Rice courses returning to in-person instruction

Students on campus

The Office of the Provost sent the following message regarding Rice moving all courses back to in-person instruction in a Sept. 16 email to the university community:

Thank you for your continued work to provide a safe, healthy and enriching learning environment to Rice students amid the challenging circumstances we continue to face because of COVID-19 and, this week, Hurricane Nicholas.

As you know, we started the semester teaching class online because of the increased prevalence of COVID-19’s delta variant on campus and in the surrounding community. Weeks later, we moved courses with 50 or fewer students to in-person instruction after seeing a reduction in positive COVID-19 cases on campus. Since then, the number of positive cases has continued to decrease. As of Monday, the positivity rate over the past seven days among the Rice community was 0.22%. In addition, we are pleased to report that we continue to see no evidence of transmission in the classroom.

As a result of this sustained reduction in positive cases and our community’s high vaccination rate, all courses should aim to return to in-person instruction Monday, Sept. 20, except in cases where instructors have received an exemption. Please note, instructors of students who are fully remote due to visa issues should continue to provide online or asynchronous options throughout the semester, as previously discussed.

Students on campus
With the exception of those exempted, all Rice courses are returning to in-person instruction within the next two weeks. (Photo by Jeff Fitlow)

We understand that some faculty have already transitioned several of their lectures to remote format and may need additional time to prepare for in-person instruction. Therefore, for those who need additional time, we will allow in-person instruction for classes of more than 50 students to begin Monday, Sept. 27, by which date the course must be taught in the mode described on the Office of the Registrar’s course schedule.

Instructors who would like to be considered for a full semester exemption from in-person instruction must submit a request, unless they already received approval earlier this semester. Details on exemption criteria and how to file for one can be found here. Please be aware that international students generally need to take at least three credits of in-person courses (classified as face to face by the registrar) to meet the terms of their visas.

We appreciate that some of you offered your larger classrooms to others after pivoting to online instruction. Your efforts resulted in a substantial number of courses having reassigned classrooms. Since the majority of classes will now be in person for the rest of the semester, those reassignments are no longer feasible. Therefore, most classroom assignments will be reset to the classroom assignments that existed Sept. 2. These updated assignments will be posted at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17 to the course schedule and ESTHER. The Office of the Registrar will then work to find alternate classrooms for courses based on enrollment and classroom availability. If you need help locating a space to hold your class, please reach out to classrooms@rice.edu.

As a reminder, we would like all instructors who are teaching in person to have recordings of their lectures, or copies of their notes or slides, available for students. This will greatly facilitate the need to keep students who are not feeling well out of the classroom and provide a level of continuity for students who might need to quarantine due to a potential exposure.

As for the disruption to classes this week due to the storm, courses that were cancelled Sept. 14 can be made up in one of several ways, if you desire. Instructors can post asynchronous material for students to review or they can select a make-up day, but all students must be available for that make-up class. Midterm recess or other nonstandard dates (i.e,. finals period, study days) cannot be used as a make-up day for missed class.

Thank you again for everything you are doing to help carry out our mission of providing outstanding learning opportunities to Rice students. In addition to a safe and healthy environment, our goal is to continue to give students a quality, personalized education and university experience. This semester has required substantial flexibility on the part of all instructors and we greatly appreciate your understanding as we have navigated these circumstances.

Warm regards,

Reginald DesRoches, Howard Hughes Provost

Christopher Johns-Krull, Faculty Senate Speaker

Bridget Gorman, Dean of Undergraduates

Seiichi Matsuda, Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies