As you likely read already, President Leebron and Provost DesRoches recently announced some updates to how our campus will operate at the start of the spring semester, due to the surge in COVID cases occurring across the country and globe. If you have not read that message, please take a moment to do so.
I am writing today to provide additional details regarding your return to campus, and it is important that you read this message carefully.
On-Campus Housing Move-In Date
As noted in the message linked above, all students are strongly encouraged to delay returning to campus by two weeks, with move-in to campus, if at all possible, occurring the weekend before classes start in person (Jan. 22-23). We recognize that for some, delaying return will be difficult (e.g., international students who don’t have living arrangements elsewhere in the US, students enrolled in a course that is exempted to allow an in-person start, or who have on-campus commitments that require their presence), with arrival between Jan. 8-21 preferred.
For ALL undergraduate students planning to live on campus, please fill out this form by Monday, January 5* to indicate your move-in date. Please note: students who are currently living on campus for winter break do not need to fill out this form. We are requiring all students living on campus this spring to provide their move-in date so we can prepare properly for campus dining and other services, and for those delaying arrival so we may update your bill for spring semester housing accordingly. Even if you are moving in late, plan to pay your January bill. A credit of $62/day beginning on the 8th and based on your return date will be credited to room and board. Credit will not be applied until after you have moved back to campus and will likely be reflected in accounts in early February.
Arrival for International Students
Students on F-1 and J-1 visas are generally required to study in person to maintain their legal immigration status. However, there are some exceptions due to DHS/ICE/SEVP laws to support universities’ needs due to Covid-19 accommodations. You are expected to read all communications that come from the Office of International Students & Scholars (OISS), as they are sending messages via the OISS-announce listserv and other group-targeted emails, as needed, so as to keep you updated regarding changes and how this may affect maintaining your legal status. Please be sure to respond quickly to any surveys that come to you, so the OISS, and my office, can best advise students regarding changes and how we can best help you.
Indoor Dining and Drinking
As we make every effort to manage the virus surge, everyone must refrain from dining indoors in group settings. Undergraduates may eat inside in their residential college rooms. Graduate students, undergraduates who live off-campus, faculty, and staff may eat inside an office or another indoor space that affords as much isolation from others as possible. All other dining on campus must occur outdoors through Jan. 23.
Additionally, through January 23, indoor alcohol use is prohibited on campus. Willy’s Pub will be closed until January 24. Valhalla will operate but be limited to outdoor consumption only.
Reminder: Mandatory Flu Shots
As previously announced, flu shots are required for all students. Getting your annual flu shot is more important than ever. Influenza and COVID-19 are both potentially serious, contagious respiratory illnesses that share many of the same symptoms.
Many of you have gotten your shots and provided documentation already - thank you. For those who have not completed the vaccination survey by submitting documentation that you did get the flu shot or requesting a waiver from the vaccine requirement, we will deactivate your Rice ID card on Jan. 24. You will not be able to access campus buildings (including the library or rec center), or access dining facilities without your ID card. Do not delay, get your flu shot and complete the survey as soon as possible.
Students should submit proof of flu vaccination at the following link: https://veoci.com/v/p/dashboard/j6ce8duchj
If you would like to opt-out for religious or medical reasons, that should be noted on the form.
Please note that Student Health Services has flu vaccines available and students may also use insurance at any pharmacy or outpatient provider.
Arrival COVID Testing, Isolation Procedures, and Vaccination
Students will be expected to schedule a COVID test on arrival and should refrain from interacting with the Rice community (aside from picking up meals) until they receive a negative test result. A follow-up test should also be scheduled 3-4 days after your first test is completed. Tests are in the online Scheduler through the week of January 10, and tests for the remainder of the month will be available for sign-up by January 5.
Another important consideration as we look toward the Spring semester involves isolation and quarantine procedures for those who test positive or have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. As President Leebron and Provost DesRoches noted in their letter to campus: “There is emerging evidence of what we should expect from the rapidly spreading omicron variant. It’s extremely contagious -- two to three times more than the delta variant. It’s better at evading immunity conferred by past infection or vaccination without a booster, and the incubation period from infection to the onset of symptoms is much shorter. People who contract this variant, especially if vaccinated, generally experience less severe symptoms than people who’ve contracted the other variants. Some experts predict the current wave will recede substantially by the end of January.”
Our experience in managing infection with the (likely) omicron variant that occurred in December demonstrated to us that our previous policies regarding separation of persons who test positive (or who have had close contact with someone who tested positive) may not be possible for students living in the residential colleges. This new variant spreads easily and very fast; by the time we have a positive test result back roommates and suitemates have already been significantly exposed to the virus. While we continue to hold open rooms/beds in the colleges for isolation, these are limited in number. As such, please recognize that if the number of infected students is substantial, we may be unable to move a positive or symptomatic student out of their assigned room. Due to these circumstances, if you would prefer to not live on campus we are waiving the fee for breaking your housing contract for next semester. For those who wish to do this, please provide this information in the Spring Return Housing Form.
The high transmissibility of the omicron variant is another reason why getting your booster shot is very important: disease symptoms are much milder if boosted. As stated in the President’s email, booster shots are now required for eligible students (generally those who received their second vaccination more than six months ago) who come to campus effective Jan. 10. All students must fill out the student vaccine form to provide updated information on their status. Please note, on this form students may indicate they are not vaccinated/boosted for religious, medical, or personal reasons. If you have not already updated your vaccine data with your booster information, please do so on the student form here. You can update your current form by scrolling down to the bottom of the form page and clicking on your previous entry.
With the added layer of boosters we hope to increase campus safety moving into the spring semester. In the coming days the Crisis Management Team will be updating the found here.
In closing, as we near the two-year mark of managing COVID, I want to thank each of you for your partnership in helping our community stay as healthy as possible. I know the circumstances have not always been easy, and I look forward to seeing you all back on campus soon.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates
* Jan. 5 update changed Dec. 28