Administration announces petition for winter break housing
Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman sent out an email on Wednesday, Oct. 8 with details regarding winter break housing as well as general updates on plans for Thanksgiving, winter recess and the spring semester.
Gorman announced in her email that students will need to demonstrate a “convincing need” to stay on campus. However, she said that the administration is planning to consider all situations presented to them in the petitions.
“On the housing petition, we provide students the opportunity to describe their circumstances [when] filling out the petition,” Gorman said.
The current housing petition form asks if those seeking to stay on campus are international students or students facing housing insecurity, reflecting similar criteria from the spring semester. While 77 percent of spring housing petitions were approved, some students said that they wished administration had been considerate of students who would be going back home to COVID-19 outbreaks or unsafe environments.
Gorman said that administration plans to take concerns about housing and dining expenses over winter break into account.
“The petition includes a question that asks if financial support is needed should their petition to stay be granted. Similar to how we responded this past summer, we will consider requests for financial support from students who wouldn’t be able to stay without aid from Rice,” Gorman said.
With the fall semester coming to an end in three weeks, students are starting to consider their plans for the break. While some students are booking flights for home or looking at off campus locations in Houston, others said they are hoping they’ll be able to extend their stay at Rice over winter break. Lingkun Guo, an international student from China, said she doesn’t see going home as a viable option.
“I petitioned to stay on campus because I’m concerned about the travel restrictions faced by Chinese nationals when entering the U.S.,” Guo, a Brown College sophomore, said. “If I were to go home, I’m not entirely sure when and if I’ll be able to return to campus for the spring semester.”
Addison Saley, a member of the cross country team, said the unpredictability of the season prompted her to petition to stay on campus.
“There is minimal, if not zero information about when our meets will be, how training will work out, if we are expected to be on campus earlier or anything like that,” Saley, a Wiess College freshman, said. “I am petitioning as a proactive move to ensure I will be able to participate in training, whatever or whenever that may be.”
Bryan Lankford, a Duncan College freshman, said he is also very resistant to the idea of going home, where family stress would disrupt the level of comfort he feels at Rice.
“I’d rather not be around [my parents] at all,” Lankford said. “I feel safe and welcome at Rice, while I feel the exact opposite with my parents.”
Tori Gonzales, a Martel College sophomore, also said that going home over winter break would present emotional and financial difficulties for her.
“For me, going and staying home for all of Christmas break isn’t as simple as most,” Gonzales said. “When I go home, it applies added pressure onto my family through space accommodation. I also have an OC job in Houston that would be hard for me to keep if I am gone for almost two months. Overall, for the sake of my mental health and being able to financially support myself it is best for me to stay in Houston.”
As a QuestBridge Scholar, Arielle Noah, a Will Rice College freshman said she is concerned about potential difficulties she might face with her personal expenses, particularly as a result of Rice’s limited dining options as of late.
“My only concern is making sure I’m able to buy groceries and other personal items ... I’m [a QuestBridge Scholar] so all of my money comes from the refund check, [and] I’m not sure how dining will be... I have to eat out more since the menu isn’t accommodating all the time for vegetarians,” Noah said.
Gonzales, who stayed on campus over the spring, said she was very grateful for the Martel resident associates, who tried to accommodate for the servery’s limitations.
“One of the things I appreciated from last spring is when the RAs would use college funding to host OC food nights — they would pick-up our orders and bring them to us,” Gonzales said. “These nights provided students with an alternative to servery food, which at the time lacked a variety of options and wasn’t very friendly to those with dietary restrictions.”
While some students say they are pretty confident about being approved, others are not. As an international student who has been staying on campus since the spring semester, Guo said she has little reason to believe that she won’t be approved.
“I feel like Rice will approve [my] petition because one of the questions in the petition form asks if the student is an international student. I think this shows that Rice is considering its international students.”
Noah, however, said she is hesitant about whether or not Rice will approve her petition.
“I’m not sure how hopeful I am since a lot of people will want to stay on campus for health and safety reasons,” Noah said. “I understand that my situation is not the worst it could be so Rice may send me home.”
While Saley is not very worried about being approved to stay on campus, she did express a potential concern about the isolation that she said will likely occur.
“I am not worried about staying on campus. The only thing is it may be a little lonely,” Saley said. “I do not know how many people plan to stay, but I imagine it is not a lot.”
College core teams are already thinking about and trying to prepare for the potential mental health determinants that may occur as a result of inevitable isolation. Winston Liaw, one of the Duncan magisters, said that he and his wife, Eden King, plan to be especially attentive to this issue.
“Eden and I are concerned about loneliness and social isolation among Duncaroos and that these feelings will worsen over the winter break,” Liaw said. “Because there are no classes, we see this as an important time for us to continue building relationships with students at Duncan and to facilitate deeper connection between students.”
Gonzales said that she believes Rice should allow for more gatherings among students, given the success Rice has observed in keeping COVID-19 cases to a minimum.
“We did have a GroupMe that helped some, but it was crazy to be here when the swings, hammocks, and picnic tables were being removed from campus,” Gonzales said. “This time around students have already adjusted to a full semester of social distancing and weekly testing and I think this lends to being able to have responsible and socially-distanced gatherings.”
More from The Rice Thresher
Following an opinion piece by former Students Turning Rice Into a Violence-Free Environment liaison Sarah Park which called for organizational reform, the Thresher reached out to several STRIVE affiliates to further investigate the claims made and discuss STRIVE’s mission and the whisper network.
Alongside the student expansion, the administration plans to add around 50 faculty members with diversity in mind, according to President David Leebron.
The Abercrombie Engineering Laboratory will be demolished and replaced by a new engineering and science building beginning this May. Demolition will start mid-May and construction of the new building will be substantially complete in January 2023, according to Associate Vice President for Facilities Engineering and Planning Kathy Jones.