A message from the Rice Crisis Management Team

As you’ve probably heard, the World Health Organization has declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic, President Trump has imposed extraordinary restrictions on international travelers to the U.S. and Houston’s mayor has declared an emergency health declaration for the city that is Rice University’s home.

The news about COVID-19 has been changing by the hour.  We appreciate everyone’s patience as evolving circumstances have forced difficult decisions that have to be revised and refined as public health officials release new information. Now, the rapidly evolving situation is leading us to refine our plans.

University campuses are an especially sensitive environment during a pandemic because so many students live, study and interact with each other every hour of the day, increasing the prospect that people who are infected might unwittingly pass the virus along to others. Our first priority is protecting the health not only of Rice’s students and employees, but also the well-being of our entire community.

That’s why we’ve made a very difficult decision. Rice University will transition to fully remote instruction for all classes for the remainder of this semester, effective March 23, and undergraduate residential colleges will be closed to most students after March 25.

One of our main concerns is that Rice doesn’t have the facilities or the personnel needed to manage a large-scale quarantine of students if the virus spreads through our residential colleges. The only way to eliminate that possibility is to dramatically reduce the number of undergraduate students staying on campus.

However, we realize that, for a number of reasons, some students cannot return home. The university will work with students whose extraordinary circumstances make it impossible for them to move off campus. The criteria for those exceptions and the form for petitioning to stay on campus can be found in the separate message emailed to undergraduates by the dean of undergraduate students.

For graduate students, classes and coursework will also be delivered remotely.  Graduate research will continue in its present form and the graduate student apartments will remain open with additional precautions.  For additional details see the letter sent to graduate students.

A separate message was sent to faculty with instruction for classes moving to remote delivery beginning March 23.

Just to be clear, Rice University will remain open.  Academic and administrative offices will continue to operate and employees will continue their work.  Employees will be encouraged to avoid unnecessary gatherings, meetings involving more than 25 people will be forbidden and alternative work arrangements will be encouraged. Consult with your supervisor and Human Resources if you have questions.

Indeed, because one of the most important strategies for preventing the spread of the coronavirus is avoiding large crowds of people, the university is banning any gathering of more than 25 people on campus. Also, Rice facilities will not be rented to outside groups for the rest of this semester and Fondren Library will only be open to those with Rice ID’s.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out with your questions, and keep checking the FAQ’s posted on emergency.rice.edu for more information.

Rice Crisis Management Team

About Arie Passwaters

Arie Wilson Passwaters is editor of Rice New.