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Students remaining on campus adjust to regulations, new ways of living


Illustration by Yifei Zhang

By Rynd Morgan     4/7/20 6:55pm

For the less than 10 percent of the undergraduate population remaining on campus past March 25, campus life in the midst of the pandemic comes with changes to their living spaces, daily routines and the overall atmosphere of the campus.

Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman notified students in an email sent March 12 that they must leave campus by March 25. International students who could not return home and students who faced housing insecurity or a precarious living condition could petition the Office of the Dean of Undergraduates to remain on campus; 77 percent of these petitions were approved.

An email sent by Gorman on March 25 to approved students laid out the guidelines for remaining on campus. Rice students must comply with Centers for Disease Control guidelines of social distancing, which includes staying six feet away from other people, and Texas’s stay-at-home order in addition to Rice-specific regulations. Students may not enter the rooms or bathrooms of other students or enter colleges other than their own, and when moving around outside their college, students must display university issued lanyards.

Arija Forsythe, a junior at McMurtry College, now lives alone in a suite.

“It’s kind of sad to see a campus that you’re used to having a community in, that you’re used to being able to socialize and all of these other things,” Forsythe said. “I’m in a suite which used to have six people living in it, but also a peripheral ten other people that were always hanging out, and now it’s just me. And that’s super depressing.”

Spaces on campus formerly dedicated to living and socializing have also been modified, according to the housing agreement sent to students approved to live on campus. In residential college commons, chairs have been removed from tables so that there is only one chair per table. Private dining rooms, study rooms, libraries, lounges, game rooms, and exercise rooms are off-limits due to “significantly greater difficulty in maintaining social distance.”

Students who did not already have their own bathroom said that they were moved to suites or quads and said that Housing and Dining provided them with extra toilet paper, cleaning supplies and instructions on how to clean their own spaces. 

Lingkun Guo, a freshman at Brown College, moved from a double to a suite.

“I think it’s good that they tried to make sure that everyone has their own bathroom,” Guo said. “It’s better for H&D because if only one female is on each floor, if they were to use the communal bathroom, H&D would still have to clean the whole thing, and it’s a lot of work for them.”

All buildings on campus have been locked since March 23 and are only accessible with a Rice ID, according to an email sent by the Rice University Police Department. Typically frequently visited buildings on campus, such as the Rice Memorial Center and Fondren Library, have been closed since March 18

Gabrielle Falcon said that in her walks around campus she has seen a campus that is very different from what students are used to.

“I walked on the side of [the humanities building] towards Brochstein, and it was like a Wednesday at 3:00, and there was no one sitting at Brochstein, there was no one walking from the grove, and I think in that moment, I got very emotional because I realized that things are very different,” Falcon, a Martel College senior, said. “It hit me in a very different way whenever I noticed that there really isn’t anyone here … I had never seen campus so still.”

Although the number of students and staff on campus has diminished, Guo said that there are still members of the local community who come to campus to spend time outdoors.

“In the beginning, it was kind of problematic because I heard that some people would go picnicking outside Duncan and McMurtry, because I don’t think that they realize that it’s a residential space,” Guo said. “Now people don’t come near residential colleges as much, but they still walk around the academic quad with their dogs and kids.”

Rice University Chief of Police Clemente Rodriguez said that officers have a public address system in their vehicles they use to tell campus visitors to comply with social distancing rules. RUPD has also posted signs around campus to outline social distancing guidelines and to discourage any gatherings on campus.

According to Rodriguez, RUPD has continued staffing all patrol shifts at full capacity, as they would with an average population of students, staff, faculty and visitors.

“We’ve increased our foot patrols to focus on residential areas, the intramural fields and athletic facilities, with an emphasis on enforcing social distancing and removing unauthorized visitors,“ Rodriguez wrote in an email to all departments last week.

Forsythe said that at McMurtry, the Core Team, college president and Student Association president have worked to support students living on campus and assess their needs.

“It’s made a difference for me just to know that they’re there, and I know that they’re working pretty hard,” Forsythe said. “And I can’t speak to any other college specifically, but I can say that at McMurtry, I see adults that are really worried about students on campus. Because frankly, students that are on campus are here because there is no alternative.”

Falcon said that the Core Team at Martel has also been concerned about students’ mental health.

“I think that’s their biggest concern,” Falcon said. “Because it’s hard. I mean it really is hard. I know other colleges have weekly Zoom calls with their magisters, just to check in on everyone.”

Guo said that while there are many restrictions, they are worth it to protect H&D workers and on-campus students.

“I’m glad that Rice has allowed some of us to stay, because going back wouldn’t be a good decision,” Guo said.

Falcon said that while future questions surrounding personal storage, summer housing and internships remain uncertain, the changes to life on campus have made it safer for students who can’t leave to be there.

“It sucks because there are so many things up in the air and I know Rice hasn’t figured it out yet because we haven’t figured it out yet and the world hasn’t figured it out yet, but the great thing is that in this moment, we’re taken care of, we’re safe, we’re secure,” Falcon said. 

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