Please read: Notice on public safety and disciplinary procedures this week

COVID-19 response weekly update

Dear students,

Earlier today I met with the College Magisters, Presidents, Chief and Associate Justices to discuss the public health challenges we are facing right now. Many of us have previously experienced serious weather events at Rice, but never during a pandemic involving a highly transmissible infectious disease. For this reason, I am asking all members of our community to share responsibility in protecting the health of your colleges and the broader Rice community.

With classes being canceled this week, I understand that you may have more time on your hands than you expected -- and with that, it may be very tempting to gather together in ways that violate the Culture of Care Agreement. It is crucial that you don’t do this. Our testing program was offline Monday and Tuesday, and we have relatively little testing happening today and probably for the rest of the week. As a result, our ability to pluck out asymptomatic positive persons is more limited this week, meaning there is a higher risk of significant spread (especially given the more transmissible variants that have developed).

To be blunt, I don’t want to end up in a situation where I have to put an entire college in quarantine. But you should think about this as a real, potential outcome if everyone doesn’t take responsibility for their choices and recognize how those choices may impact the wellbeing and health of others. We were all excited to unexpectedly be able to distribute 800 vaccines to Rice community members earlier this week, but as those who were vaccinated were told at the time: “It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. COVID-19 vaccines that require 2 shots may not protect you until a week or two after your second shot.” The rollout of the vaccines is good news, but many in our community are not vaccinated and so the burden remains on all of us to behave in ways that protect others.

In the interests of public health and due to the current conditions in Houston and on our campus, I am implementing the following changes, effective now through Sunday evening:

  • All registered outdoor events featuring alcohol are canceled. This means, effectively, that the campus is 100% dry through the weekend. No alcohol is allowed to be consumed by any undergraduates on campus, even those of legal age.
  • I am reducing the maximum gathering size for indoor spaces to no more than 10 people. Exceptions may be granted by magisters for public events only (e.g., watching a movie in a college commons).

Unfortunately, these are not the only measures I am taking. I have heard multiple reports from your magisters, RAs, college presidents, and CJs that last night several groups of students ignored rules clearly outlined in the Culture of Care Agreement. As a result, I have communicated with Student Judicial Programs that violations of the Culture of Care Agreement, starting now through this weekend, will be addressed solely by SJP and not through the COVID-19 Community Court (“CCC”). As you know, in the past, initial and low-level violations of the Culture of Care Agreement have been addressed through educational measures. Because of the serious public health consequences that can arise from behavior that violates our COVID-19 related expectations during this time, any violations of the Culture of Care Agreement will be met with disciplinary sanctions, resulting in a disciplinary record. This is a more serious response than the educational measures that the CCC assigns because these violations of our shared expectations must be addressed swiftly and with a consequence that reflects the heightened public health challenges that we are facing as a community.

While we are working through these extreme weather issues, any violation of the Culture of Care Agreement will result in a disciplinary sanction that is commensurate with the safety risk posed by the behavior. Also know that the consequences will be increased for violations involving possession or consumption of alcohol, or exceeding the 10 person gathering limit without magister approval.

Our belief is that, by Monday, most of the urgent problems caused by the artic storm will have passed and our campus should return to normal operations (including our testing program). At that time, our disciplinary processes related to the Culture of Care Agreement will revert back to the original method, and initial, low-level violations will be referred to the CCC for educational measures.

Let me close by saying that I have asked the Core Teams (magisters, RAs) and student leadership to amplify this message by communicating directly with each of your college communities. Please keep an eye out for their communications as well.

Best regards,
Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates