Message from the DOU: Update on Thanksgiving, Winter Recess, and Spring

Message from the DOU: Update on Thanksgiving, Winter Recess, and Spring

October 28, 2020

Dear students –

I am hoping that this email finds you well. I am writing today with an update on various topics, including dining, the end of the semester, winter break, and the spring semester calendar and move-in scheduling -- so please read this message carefully.

Relaxing rules around where you can access meals

Starting today, we are implementing more flexible dining options. All students are now allowed to pick up food from the servery of their choice. At this time, the spaces inside the commons are still not available for dining, but as the weather continues to cooperate and get cooler, we would encourage students to continue dining outside. Please remember to continue to wear your face masks, wash your hands, and keep a safe physical distance when you are in the serveries and other public spaces.

Thanksgiving Travel and Final Exams

As you know, we shortened this semester so that the last day of instruction is Friday, November 20th. Please remember why we shortened the semester – the health and safety of the community is our top priority and informs all major decisions, including this one. Our expectation is that if you choose to travel for Thanksgiving, even if that travel is a relatively short distance away, that you will not return to campus until the start of the spring semester. Please do not return to Rice “just because”; if you travel home, remain there.

In recent days there have been increasingly more news stories about outbreaks in states in which people are spending more time in enclosed spaces because it is getting cooler. As you plan to travel during the holiday season, please take care to travel as efficiently and safely as possible, remembering that asymptomatic infection and transmission are very real dangers. You can find CDC’s guidance about traveling during the pandemic: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html here

For those of you who currently participate in our campus testing program, remain diligent in getting tested throughout the end of this semester - and try to time your final test for just a day or two prior to when you leave campus to travel home. If you plan to travel closer to the Thanksgiving holiday, know that all test sites at Rice will be available for normal operating hours on Monday, Nov 23 and Tuesday, Nov 24. On Wednesday, Nov 25 all test sites will be testing until 12:00 pm. Testing on campus will resume on Friday, Nov 27.

Please know that if you return to Rice after Thanksgiving travel, you will be required to test more frequently, perhaps with a quarantine requirement. Also keep in mind that if you are exposed to COVID because of travel, there is a potential for quarantine which could interrupt your winter holiday plans. For these reasons, you should discuss this possibility with your family prior to finalizing your holiday plans.

For those of you who remain on campus through the Thanksgiving weekend, dining services will remain open (although operating on a modified schedule, details are forthcoming soon). In order for us to prepare properly for dining as well as COVID testing needs between the Thanksgiving weekend and the end of semester move-out date (December 17), all students who live on campus or live off-campus and participate in our testing program are required to complete this https://forms.gle/BrtpAFsGmo2dMyxG8 short survey by Wednesday, November 4.

Final Exams

As a reminder to help with your planning, recall that the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week (November 23 and 24) and the week after Thanksgiving (November 30 - December 1) have been designated as independent study days. No required class meetings or new assignments can occur, and no tests may be given, during these independent study days. Previously assigned work (e.g. problem sets, final papers, etc.) that would normally be due in the last week of a semester may be due on Thursday or Friday, December 3 - 4. Instructors who wish may remotely hold a review session during the week after Thanksgiving. Attendance for such a review may not be required and no new material that will be covered on a final exam may be presented.

The final exam period runs from December 9 -16, and all final exams will be conducted remotely (either as a traditional take-home exam or using online test-taking tools such as those provided in Canvas, for example). The Academic Restart Committee (ARC) encouraged (but did not mandate) instructors to give an open book, take-home exams this Fall. As is normal, final exams may be due either at the end of the scheduled final exam period for a class or at the end of the final exam period.

Changes to the Spring Semester Calendar

Last week, President Leebron announced changes to the Spring 2021 Academic Calendar. The start of classes has been pushed back two weeks and is now scheduled for Monday, January 25. In addition, spring break has been canceled, and five days where class instruction has been canceled have been “sprinkled” throughout the semester (on February 17, March 1, March 16, March 26, and April 8). The last day of classes is scheduled for Friday, April 30.

At this time, no decisions have been made on spring commencement ceremonies. We intend to provide an update and more information on this early in the spring semester.

End of Semester Move Out Dates and Housing during Winter Recess

For those of you living on campus, the fall semester housing contract ends on Thursday, December 17 (the day after the conclusion of final exams). If you will be moving off campus after the conclusion of the fall semester, you must pack and take all belongings with you prior to leaving campus on December 17 - you may not leave items behind in your room to retrieve after the winter recess.

For students currently living on campus who will move into the new Sid Richardson building in January, you are required to pack up and move out of your current room when you leave for winter recess. We are arranging to have PODS delivered to each college where Sid Richardson students are currently living; more information on dates and procedures for moving your items into the PODS will be provided soon.

Starting December 18, card swipe access will only work for those whose petition to remain living in their residential college during winter recess is granted. Students who are unable to return home or who wish to stay for other reasons may petition to do so here: https://forms.gle/AF7JC6yohFTsnqMDA. Please keep in mind that, similar to petitions submitted in spring and summer, requests will only be granted to persons who demonstrate a convincing need to remain living on campus during the winter break. The campus will be dry during this time, and students will be required to have a meal plan and pay for housing. Rice will maintain an active COVID testing program throughout the winter recess, and all students who remain living on campus or come to campus for any reason will be required to be tested regularly during this time. For those who stay throughout the recess, similar to the expectations contract that was shared in the summer, there will be one for winter. Much like the culture of care, this contract must be signed by all students who remain and these expectations and rules will be enforced.

Spring Housing Requests, Move-in Dates, and Testing on Arrival

Earlier this week, I communicated to the college magisters and presidents our procedures for spring housing requests. Based on the information provided by students on the mid-semester survey, we expect to be able to grant all undergraduate student requests for spring semester housing. Each college will be communicating details on how to formally request a room for the spring semester shortly, so please check your email for that information and contact your college leadership if you do not hear from them within the next few days.

Move in for spring semester will begin on Tuesday, January 19. As before, this process will be staggered and coordinated with a testing-on-arrival process. Once the residential colleges collect and report back their tallies for spring semester housing requests, we will organize and release a sign-up sheet for move-in and testing slots, with options available each day between January 19 and 24. I expect to release these sign-up sheets to students on or before Monday, November 16.

And with that, you have reached the end of another long message from me. I would like to thank you all for the ongoing adherence to the expectations detailed in the Culture of Care Agreement and to the university’s COVID-19 rules and guidelines. Because of each of you, we have kept our positivity rate very low. As a community, we have much to be proud of, and I hope you know how much we deeply appreciate and admire each of you.

With warm regards,
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates