I am writing today with two announcements.
First, just over two weeks ago I sent you a message announcing our Culture of Care Agreement, a document that outlines Rice’s behavioral expectations for all students in educational, residential, and social spaces during the coming academic year. I asked all students to read and sign the agreement by this past Friday, August 7th. Nearly all of you have done so, and I’d like to thank you for your timely attention. If you have not read and signed the agreement, please do so immediately.
I hope that each of you read the Culture of Care Agreement thoroughly, reflected on its contents and intentions, and discussed it with your family and your friends. Undoubtedly, this will be a unique year at Rice, one where each of us holds a critical responsibility to do our best to protect our own health as well as the health of those around us.
As a follow up to this agreement, we have also created an accompanying Culture of Care Video, which you are also required to watch and confirm by Friday, August 14. The video is about 20 minutes long, and it discusses the fall semester, including in more detail some of the key policies outlined in the Culture of Care Agreement.
All students have two options for accessing the Culture of Care Agreement in CANVAS:
- In a few minutes, an enrollment email into a CANVAS course will be sent to you. You can click the "Start Course" link in this enrollment email to get into the system. This will take you to a dashboard where you can click "Go to Course" under the Culture of Care Video course listing. This will take you through the video.
- You can go to catalog.rice.edu/dashboard and sign in using your Net ID and password. This will take you to the dashboard where you can click "Go to Course" under the Culture of Care Video course listing. This will take you to the video.
Once you have watched and confirmed the Culture of Care video on CANVAS, certifying that you understand and agree, you will be emailed a certificate of completion. If you have any questions about accessing the video, please contact my office at email@example.com.
In addition, I am also writing today to discuss our alcohol policy for the start of the fall semester. As you saw in the Culture of Care Agreement, we have enacted additional restrictions on alcohol use and social gatherings this fall. These changes were made so that our policy aligned with and supported the public health aims of new rules on campus regarding face masks as well as size limits on group gatherings. As you read the Culture of Care Agreement, these new policies may have seemed straightforward - and to a certain extent, they are. But, as I discuss on the Culture of Care Video you will watch, in order for these new policies to be effective it is crucial that everyone considers carefully what these new policies will mean for you, on a day to day basis, as you engage with others both on and off campus.
My first time going to campus with a mask on, I learned a lot. It took a couple of tries for me to settle into my mask, figuring out how to make sure it fit well to my face and to become comfortable with wearing it when I was talking to others. Physically distancing was also a challenge at first. After months of engaging only online, I would see someone I cared about on campus, and my natural inclination was to rush up and stand too close as I excitedly said hello. Each time, I had to actively check my actions, reminding myself what six feet of separation actually looks like and taking care in order to distance appropriately.
In talking to others - faculty, staff, and students – I have learned that my initial experience on returning to campus was not unique. Everyone is re-learning how to be, how to create and recreate connections to others, something that is arguably the best part of the Rice experience.
As such, it is important that we allow time for all of you to settle into the new rules for living and learning at Rice with all of your wits about you. The rules in place around COVID - masks, physical distancing, and occupancy limits - for returning students in particular, will make campus life look different from what you are accustomed to. A long body of research shows that it takes time to settle into and form new habits, even for those who have good intentions and are trying their best to comply. For these reasons, I am keeping our campus dry from now and at least through the move-in period for returning students (on August 22 and 23). Please note that this prohibition on all alcohol consumption supersedes the alcohol-related provisions in the Culture of Care Agreement while we all settle in.While welcome back celebrations will occur across campus, alcohol consumption at all functions (both public and private, regardless of size) is prohibited. Please note that Willy’s Pub and Valhalla remain closed, as we are following state-wide restrictions set by Governor Abbott that have closed bars in the state of Texas.
Everyone needs at least a few days to settle into the new rules on campus - to have some time to realize and absorb what these rules mean for living. Assuming that we have a good start, and following consultation with the residential college core teams and student leaders, my intention is that I will ease this alcohol restriction at some point soon after I’m convinced that everyone has adjusted successfully. At that point, alcohol use on campus will be permitted, provided that students adhere to the rules for use that are described in the Culture of Care Agreement.
Please know that a variety of welcome back events are planned for August 22 and 23, and I hope you will join in. Each residential college is hosting welcome back events during this weekend before classes start, and your college leadership will be communicating details on these events in the days ahead. In addition, campuswide we are planning welcome back events that will take place throughout the first week of class, including a Virtual Escape Room scheduled for Saturday, August 22nd. Please be on the lookout for more information on this and other events.
Finally, I’d like to end by apologizing for not yet sending around the sign-up sheet for coronavirus testing for off campus returning students -- that message will go out in two days, on Wednesday, August 12th. In that message, I will also be updating all students on our regular testing procedures for fall semester. Please keep an eye out for that message, and as always, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates