The SMU Faculty Senate passed three resolutions Tuesday, Aug. 10 urging the university to reinstate the 2020-21 mask mandate, require vaccination of all employees without a religious or medical exemption, and to re-instate 50% outside air intake in university buildings.
SMU announced Wednesday, Aug. 11 that they would temporarily reinstate masks as “a temporary precaution during the Delta variant surge to supplement our other pandemic protocols.”
The resolutions cite CDC guidelines, SMU’s professional medical counsels, and concern for the safety of the on-campus community in the face of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths as the reason for their suggested measures. Data from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DHS) reveals a third wave of cases since the beginning of July.
“The safety of students, faculty, and staff on campus is of paramount importance,” states one of the resolutions. “[V]ariants of SARS-CoV-2…have been known to infect individuals who are fully vaccinated, and the delta variant has contributed to a devastating surge of infections, serious illness, and death among the unvaccinated.”
SMU began loosening their COVID-19 guidelines in May as cases and hospitalizations were dramatically decreasing: SMU reduced outside air intake in university buildings from 50% to 30% May 16, and announced May 18 that they were lifting the university-wide mask mandate. SMU has also since resumed pre-COVID spacing and occupancy as well as adopted pre-COVID cleaning procedures.
“[T]he strong consensus of public-health authorities….have concluded that vaccination against COVID-19 is the quickest and most effective way to end the pandemic that has cost the nation more than 625,000 lives so far,” the vaccination resolution states. “[A]t least 664 IHEs across the country, including all of SMU’s aspirational peers and all but 3 (three) of SMU’s cohort peers, have required vaccination for students and/or employees.”
SMU is “strongly encouraging” members of the campus community to get vaccinated on campus or elsewhere, but has not announced a vaccine requirement. The faculty resolution suggests that their recommended vaccine requirement extend to students, while also possibly incentivizing vaccination through tuition breaks or increased fees for unvaccinated students.
Currently, vaccinated students who are contact traced will not be required to quarantine in the fall, which SMU Provost Elizabeth Loboa called “a great incentive” for students to get vaccinated, according to the resolution.