Dear students -
Earlier today, you received a message from Kevin Kirby on behalf of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee regarding our fall semester start (located here if you haven’t read it yet). It details modifications to various campus policies and procedures we are putting in place because of the Delta variant and the heightened spread of COVID (even among the vaccinated). I’m sure you have questions about what these new policies mean for the student experience this fall, which is why I am writing to you now.
Let me first say that while these policies move us farther away from “normal” campus operations than we had hoped to be at this time, we are not returning to the very stringent rule structure we had in place all of last year. In large part, this is due to the very high vaccination rate within our community, and especially among the student body. It is also because the Rice student body has demonstrated, repeatedly, a willingness to consider the health and wellbeing of the community when making choices in how to engage with others. As such, we aim to strike a balance between heightened campus safety measures and more normal operations as we start the school year.
Specifically, regarding undergraduate student life on campus at this time:
You are free to move about campus spaces, including within any residential college space; we are not restricting student movement on campus this year. Just be sure to abide by the mask policy, you must wear one anytime you are inside a building, except if you are inside your own residential college room alone or with your roommate(s). You can also take your mask off when actively eating inside a building, including in the residential college commons. This means that students may eat in the college commons again for mealtimes -- just take care to abide by the “actively” eating rule. It is not OK to lounge at a table when your meal is done chatting without a mask on. Anytime you are not actively eating or drinking when inside a building, you must put your mask back on.
We are not modifying plans for fall move-in. Schedules previously announced for new and continuing students remain the same. Family or friends may assist you with move-in, but all visitors must abide by all campuswide COVID policies, including required indoor mask use.
We are not bringing back the Culture of Care Agreement or the COVID Community Court. These were important mechanisms to our operational status last year, but at this time we do not intend to reinstate either for the year ahead. That said, please remember that all students must adhere at all times to the Code of Student Conduct as well as all COVID-related policies set for the campus.
Classes remain in person, and all students who have signed the housing contract and were given a room assignment for fall semester still have a room. We have some spaces available for isolation housing if needed, although we intend to make minor adjustments to a few room assignments within each college to create additional spaces. I am meeting with the college Magisters and Presidents this evening to discuss this process they will communicate directly with their colleges if any adjustments in room assignments are needed.
- Regarding the heightened COVID testing requirements. Most of you previously submitted documentation of vaccination, with the understanding that this would exempt you from testing (and masking indoors). We all regret that this situation surrounding the Delta variant is causing us to suspend these exemptions. But also recognize that those of you who previously submitted vaccination documentation and requested an exemption will have a substantially reduced frequency of testing in the time ahead.
Finally, regarding alcohol use on campus. In my June 15 message to students, I announced that campus will not be “dry” this fall semester, and noted that decisions regarding additional restrictions would be made closer to the start of fall semester. At this time, I can confirm that alcohol use is permitted on campus this fall, provided that students follow the rules and expectations detailed in the Rice Alcohol Policy. However, for fall semester we are prohibiting cross-college events that include alcohol (“public” parties, crawls). Smaller public gatherings with alcohol are permitted within residential college spaces with approval through the standard campus alcohol events risk management process. In addition, we are delaying the opening of Willy’s Pub through the end of September.
If you have additional questions regarding our fall start, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your college Magisters and President also remain a good resource, and I’d encourage you to contact them as needed in the time ahead.
Also, please note that we are currently updating the content of the https://coronavirus.rice.edu/covid-frequently-asked-questions to reflect the policy changes announced in this letter and earlier today by CMAC. The revised FAQ will be launched by the end of day on Friday, August 6.
Let me end by saying that as we start another year on campus, I hope everyone will continue to embrace a collective spirit of responsibility since it is again needed to enable us to have a successful semester. I hope you all enjoy the last days of summer, and safe travels during your return to campus. I look forward to seeing you all soon.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates