Dear Rice community,
I write today to let you know about our thinking and preliminary plans for the fall semester. A year ago, we set forth principles to guide our decisions about academic matters and the operation of the campus. Those important tenets including protecting the health of our community, basing our decisions on science, and carrying out our academic mission as best possible in the pandemic environment. I’m pleased to announce today that given our ability to operate safely, the high probability that everyone in our community who wants a vaccine will be able to get one before August, and the continuing improvement of the COVID-19 environment in the Houston area, we anticipate a largely normal fall semester and are planning accordingly.
While many details remain to be worked out, we envision most classes being delivered in-person, most university housing being fully occupied, and a relaxation of our COVID-19 policies such as gathering size and perhaps even the mask requirement (subject to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control). While we must prepare for different circumstances and adapt if the environment changes, I am optimistic that we can deliver the robust high quality in-person educational experience that our faculty and students enjoyed prior to the pandemic actions we began taking just over a year ago.
Additional details will be forthcoming shortly and over the next few weeks from the Provost and the Crisis Management Team.
In the coming weeks we will also be evaluating whether improved circumstances (campus population vaccination percentage, COVID positive testing rates on campus and in the surrounding metropolitan area) warrant relaxing any campus policies regarding COVID-19. In the meantime, we ask you to continue abiding by all policies, including testing, mask and physical distancing requirements.
This has not been an easy year. But there is the reason for optimism now, especially regarding the fall semester. I want to take this opportunity once more to thank faculty, staff, and students from all parts of our university who have enabled us to carry out our missions and sustain a strong sense of community.
With warm regards and optimism about our future,