information about this disease?
A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides the most up-to-date information on the coronavirus to the public, public health officials, schools, universities, and news outlets.
For planning and informational purposes, the University’s Emergency Management team is communicating daily with other organizations, including the Williamson County and Cities Health Department, to stay abreast of the latest information for our local area and any pertinent international developments.

The Campus Readiness Task Force


Q: What is the role of the Campus Readiness Task Force?
A: The Campus Readiness Task Force makes 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 

Returning to Campus


Q: When will staff and faculty return?
A: A closely managed, phased return to campus by employees began June 1 with the return of the Facilities Management team. Starting on this date, faculty with research labs can request access to their labs through the Office of the Faculty Dean. A small number of the Admission team will resume a limited schedule of campus visits on June 8. A very limited number of employees from other departments will be allowed to return to campus in controlled phases starting June 15. Remote work continues to be strongly encouraged where it is feasible.


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 they are alone in a private office or a private space.
  • Everyone must practice social distancing – maintaining a separation of six feet – at all times and in all indoor and outdoor campus spaces.
  • Individuals need to practice good hand hygiene by frequently washing their hands and/or using hand sanitizer.
  • Anyone who is exhibiting a high fever or other symptoms must stay away from campus.


Q: When will students return?
A: We will resume on-campus instruction with a modified fall semester on August 24th. On-campus instruction will be completed before Thanksgiving, and the remainder of the semester will be conducted remotely. We are creating contingency plans for returning to remote instruction if the progress of COVID-19 and/or public policy changes prevent us from resuming instruction on campus.


Q: What safety regulations and procedures will Southwestern put into place for all campus community members once everyone returns to campus?
A: The administration will determine and announce these recommended and/or required precautions later this summer, but we are considering multiple possibilities, including face masks, taking individuals’ temperatures before entering buildings, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and on-campus testing (if available).

Finances & Financial Outlook


Q: Given concerns about not just COVID-19 but also its effects on the economy, is Southwestern’s financial health stable?
Our financial situation is stable at this time, but we have instituted a number of cost reduction and budget freezing measures in light of the economic challenges posed by COVID-19. The pandemic poses a challenge to the university’s resources, as it does for other colleges and universities.
However, Southwestern entered spring 2020 with the strongest financial resource base that the institution has had in years, thanks to several consecutive years of record enrollments, successful fundraising, and sound financial management strategies. Currently, our endowment sits comfortably
between $250 million to $275 million, so the short-term income from our endowment is stable.


Q: What do forecasts of Southwestern’s long-term financial standing look like?
A: Our long-term financial health will depend on various factors, including future enrollments and fundraising. It will also be affected by certain losses of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including refunds issued to students and their families for spring 2020 room and board, increased expenditure on Information Technology services to support remote learning, summer programs that have had to be canceled or moved online to ensure the health and safety of our campus community, and additional need-based financial aid that returning and future students will require as families adjust to the economic situation. These losses will be somewhat recouped by expenditures no longer incurred for unpurchased food and unused utilities; more substantially, income losses will be offset by the deferral of two major renovation projects originally planned for this summer. Our administration will continue to engage in well-informed planning and decision-making to endure the inevitable economic upswings and downturns we will see in the coming months and years.


Q: Is Southwestern a beneficiary of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economy Security (CARES) Act?
A: Yes, along with six other colleges and universities in central Texas, Southwestern will receive approximately $1.2 million from the federal government in the form of grants from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. Half of this funding will be allocated to students who require emergency financial aid to cover unexpected food, healthcare, and housing costs incurred because of the university’s closure of the residence halls and transition to remote learning. The other half will be used to defray the institution’s financial losses due to issuing refunds to students for room and board.


Q: Will Southwestern be eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program?
A: The Paycheck Protection Program, under the auspices of the CARES Act, authorizes forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees. Unfortunately, only small businesses employing fewer than 500 employees are eligible, and Southwestern’s current roster of employees, including faculty, staff, and student workers, exceeds 500. Consequently, although we are appealing these eligibility requirements, we cannot currently count on this government funding.


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: 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.

Staffing and Working on Campus


Q: Will faculty or staff have to endure salary reductions, furloughs, and/or layoffs?
A: The university has worked hard to successfully maintain faculty and staff payrolls since transitioning to remote learning, work from home, and essential work on campus in alternating shifts. However, given the uncertainties of enrollment tuition, financial gifts from donors, and impacts on income from the institution’s endowment moving forward, the administration had to make two very difficult decisions: (1) to freeze all hiring of faculty and staff and (2) to cancel the Summer Fun Days Off program, a paid-time-off program for eligible staff, for at least 2020.

All faculty and staff will continue their normal work hours per week and be compensated according to their current contracts until the end of the current fiscal year, on June 30, 2020. In the weeks prior to that date, the Board of Trustees and administration will assess the university’s budget to determine whether salary reductions, furloughs, and/or layoffs will be necessary in the new fiscal year that begins on July 1. The university’s goal, however, will be to maintain its full payroll as much and for as long as possible.


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: 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: Will campus offices be able to remotely employ students over the summer?
A: Southwestern is proud that we’ve been able to continue employing and paying those student workers who have been able to complete their tasks remotely. Depending on budget constraints, we plan to continue employing student workers this summer as long as they can do meaningful work for their departments remotely.


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 travel includes 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 & Enrollment


Q: Are we expecting the usual number of students to return for the fall semester?
A: Southwestern has extended the admission deadline to provide prospective students and their families greater flexibility, and we will know more about the incoming class later in the summer. 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 Office of Admission will resume on-campus visits starting June 8. Admission has taken several measures to maximize visitors’ health and safety, including:

  • Implementing a mask requirement for all visitors, staff, faculty, and students (we’ll provide one if needed)
  • Limiting tour sizes to 9 visitors (no more than 2 individuals per party)
  • Adopting a touchless check-in process
  • Observing social distancing procedures at all times during information sessions & tours
  • Cleaning and sanitizing all areas frequently

See Visit Southwestern for more information.

Q: When first-year students who have submitted their enrollment deposits for the 2020–2021 academic year be expected to begin their studies?
A: Students will be given the option of beginning in fall 2020 or to defer until spring 2021. Please contact the Office of Admission for more information.



Q: Is Southwestern considering eliminating any athletics programs as a cost-saving measure?
A: No.



Q: How is the university celebrating the class of 2020?
A: Our Marketing and Communications, University Relations, and Student Affairs teams have planned several unique celebrations for the Class of 2020. We will be soliciting and sharing senior memories and saluting senior athletes through our social-media channels. We are filming the baccalaureate ceremony this week so that our 2020 graduates can experience the service remotely. A video featuring toasts and farewell wishes from Interim President Dale Knobel, incoming President Laura Trombley, staff, and “SU-lebrities” will be made available to graduating seniors so that they can bring Southwestern into their homes as they celebrate with their families and friends. Additional surprises for the graduates are also planned.

On Sunday, October 25th, the Office of University Relations is planning an official (if belated) commencement ceremony with full pomp and circumstance. Additional information about this event will be shared in the coming weeks.


Travel Reporting


Q: When will restrictions on travel for faculty be lifted?
To ensure the health and safety of our faculty, these restrictions will remain in place until June 30; the administration will reassess restrictions before or on July 1.


Q: How will the Travel Registry information be used?
Those who register their professional and personal travel will receive updates if the country they are visiting moves to a CDC Level 2 or Level 3 travel health advisory. It is likely that international travelers may face further restrictions while they are traveling or upon returning to the United States. Presently, the CDC recommends avoiding travel to several countries in Asia and Europe, including 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.


Q: Will the information provided in the Travel Registry be kept confidential?
The University will strive to keep any personal information you provide private. We have purposively segmented communications and Travel Registry information by student, faculty and staff categories. This means that the office who normally handles your personal information – Dean of Students, Dean of Faculty or Human Resources – will apply the same rigor to your Travel Registry information that they use to manage all of your other personal information on a day-to-day basis.


Q: If I’m traveling to an area in the United States with confirmed COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS cases am I subject to a quarantine period?
The University will follow the CDC recommendations if you have been in an affected area or have been exposed to someone sick with COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS in the last 14 days. As such you will face some limitations on your movement and activity. Please follow instructions during this time. Your cooperation is integral to the ongoing safety of our campus and public health response to try to slow spread of this virus.


