From the DGPS: Important Updates to our Fall Start

From the DGPS: Important Updates to our Fall Start

Dear graduate students,

Provost DesRoches announced yesterday that the university will move to online instruction for the first two weeks of classes, through Friday, September 3. The start of the Fall 2021 semester is moved two days later to Wednesday, August 25.

The past year has prepared the university to shift quickly to this temporary format and adapt to rapidly changing demands. However, we are aware this change may raise some questions for you, particularly for our incoming and international students.

Please note that COVID-related communications, guidelines and procedures for our campus community are routinely posted at coronavirus.rice.edu - please use this site as a resource. Additionally, Vice President of Administration Kevin Kirby, Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee, sends a weekly update on the university’s COVID response each Monday. It’s essential to read each of these messages carefully for any changes to Rice procedures.

Survey Response

Thank you to the >90% of graduate students who have completed the VEOCI survey on vaccination status. Those who have not completed the survey have a hold placed on their account and cannot register for classes, change their course schedule, or use other registrar services until it is submitted. Additional consequences, including loss of campus access and other privileges and then disenrollment from Rice will follow. The form is required of all students, including those studying online or on away status. If you have not filled it out, please do so now. It’s short and takes just a few minutes of time.

If you have already completed the survey but your vaccination status has changed, please resubmit and update your responses. If you have not yet been vaccinated and wish to be, vaccines are widely available in Houston. Please visit https://www.vaccines.gov/ to identify a location nearby.

Testing Requirements

Please schedule a COVID test as close to your arrival on campus as possible. Please take note of the ongoing testing requirements:

  • Fully vaccinated people coming to campus, and coming into routine contact with others, must schedule a test once per week.

  • Unvaccinated people who come to campus, or those who have not answered or updated their status in the vaccine survey to indicate they are fully vaccinated, must test twice per week, regardless of whether they come into contact with other people.

You can schedule a test at the link here.

Course Instruction and Research

As previously stated, the university will move to online instruction for the first two weeks of the semester - beginning August 25 and running through September 3. Courses such as graduate research that can be conducted with masking and appropriate physical distancing can remain in person. Please keep in close contact with your instructors and research advisors on how academics will proceed this fall.

Fondren Library

The Fondren Library website is here. It is regularly updated, and so please check for their hours during these two weeks.

Face-to-face courses for visa compliance

International students studying in the US on an F1 or J1 visa must take at least one 3-credit class in face-to-face mode. We expect that courses that are currently described as face-to-face on the registrar’s course schedule will easily have greater than 50% face-to-face contact to meet that standard. Each graduate program will be responsible for ensuring that their students can take the right face-to-face courses to meet the visa standard. Please see additional communications from OISS regarding specific visa situations. OISS’ FAQ for COVID-19 related issues can be found here.

Reporting Concerns

We should all be vigilant to promote good health practices. There are multiple avenues that you may pursue to make a report of suspected or actual wrongful conduct, and you may take the approach with which you are most comfortable. Regardless of which method you choose to use, it is important to speak up when you see wrongdoing or have concerns that someone has violated the law or university policies. Not sure where to go? Start here. The anonymous EthicsPoint site is here.

Health & Wellbeing Resources

Please know that if you need 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, and the GPS office are just a few places to start. Student Support Specialist Pia Byrd is also available to talk with students and provide support in a safe, caring environment, and appointments can be set up via email here.

Remember, if you need help, please reach out to one of these resources - our campus community is an exceptionally caring and thoughtful one, and each of us wants to see you thrive.

Campus Dining

Through September 3, indoor dining will be unavailable, but dining options provide options for students to purchase and eat in outdoor locations on campus. Those students who have purchased servery meal plans must abide by current college restrictions, which prohibit graduate students from eating anywhere in the undergraduate college spaces (including in the college servery, college quads, or in college tents). At this time, graduate students may still consume alcohol on campus, and Valhalla remains open (but mask when indoors as usual, and please follow Valhalla’s rules about distancing indoors).

I look forward to a good fall semester! This is not the start we envisioned, but these plans are designed to keep our campus safe and healthy. I am grateful for your partnership as we continue to face these challenges together.

Best regards,

Seiichi Matsuda
Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies