We are writing today with some updates regarding our planning for the fall semester. Below we provide information on several topics related to campus operations, so please read this message carefully and completely.
COVID Testing and Vaccination
A few weeks ago, in a previous communication, we announced our expectation that all students will be vaccinated for COVID prior to the start of the fall semester. Vaccination is necessary so our campus can operate in a more normal posture compared to last year -- something that all members of our community are looking forward to. In the time since we last wrote, the Texas state government has issued additional regulations regarding vaccination, and the requirements that we detail below adhere to those mandates while also permitting us to operate in a manner that keeps health and safety at the forefront of our planning and operational status.
We will continue our mandatory COVID testing program at Rice, but allow for exemptions for those who are fully vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination. All students who will be enrolled at Rice for the fall 2021 semester (undergraduate and graduate, including those who will study in an online or remote format) must fill out this form by Friday, July 2. This form is short and the information is necessary so we can plan properly for our fall semester start -- and that relates directly to your status and needs regarding COVID testing and vaccination.
Specifically, when you log in, you will be asked to report your enrollment and housing status for the fall semester, as well as your testing and vaccination status. For the latter, you may select one of the following options:
- Indicate that you would like to be exempted from our mandatory COVID testing program because you are vaccinated.
- Indicate that you are vaccinated but would like to continue participating in our mandatory testing program.
- Indicate that you are partially vaccinated (with the option to opt-in or out of our COVID testing program depending on whether you will fully vaccinate).
- Indicate that you are not currently vaccinated, but want to get vaccinated on arrival in Houston.
- Indicate that you will be studying in a fully remote format (e.g., because you are enrolled in an online-only degree program or are studying abroad) and will not come to campus at any point during the fall semester.
- Indicate that you will not be vaccinated by the start of fall classes due to medical, religious, philosophical or other reasons.
**Note that if you select Options 1 or 2, you must provide proof of vaccination, including uploading a picture of your official vaccination card or form. Students who are fully vaccinated and provide all required information about vaccination will not need to participate in our weekly COVID testing program unless they wish to. Further, they will also not be required to wear a mask on campus. Students who are studying in a fully online/remote format during the fall semester (Option 4) are also exempted from these requirements.
**Note that if you select Options 3, 5 or 6, you will be required to participate in our mandatory COVID testing program while enrolled in person, and adhere to all COVID policies as described here: https://coronavirus.rice.edu/policies. This includes the requirement (with limited exceptions) to wear a mask when in enclosed, public spaces, including classrooms, common areas, colleges, and RGA/RVA public spaces. If you select Option 4, you will be required to test when you begin to come to campus and will be expected to test until you are fully vaccinated and update your status on this form.
Additional details are provided in our online COVID FAQ: https://coronavirus.rice.edu/covid-frequently-asked-questions Even if you do not have questions, we encourage you to read this document thoroughly because it covers a range of important topics, including campuswide policy questions; Housing and Dining; COVID testing, quarantine and isolation, and illness; COVID vaccination; and questions specific to international students. If you have additional questions not answered in the FAQ, at the end of the document we list contact information for offices that may be able to help.
Effective immediately, we are ending the 2020-2021 Culture of Care Agreements that continuing undergraduate and graduate students previously signed. All students must continue to follow all policies and expectations as detailed in the Code of Student Conduct as well as campuswide COVID policies as detailed by the Crisis Management Team. Note that the COVID-related policies and restrictions listed on the page linked above will be updated as they change, so please check regularly if you have questions.
In addition, while we will no longer require all students to read and sign a detailed Culture of Care Agreement, the spirit of our “culture of care” at Rice remains. In other words, each of us should continue to think about the health and wellbeing of others, including their sense of safety and comfort in various settings, as critical not only to a return to “normal” at Rice but more generally to how we see each other and our roles and responsibilities as a Rice Owl. Only by coming together as a community and actively demonstrating care and responsibility toward others do we maintain a strong and healthy culture.
Due to the sunsetting of the Culture of Care Agreement, we are disbanding the undergraduate COVID Community Court and Public Health Ambassador program. We want to acknowledge and thank those students who served on the COVID Community Court or as Public Health Ambassadors in their residential college communities during the last academic year. While graduate students did not have a formal student-run structure for promoting compliance, the community managed itself well, keeping health and safety as a priority while continuing to effectively pursue scholarship. These have been unusual times, and on behalf of everyone at Rice, we thank each of you for the time and effort you gave to help keep our campus healthy and safe. We are forever grateful.
Regarding the use of alcohol on campus, Valhalla has reopened and it is our intention to allow Willy’s Pub to reopen for the fall semester, subject to the COVID-19 environment and implementation of safety protocols in place at the time. The operation of both venues requires review and approval of a safety plan approved by the Crisis Management Team. This means that beginning with our fall 2021 semester the campus will not be “dry,” and all students are reminded that they must continue to follow the rules and expectations detailed in the Rice Alcohol Policy. That said, please note that additional restrictions (such as gathering size limits) for public parties and other events where alcohol is served may be enacted for the fall semester. We expect to update student leadership on this by Monday, Aug. 2.
We appreciate everyone’s efforts to stay safe and look forward to a more normal way of living and learning at Rice this fall.
Seiichi Matsuda, Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates