August 12, 2021 – from Dean Cynthia Briggs Kittredge

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Dear Members of the Community of Southwest,

I hope you are all as eager as I am to begin the 2021 Fall Semester. While our re-entry into a more familiar community life will be impacted by the surge of COVID infections and hospitalizations that most of the country is seeing, I am certain there will be much to celebrate as we regather to begin classes in-person on campus. My hope for this community is that we can discover this joy, while maintaining the standards that will help minimize the risk of spread.

The city of Austin finds itself in its highest stage of behavioral caution, and we anticipate we will be in that mode as we begin to gather in the coming weeks. After consultation with the President’s Cabinet and the COVID-19 Task Force, I am asking that we begin this fall semester with several behavioral guidelines to mitigate risk. Please carefully read these guidelines below.

Seminary leadership has developed these guidelines with the goal of delivering our most important functions–instruction, formation, and worship–in-person. These activities are at the core of our mission and purpose. The decisions we have made – and will make – will be informed by medical and public health authorities and the latest data regarding our ability to continue to provide these opportunities to you in person. The health and safety of you and your loved ones is a high priority, and we believe that we can create a low-risk environment that delivers you the high-quality education you are here at Southwest to receive.

It is important to know that of our 200+ member community of students, faculty, and staff, approximately 97% are fully vaccinated. All of our full-time faculty and our residential student population are fully vaccinated. The CDC has issued guidance for Institutions of Higher Learning, and the behavioral guidelines we will require meet or exceed that guidance. Below are these guidelines as we begin the fall semester:

1.       In-person, on-campus, indoor classes will resume

2.       In-person, on-campus worship resumes in Christ Chapel with communion (including option of intinction), except as otherwise arranged by the dean

3.       Mask-wearing in all indoor places at all times is required of vaccinated persons, except while consuming food or beverage or when a single vaccinated person is occupying their  private office

4.       Mask-wearing in all outdoor spaces is not required of vaccinated persons 

5.       Mask-wearing in all places at all times (including in private offices and outdoors) is required of partially vaccinated and unvaccinated persons, except when consuming food or beverage

6.       Regularly scheduled mandatory COVID-19 testing is required for all non-vaccinated and partially vaccinated persons

7.       Instructors, preachers, and celebrants may unmask for presentation purposes only 

8.       Participation in the meal plan is mandatory for all daytime students 

9.       Meals will be served in Howell Dining Hall from the serving line and may be consumed at-table or outdoors

10.   Routine catering and hospitality resumes according to applicable protocols

11.   Guest suites are available only for vaccinated persons

12.   Matriculation will occur in-person in Christ Chapel with everyone masked

In order to further preserve our ability to provide instructional and worship formation, we also ask that all members of our community follow the guidelines for the CDC and Austin Public Health while not on campus. The more careful you are when you are not among this community will make this community safer when you are here.

We will soon be releasing a revised FAQ portion of the website to answer further questions. That will be announced when published.

I hope that by laying out these expectations now, each of you can prepare to begin the fall semester understanding how our community may look and feel. I am grateful to be among a group of students, faculty, and staff filled with care and empathy as we navigate once again these difficult times.