Q: What should I do if I come into contact with someone who has traveled to high risk areas?
A: The University recommends seeing your personal healthcare provider or visiting the Health Center as soon as possible if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS. Please refer to the CDC guidelines for prevention and concerns about exposure.


Q: What constitutes travel for the purposes of the Travel Registry?
All personal and professional travel by students, faculty and staff to any domestic or international destination through the end of May 2020.


Q: If I am going to attend a large festival or gathering in the local area, should I report that?
A:The University urges all students, faculty and staff to take precautions when in large group settings. There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19-CORONAVIRUS. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus. However, as a reminder, the CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases, including:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Advising and Retention


Q: When will academic advising begin and how will it be conducted?
Academic advising will begin the week of April 6th.  Refer to Jennifer Leach’s March 24th email to advisors for information about remote advising (which includes this link on Remote Advising) .


Q: What if I need to consult with someone in the Registrar’s Office, the Office of Advising & Retention, the Center for Integrative Learning, or the Center for Academic Success?
Staff in each of these offices are available throughout the day by email.  Please reach out to them as needed.


Q: How much support can students receive from the Emergency Fund?
Encourage your students to ask for the support they need from the SU Emergency Fund .  The university may need to put limits on the amount awarded so that all students can benefit from the fund; however, it will help the university to understand the overall need even if it is not able to address all the needs with the Emergency Fund. The university can then explore other avenues of support. 


Q: What can I do as a faculty member to assist the University as it navigates the uncertain enrollment and retention environment?
As a faculty member, you can contribute by providing accurate information to students about the current situation and reassuring students that faculty, staff, and the administration are working hard to adjust to the changing landscape and that we are hoping to return to the normal face-to-face learning experience as soon as possible.  If you get questions about financial aid, please refer the student to James Gaeta in the Financial Aid Office. If you are asked to participate in new enrollment initiatives directed at prospective students, try to find the time.  If you haven’t already joined the student letter writing campaign, you are invited to do so by contacting Christine Bowman ( If students are not engaging with your classes, reach out to Dave Seiler and let him know as soon as possible.  

Department and Faculty Policies 


Q: Can Southwestern supplies be donated to support COVID-19 efforts?
If you have excess university supplies you would like to have the university consider donating, you need to contact the Dean of the Faculty prior to making a donation.


Q: Will the current hiring freeze impact tenure-track line hires approved for hiring in 2020-2021 for positions to begin in 2021-22?
Yes, the hiring freeze could potentially impact the hiring process for tenure-track lines in 2020-2021 for positions to begin in 2021-22.  We will discuss budget constraints with the Board of Trustees at its April meeting.  Much depends on the size of our entering class as well as the retention of current students.


Q: What impact will the hiring freeze have on current searches?
Most of the searches for tenure-track lines were complete at the time the hiring freeze was announced.  We have paused the searches that were ongoing but had not yet reached the offer stage. 


Q: What impact will the hiring freeze have on adjunct hires for the fall?
If the paperwork has been processed, we will move forward with those classes.  Each appointment letter reserves the right to cancel classes due to enrollment constraints.  We will reassess the need for certain classes at each stage in the registration process.


Q: Can student research assistants continue their work?
If you are able to continue to provide work for your research assistants remotely, you can continue to log their hours.


Q: Will we extend the tenure clock for pre-tenure faculty?
Given the disruption to teaching and research this semester, pre-tenure faculty will have the option to extend the tenure clock by one year.  Pre-tenure faculty will have until August 17, 2020 to request a one year extension to the review clock.  Pre-tenure faculty who choose to void teaching evaluations for spring 2020 should discuss whether to extend the tenure clock with the Dean.


Q: What do I do about conference travel?
The University has suspended all non-essential travel, including travel related to teaching, research and creative works.  If you have made travel arrangements, the University will cover cancellation fees when reimbursements are not an option.  If you receive a credit for plane tickets purchased with your corporate card, the University expects the credit to be used on your next university-related trip.


Q: Can conference travel funds roll over to the next budget year?
No, we are not able to roll over funds for conference travel.  Rolling over funds from the operating budget causes many accounting difficulties and produces additional work for our business office colleagues.  It is not part of our normal budget structure. 

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