Dear undergraduate students -
I’m writing today with some updates on campus and the start of classes. As you probably read earlier today, Provost DesRoches announced that all classes are shifting to an online format for the first two weeks of the semester, and we are pushing back the start of classes by two days (to Wednesday, August 25). In this message, I will detail the temporary changes we are also enacting surrounding undergraduate student life on campus.
Please recognize that we are making these changes in response to the increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases in the broader Houston area and found on our campus through our testing program. I’ll be blunt: the level of breakthrough cases (positive tests among vaccinated persons) is much higher than anticipated. And while it’s important to recognize that we can expect illness to be much milder among the fully vaccinated, it has become clear that as a campus community we need to take steps to further assess and recalibrate how we will manage this illness at Rice this year. As an institution, we take our responsibilities surrounding population health very seriously, and in the days ahead our focus will remain on providing the best living and learning environment possible to our students.
The shifts around class instruction announced by the Provost are designed to help us do that -- as are the measures described below.
First, regarding move-in timing for upperclass students. Given the announcement that classes are shifting online through September 3, students who live in the greater Houston area should delay their return to campus until the weekend of September 4. Students who live locally and are already living on campus are not required to return home, but certainly may choose to do so given the delayed start and format shifts to the first weeks of instruction. Similarly, if you live farther away and are able to delay your return to campus, we’d encourage you to do so. This will provide us more flexibility in assessing and arranging for housing needs for students who may need to isolate or quarantine following exposure to COVID in the coming weeks.
Additionally, if you are currently living on campus this semester but wish to move off campus because of the complexities surrounding the COVID circumstances, Housing and Dining will waive the fees for breaking the housing contract in the following ways. Students that do not move on campus at all will receive a full refund for room and board. Students that move on to campus and then decide to move off before September 3 will only be expected to provide payment for the days they lived on campus. Students wishing to move off campus should email the housing office at email@example.com.
We would also ask that you limit the number of visitors who will help you move onto campus, and remind them that they must adhere to all COVID guidelines for our campus. If you need assistance in planning for your arrival and move in, please contact your residential college magisters.
All undergraduate students currently on campus have been informed that they must complete a COVID-19 test by the end of the day tomorrow. For upperclass students returning to campus in the days ahead, we are adding a requirement of return testing regardless of vaccination status:
- Vaccinated students must schedule a test as close to your arrival to campus as you can. Please note that COVID-19 testing appointments are available in the scheduler through Aug. 27, more dates will be added soon. For students living off campus, we’d ask that you schedule this test to coincide with your first visit to campus.
- As a reminder, unvaccinated students must complete a two-step on-arrival test sequence: a test the same day as their arrival to campus, followed by a second test three to five days after their first test.
Once on-arrival tests are completed, students should then schedule testing following the schedule determined by their vaccination status: unvaccinated testing twice per week, vaccinated testing once per week.
To schedule (cancel or reschedule) a test, please follow the instruction links at the bottom of this page: https://coronavirus.rice.edu/schedule-test. Note: If you have a test booked in the coming week that you will no longer need, please officially cancel that test so that others who need a test can sign up for that spot.
Finally, the following will also be in effect through Friday, September 3rd:
- Indoor dining in group settings is not permitted. Meals must be eaten outside or in your own room in your residential college.
- Consumption of alcohol, in public and private spaces, is not permitted. In effect, the campus will be “dry” through the second week of classes.
In total, these measures are designed to provide us time as a community to gather more information from our surveillance testing program, assess how services are functioning within the residential colleges and in departments across campus, and make adjustments as needed. Please be sure to stay up to date on our campus COVID policies, listed here.
I am sure that reading this, you feel a sense of disappointment that we find ourselves in this situation -- I know that I do.But, as much as our vision for our fall start is shifting, I remain optimistic that these changes reflect a relatively short-term opportunity to pause-and-reset, rather than permanent alterations to how life on campus will be this semester. If we can all embrace these safety protocols, our ability to provide a healthy campus environment will improve and the time frame for these extra protections to be in place will be more limited. As always, thank you for being partners in this process.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates