Dear students –
In case you missed it, yesterday afternoon Kevin Kirby (Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee) sent a message to the Rice community reminding everyone to stay safe and make healthy choices during the upcoming Super Bowl Weekend. I know that Super Bowl Sunday is traditionally a time when many gather together to have fun and watch the game (and the commercials!), but I want to echo Dr. Kirby’s message on the importance of doing things differently this year.
While the rollout of the vaccine is offering hope that we are turning the corner with this virus, that process is just beginning. Everyone needs to remain diligent in adhering to safety protocols, whether on or off campus. Please refer to the Culture of Care Agreement (updated for Spring 2021) for an overview of these protocols for students, and more generally our expectations for the steps you should take to keep yourself and others safe. When I look back on our success in containing the spread of COVID-19 in our community last semester, I remain incredibly proud. We have much to be thankful for, including a student body that are active partners in promoting a healthy campus experience – for everyone.
I know the rules outlined in the Culture of Care Agreement may not align with your ideal college experience. We all eagerly await the time when we can relax these rules and return to our typical ways of interacting with one another, and I remain optimistic that the process will begin this semester. But, we’re not there yet. As I’m sure you’ve heard, new variants of the virus are more than 50 percent more transmissible than the original version -- meaning it will be MUCH easier to spread it to others if you have it or to catch it if exposed. This fact makes wearing masks and maintaining physical distancing critical to maintain. Take care when you are eating meals to do so in your room, or outside while spaced at least six feet away from others. We have seen repeated examples, both on and off-campus, of persons transmitting the virus to others during shared meals and conversation when they were not masked and close together -- including when outdoors.
And, remember: testing does not prevent transmission. As much as our testing program is critical in our ability to welcome students, faculty, and staff to campus, you can still be a risk to others if you are not following the protective behaviors we have been emphasizing. Your continual adherence to safety practices is what prevents you, and others, from getting sick. And, keep in mind: we have almost 300 students living on campus this semester who were not with us on campus last semester, so be sure to help them if they have questions on how to navigate campus.
Please know that we believe strongly in the importance of the Culture of Care Agreement during this challenging time, and I appreciate how many of you adhere to the expectations it describes. I do want to clarify how reports of violations of the Culture of Care Agreement (CCA) are handled. While most cases will default to the COVID Community Court (CCC), recall that the CCA states that Student Judicial Programs (SJP) may divert cases to their office in certain circumstances. The types of cases that will not be referred to the CCC and will be handled by SJP include those that involve:
- Repeat violations of any parts of the Culture of Care Agreement.
- Reports of alcohol possession and consumption on campus (even if the students are of legal age).
- Hosting (inviting, planning, organizing) a gathering of students that exceeds the gathering limits or occupancy requirements, whether on or off-campus.
- Malicious violations of the Culture of Care Agreement that involves willfully creating a danger to the health and safety of others.
We all want to continue the success we saw last semester, and so behavior that doesn’t align with the expectations outlined in the Culture of Care Agreement will continue to be taken seriously.
Thank you for reading, and be well everyone.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates