All messages regarding COVID-19 that have been sent to our Rice community can be found at emergency.rice.edu. Of particular note, and additional information concerning fall restart:
- From the Dean of Graduate Students: Fall 2020 Updates for Graduate Students
- From the Office of the Registrar: Fall 2020 Course Schedule (June 25)
- Message to graduate student regarding research activities and fall plans (May 5)
- Faculty Senate on Academic Accommodations for spring 2020 (April 23)
- Parking and Recreation Center Fee Refund during the COVID-19 Outbreak (April 6)
- Student and faculty international summer travel (April 3)
- Update on Spring 2020 Commencement (March 30)
- Message from Vice-Provost for Research Yousif Shamoo and Interim Provost Seiichi Matsuda regarding Rice's new research policy during the outbreak (March 17)
- Latest Grad Digest Newsletter (March 26)
- Latest message to students in doctoral or thesis-based graduate programs (March 18)
- Latest message to students in non-thesis graduate programs (March 18)
Rice will continue to send updates as needed via email and the Rice Alerts system, and a history of the alerts is also available. Students who have questions about the fall 2020 semester and COVID-19 as it relates to graduate study can find information below.
Please keep in touch with your fellow scholars and friends. This is a time to take some physical distance, but not to disconnect from people. Please respond in a timely manner if someone does reach out to you; people will worry! Please alert your grad program or GPS if someone is not responding to communications. Please make sure your address information is updated in http://esther.rice.edu so that we can effectively follow up as needed.
Additional questions or concerns on COVID-19 as it relates to graduate study can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Campus Health & Safety
Every Monday, Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby sends a weekly update to our campus about Rice’s planning and policies in response to COVID-19. A complete list of updates can be found here. Of note:
- Everyone on the Rice campus must wear a face covering that covers their mouth and nose as a precaution to protect others. This includes when you are inside all indoor spaces on campus.
- We have established rules for physical distancing, including limits on the size of gatherings. As much as possible, everyone is expected to stay 6-feet away from other people, whether indoors or outdoors. We are also limiting gatherings to no more than 50 people, whether inside or outside.
- We are enhancing our ability to learn, socialize, and relax outside, since research shows that transmission of COVID is reduced in outdoor spaces. We are building temporary structures and erecting tents for use as classroom space, study space, and locations for social gatherings.
- All members of the Rice community will be required to actively monitor their health for signs of COVID-19 on a daily basis. This includes taking your temperature when you get up each morning, and staying home or in your room if you feel unwell.
- Please know that if you need health or wellbeing support, there are a number of campus resources that are here to help you: your program administrator, Rice Student Health Services, the Wellbeing and Counseling Center, SAFE Office, or the GPS office are just a few places to start. All are taking appointments, but the process has been modified to follow CDC recommendations. Please see information on the best way to contact them and other after hours resources here; further information on resources available is here.
- Fall 2020 Course Schedule & Class Registration
As a result of changes to the academic calendar, and in particular the ending of instruction on an earlier date (the Friday before Thanksgiving), important contact time in classes was lost. Combining this with the need to address new classroom space issues caused by physical distancing, it became clear that a number of changes needed to be made to the Course Schedule. Some measures being put in place, include:
• A reconfigured daily class schedule (with standardized meeting time blocks, expanded throughout the day, and into the evening).
• Class durations for most courses increased by 5 minutes per class to meet contact time requirements.
• Longer “in-between” meeting times, increased to 20 minutes, to accommodate potentially longer walking distances between classes, and allow for less congestion in halls and entrances/exits.
At present the Office of the Registrar is working with Rice academic departments on other possible course-specific adjustments, based on actual or projected enrollment, etc. (such as method of instruction (online, etc.).
Incoming students should register for classes as usual, beginning August 20; students who cannot be on campus should start these courses online and then join the in-person sessions when they are able.
International students should register for classes with an in-person component. Students who cannot be on campus should start these courses online and then join the in-person sessions when they are able, to meet the six credit minimum for in-person classes in order to maintain status.
- Fall 2020 Course Instruction and Delivery
The university is planning for a combination of in-person and online classes, beginning August 24 and ending November 20. All classes, with very limited approved exceptions, will be delivered in dual mode, that is available both on campus and remote delivery simultaneously. Because certain members of our community, such as those with underlying health conditions, are especially vulnerable, they may choose not to be in the on-campus classroom setting and will be accommodated. International students should consult with OISS upon arrival for specific requirements as it relates to their visa; a certain number of credit hours must be taken in-person. More here.
For those who are beginning their fall semester remotely, time-zone differences may present a unique challenge for classroom discussions and interactive exercises, but instructors are being offered considerable guidance for developing and executing active learning techniques to accommodate the time-zone differences for students. More information can be found here. We encourage you to stay in active contact with your instructors and work with them on particular issues of concern.
- Online Learning and Teaching
Rice has compiled suggestions and helpful tips into a Student Guide to Online Learning. In addition, there is a broad Guide to Remote Learning available. Please communicate troublespots with your instructors and with OIT as needed. The Center for Teaching Excellence has compiled a comprehensive manual to assist all Rice instructors with their online courses. OIT is also offering 1:1 tutorials on teaching platforms used at Rice. To schedule instruction, click the platform you are interested in: Zoom, Kaltura and Canvas.
- Software Installation and Support
Many courses will be utilizing the Zoom Videoconferencing platform, for information regarding how to install Zoom, visit the Rice KB article. To connect to the Rice Network from off campus, you will need to configure Duo and install VPN. Other tools for remote work are also available. For information on other software available to install on your personal computers, visit Rice IT.
- Incoming Students: Orientation and Training
Orientation will be reformatted based on University social distancing principles. The mandatory plenary session on Wednesday will be offered solely online, and is expected to be available via canvas.rice.edu in early August. Other orientation events are still in the planning phases. All required training will be available online for those who cannot be on campus; the Responsible Conduct of Research and the Sexual Harassment Prevention Training are already online and can be found here. Lab safety training will be available online; details are forthcoming.
- Incoming Students: Deadlines
Incoming students should aim to turn in their Student Health Forms by July 1 (or Dec. 1 for spring admits.) Incoming students must also register for or waive Rice Student Health Insurance by August 28 (Jan. 17 for spring admits) and complete required trainings by Oct. 1 (Feb. 15 for spring admits). More information can be found here.
If you are worried you have missed the July 1 deadline: The form will still be accepted after the deadline. Students who do not submit the form by July 1 will have a hold placed on their record that will prevent them from registering for classes until it is turned in. During peak times, clearing this hold could take up to 3 days, so we encourage you not to wait until the last moment. Please note that note that you must complete the health history, TB screening questionnaire and vaccine record. A physical exam is not required for this year. More.
- Incoming Students: Health Insurance
Students that do not expect to arrive in the United States before August 28, will not be required to participate in open enrollment and will not be required to have health insurance until they arrive in the United States. Please make sure that your arrival plans have been updated in the Incoming Student Survey if this situation will apply to you. When you move to the United States you will be required to enroll in the Aetna Student Health plan or the Alternative SAS plan (for international students only) in accordance with the health insurance policy. Both plans will be available for enrollment as a Qualifying Life Event based on the move to the United States. The premiums will be prorated based on the date of enrollment. Domestic students arriving from abroad will still be eligible to seek a waiver if they have insurance that meets waiver requirements.
Students in the United States but not in the Greater Houston area before August 28, will be required to participate in the open enrollment/waiver process and must have health insurance that meets our waiver requirements in their current location. When they arrive on campus they are required to change their health insurance plan or re-verify that they have an insurance plan that will meet our waiver requirements in Houston. The premiums will be prorated based on the date of enrollment.
The Medical Insurance Subsidy for eligible students will be prorated based on the date of enrollment in the plan.
- Incoming Students: Deferrals
For all questions regarding deferrals, including deadlines, process to request, and opportunities, please contact your graduate program administrator to discuss the options available to you. Deferrals are not automatically granted.
- International Students
Please know we recognize the unique set of challenges you are facing. We ask international scholars to stay in close contact with the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) regarding immigration status and other related issues to your stay in the USA. Please remember that by federal regulations, you must maintain a full-course load, and make normal progress toward completing your degree. International students should register for at least six credit hours with an in-person component. Students who are abroad should start these courses online and then join the in-person sessions when they arrive in the United States, in order to maintain visa status.
Incoming students: OISS is hard at work on I-20 processing, and began working on immigration documents as soon as your student record was created. For more information, please see the OISS portal page. International students are expected to arrive as soon as their visa allows. Immigration laws allow us to extend the I-20 up until October 22, 2020, for the Fall 2020 semester. Students with additional questions may refer to the OISS FAQ or set up an appointment with an OISS advisor.
For visa appointments: If you are able to request an expedited appointment once your original appointment is set, we encourage you to do so. Please update your Incoming Student Survey as you schedule your visa appointment and arrange your travel, and seek guidance from OISS if you experience complications in obtaining your visa.
You will receive follow-ups from the OISS, as the current situation evolves. During this Coronavirus outbreak, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is allowing our international students to study full-time with online education. In addition, you may wish to visit their FAQ page on COVID-19 here. You may contact the OISS at: email@example.com.
- Research Status
The office of the Vice Provost for Research is managing the research restart process, setting rules and requirements at each stage. Updates, policies and more can be found at their site here. At the same time, we will begin a gradual return of library services, starting with remote services for Rice faculty and students undertaking research that requires those resources, as outlined in the May 5 communication to graduate students.
Communications sent to our Rice community concerning instruction and research, as well as Rice's policies surrounding research during the COVID-19 outbreak and guidance from federal funding agencies, can be found at coronavirus.rice.edu/research. Updates on research restart can be found here.
It is essential that mentors and peer researchers respect and have empathy for their co-workers. Rice University will not tolerate the use of pressure or any form of coercion to compel postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, undergraduates or research scientists to be endangered. Graduate students, postdocs and staff who feel inappropriate pressure to work in these circumstances should note their concerns at the EthicsPoint site.
- Disability Needs
The change to online teaching and assessment might create barriers for students with various types of visible and invisible disabilities. Contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at firstname.lastname@example.org to request new or update existing accommodations if the change to online learning environments might impact your ability to fully engage in courses.
- On-Campus and Off-Campus Housing
If you live in university owned housing, please follow the guidelines prescribed by the apartment managers and RAs and watch for announcements related to their cleaning schedules.
Later this summer, future residents of Rice Graduate Apartments (RGA) and Rice Village Apartments (RVA) will be sent detailed move-in instructions to all students.
Finding Housing: Currently, there are still openings at the Rice Graduate Apartments and the Rice Village Apartments. New university-owned graduate townhomes will also be opening in the fall. Students who have already accepted their housing offer and made a deposit may contact Housing and Dining before mid July and choose the option to be waitlisted if they do not anticipate a September arrival. Graduate housing then will be offered on a first-arrived first-placed basis until the property is filled. If the property becomes full before the end of the Fall 2020 term, Housing and Dining plans to assist incoming students that have applied to campus housing with identifying short and long term places to live. The housing market in Houston is not tight at this time; many apartment buildings that are typically 95% occupied are now seeing occupancy rates of 80%. For students seeking off-campus housing, Housing and Dining has a searchable tool for off-campus housing available here.
Residents of RGA and RVA will be permitted to remain in their apartments for the duration of their lease, regardless of their need to be physically on campus. We encourage you to engage in disciplined self-distancing practices in these and in all other spaces.
Deposit Refunds: Students currently offered and accepting apartments will be offered an opportunity to request a full refund of their security deposit in mid July if they cannot fulfill the agreement by September 1, 2020. Students may also choose the option to be waitlisted and will be eligible to be placed in graduate housing on a first-arrived first-placed basis until the property is filled. If the property becomes full and cannot fulfill the housing request, Housing and Dining will refund the deposit.
- Thesis Defenses Process
- The suspension of the requirement that all committee members must be physically present for the defense (through August 1).
- The requirement that all thesis defenses must be held via a zoom or other videoconferencing approach.
- Thesis defenses will continue to be announced as required before and advertised at events.rice.edu. If you have already announced an in-person defense, please send your zoom link to email@example.com so we can add it to your announcement.
- The advancement to candidacy form and the thesis cover page will be signed electronically through an AdobeSign signature process that will be initiated by GPS following the announcement of your thesis. You will receive this by email. If you have recently defended, GPS will email you an AdobeSign online title page in about a week.
- You can finalize the submission of your thesis through a webform. You can expect a receipt once the form has been processed in its entirety.
If a change in committee must be made, follow the procedures outlined here in section B.
- Student Health & Wellbeing Access
Rice Student Health Services, the Wellbeing and Counseling Center, and SAFE office services continue to be available to students. They are taking appointments, but the process has been modified to follow CDC recommendations. Please see information on the best way to contact them and other after hours resources here; further information on resources available is here. We encourage you to reach out to the Wellbeing and Counseling Center if you’d like to talk to someone. Students are also able to contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a GPS staff member. Alternatively, please reach out to the Student Assistance Program for additional resources for those that may have added anxiety due to COVID-19.
- Campus Dining
Campus dining facilities will be available during the fall semester in a modified capacity. Spaces will be reconfigured to ensure physical distancing with clear signage to manage flow and seating. Offerings will be in a grab and go style, and facial coverings are still required while not eating. Dining staff will all be wearing PPE and additional cleaning protocols will be implemented. Students will be expected to wear face masks in dining areas and follow physical distancing protocols.
- Parking Updates
To minimize your time on campus, effective immediately through July 31 graduate students holding a Night Owl parking pass will be allowed to park in the following additional lots: BRC Garage; North Lot; the North Annex Lot; and the Entrance 3 Garage. This is in addition to the Greenbriar Lot. Please don’t take this as encouragement to come to campus-- we’re simply trying to make things a little easier for everyone.
- Parking & Rec Center Fees
The university canceled parking fees and Gibbs Recreation Center membership fees for graduate students, effective retroactively to March 23 and through the balance of the academic year.
Students with questions should contact the Rec Center directly. Students may continue to access the Recreation Center’s online resources to keep up a well-being routine remotely.
The Cashier's Office reports that all credits received from Parking have been posted to student accounts. At this time it will show up on your accounts as a payment labeled “Parking Credit Adjustment.” Students should review Account Activity in their Esther Payment Suite and understand that though a credit has been issued to their account, it will be applied to other charges if there is a balance due on the account. If, after reviewing your account, you do not see this credit please contact the Parking Office at email@example.com.
- Aetna Student Health Insurance
Since you remain a student at Rice University, annual health insurance coverage for the 2019-2020 academic year continues until 7/31/20. All customer service inquiries, including provider network questions, should be directed to Aetna Student Health by calling 1-877-375-7908 or emailing Customer Service. Additionally, Aetna members have access to Telehealth consultations through TelaDoc. Rice Student Health Insurance has more information on how to see a physician via phone or video consultations.
Graduate students in most programs are required to have health insurance while enrolled at Rice. Open enrollment began July 1 and continues to August 28. There is some flexibility to this with regards to the ongoing pandemic, and more information can be found in the section on insurance for incoming students higher up in this FAQ, or at the Student Health Insurance website.
- Precautionary Health and Hygiene
According to the CDC, people with preexisting health conditions or are immunosuppressed are at higher risk of developing complications from a COVID-19 infection. Your health is paramount, so public health officials may recommend that you stay home if there are more community infections. The CDC has created guidelines to help you plan and prepare in the event of needing to limit time in public or if you become sick. Your health care team can also help you assess your current medications and conditions to help you think about actions that can minimize risk to you and your household. For immunosuppressed residents of the RGA and RVA, some accommodations are available. In addition, the Office of the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies can help all graduate students navigate your situation and advise on resources that are available at Rice. For more information on resources for students that have preexisting health conditions or are immunosuppressed, please contact the GPS office (firstname.lastname@example.org) to explore your options with GPS staff. Alternatively, if this situation applies to you, you can fill out this survey, and someone will contact you.
- Travel and Quarantine Policy
Reference the latest from the university’s travel and quarantine policies.