Dear students -
I am a bit amazed we are halfway through classes, and I hope each of you enjoyed a restful midterm recess. It has been an eventful semester, with our fall semester start (once again) complicated by the pandemic. But as I am sure you are all aware, the COVID situation in our area continues to improve. We see a similar pattern on our campus, with the last two weeks showing very few positive tests among Rice community members (and only one positive test among undergraduates).
This is especially encouraging since, as previously announced, we have scaled back several COVID restrictions in recent weeks (including the return to in person classes and full capacity indoor dining). It is important to note that how and when we shift policies reflects a dynamic process of monitoring and managing COVID in our community. In recent weeks we have been stair-stepping down restrictions on campus: we ease up a bit on selected restrictions, pause and monitor our campus health, and then ease up again if circumstances remain good. The speed and ordering of any changes reflects various priorities and concerns, including our mission as a higher education institution.
Today, I am pleased to announce that we are modifying an additional COVID policy: indoor consumption of alcohol is permitted in the residential colleges, provided that students abide by the rules and expectations detailed in Rice’s Alcohol Policy. Restrictions on cross-college events that include alcohol (“public” parties, crawls) remain in effect.
If the improvements we are seeing in COVID in our community and the greater Houston area continue, I feel optimistic that by next semester few COVID restrictions will remain. If the situation deteriorates, we will of course have to consider reimposing appropriate measures.
As encouraging as current trends are, with movement toward more “normal” ways of engaging with peers and others across campus a welcomed change, I do want to take a moment and recognize the exceptional challenges we have all experienced since the pandemic began. In many ways it has been a long year and a half, filled with substantial stresses for all of us. In my experience, no one has been immune to this, and for some the pressures associated with coursework and social obligations that accompany the return to campus can feel overwhelming. Please remember that everyone at Rice cares about your wellbeing, and it is okay to seek help from others if you are struggling. Equally, it is important we pay attention to the welfare of others and act to support them when needed.
Last week, students from across campus participated in mental health awareness week activities, highlighting that keeping each other safe and healthy is a Rice community value. As a Rice student, many resources remain available to you, and you should never hesitate to reach out. The Student Wellbeing Office and the Rice Counseling Center provide services ranging from case management to confidential counseling for undergraduate and graduate students. Both offices are located at the Barbara and David GIbbs Recreation and Wellness Center and are open Monday through Friday 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Appointments can be made by calling 713-348-3311 and walk-ins are available. If you are worried about your mental health safety or the safety of another student, please first call RUPD at 713-348-6000 (24/7) and then 713-348-3311 (24/7).
In addition, remember that dedicated staff in many other offices on campus (including Student Health Services, Student Success Initiatives, Office of Academic Advising, and Disability Services) remain ready to assist students. Various groups and outlets are also available, including spiritual and cultural organizations, residential college teams (Magisters, RA’s and College Coordinators), supportive peer groups (including Rice Health Advisors, STRIVE Liaisons), and athletic and fitness activities are numerous and provide an important avenue for stress relief.
I want to end by noting that, later this month, you will receive a link to the National College Health Assessment, a nationally recognized research survey that collects precise data about students’ health habits, behaviors, and perceptions. Data from this assessment has assisted Rice University in the past with determining what resources our students need in order to be healthy and successful while attending school. We encourage you to take the survey when it comes out, it will help us help you.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates