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Make Admin communication more centralized

By Thresher Editorial Board     2/23/21 9:23pm

Almost one year ago, we wrote an editorial titled “Centralize COVID-19 Communication.” That editorial, published on March 10, 2020, came a day after Rice made the decision to suspend classes following the announcement that a Rice employee had tested positive for COVID-19. We wrote, “When we instead get information fragmented between Rice Alert, our magisters, other students’ magisters, our professors, our college presidents or group chat screenshots, it becomes almost impossible to distinguish rumors from facts.”

Last week, Rice faced another crisis that tested its communication channels: A deadly winter storm wreaked havoc on the state of Texas, leaving more than one million people in the Houston area without power and water, including hundreds of Rice community members. Amidst this chaos, 800 doses of the scarce COVID-19 vaccine were made available at the East Gym, sending students sprinting across campus.

The events of the past week revealed how a lack of centralized communication remains an issue for Rice. The vaccine distribution announcement was sent as a standardized message to all college magisters at 11:07 a.m. on Feb. 15, and magisters were asked to forward the announcement to the students at their colleges; this approach caused significant disparities in when students received information about the vaccine. Hanszen College, for instance, only received an email from one of their resident associates at 12:19 p.m., just 10 minutes before students were advised to stop joining the line. While we recognize that the COVID-19 vaccinations were organized at the last minute, the administration should have directly emailed or texted all members of the Rice community in order to ensure equitable access. 

Uneven communication across colleges continued as the storm knocked out power and water for many off campus students. On Monday night, only a handful of colleges had received communication from their core teams about options for off-campus students to move into spare rooms on campus. Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman said that all magisters know that they should accommodate off campus students if possible, yet this message was not clearly communicated to all students. This communication was instead left to individual college presidents and magisters, leaving many students confused and stranded in unsafe situations. Students were also uncertain about the COVID-19 testing requirements to move on campus, which is an issue that could have been clarified by administration. 

Although the administration’s communication has improved since our editorial one year ago, with weekly crisis management emails updating us on the COVID-19 situation at Rice, situations such as what happened last week must be handled better. This past week’s events demonstrate the need for a consistent, centralized source of communication, where students can all simultaneously receive comprehensive, clear information.

Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Rishab Ramapriyan, Ivanka Perez, Amy Qin, Nayeli Shad, Ella Feldman, Katelyn Landry, Rynd Morgan, Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Simona Matovic and Dalia Gulca.

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