Dear Graduate Students,
As we approach the new semester, I look forward to working further with our continuing students and it will be a pleasure to welcome our entering class!
The delta variant is a significant threat, but each of us now has solid experience in staying safe, and effective vaccines are readily available. We expect to have latitude to enjoy a near-normal academic experience this semester, if we take simple steps to mitigate risk as Vice President for Administration Kevin Kirby described in his recent message (located here).
Masking while indoors is the primary adjustment that we all are expected to make. The university is not requiring masking outdoors, and I plan to enjoy as many meetings outside as I can outside when the weather is good. The university is also adopting a new testing strategy, also outlined in Dr. Kirby’s message. Please do read that letter carefully.
All students who will be enrolled at Rice for the fall 2021 semester must fill out this form regarding their current vaccination status. You have the option to state there that you decline to provide that information. If you choose that option, you will be required to follow the university guidelines for non-vaccinated students. If you are not yet vaccinated but would like to be, please indicate so on the form. The university needs this information to be able to plan, including what resources should be committed to various risk-mitigating measures, such as vaccinations and testing. Anyone who does not complete this form by August 13, 2021, will be required to test twice a week, will be blocked from registering for classes, and will be removed from the Canvas course management system (which is needed to participate in your classes), and ultimately would be withdrawn from their graduate program. The University is serious about this requirement, and you should not delay in filling out the form. It is short and takes only a few minutes to complete.
A number of our students will initiate vaccination during their first week on-campus, and so will not achieve full immunity until about a month into the semester. If you are in that situation, please check in first with your director of graduate study for information about what academic accommodations might be available to you. The university will host a vaccination clinic on or near campus in the early part of orientation week. Details will be forthcoming. If you will want to be vaccinated through Rice, please complete the vaccination status form immediately! We need to know how many vaccination doses to order and how many medical staff are necessary.
Your Rice experience is guided both by my office (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, or GPS) and by your specific graduate program. Your graduate program is generally the place to start with questions, since they know both their own expectations and GPS’ standards. Be sure to read emails from the GPS office and your graduate program carefully for important information regarding campus policies and updates.
This has been a demanding year, and although many people have managed the pandemic successfully at some level, we are all challenged by the rise of the delta variant. Take care of yourselves and have empathy for others struggling through this global crisis. Please get familiar with The Wellbeing & Counseling Center! They are an expert, caring and supportive staff, and are well equipped to help people thrive. It is likely that you or someone you’ll know would benefit from working with them one-on-one or that a workshop or two would be valuable. If you’re able to point other students to Wellbeing, you’ll be helping.
Also, please note that we are currently updating the content of the COVID FAQ to reflect the policy changes described here in this letter and announced earlier this week. The revised FAQ will be launched by the end of day on Friday, August 6.
I very much appreciate the care and the commitment that the graduate student community has shown in promoting safety through the pandemic while pursuing scholarly excellence and maintaining community. Safe travels if you are currently outside of Houston. I look forward to seeing you and to the beginning of our semester.
With very best regards,
Seiichi P. T. Matsuda
Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies