Account for international students when planning for fall
On Rice’s campus, a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel finally seems to be emerging. The administration is optimistic about “a mostly normal fall semester,” according to communications sent out by Kevin Kirby. According to President Leebron’s announcement on fall planning, most classes are expected to be in person, most university housing is expected to be fully occupied and COVID-19 policies regarding gathering restrictions are expected to be relaxed. The road forward for many Rice students is clear: Sign up for a vaccine appointment as soon as possible and wait for more than 80% of the Rice community to be fully vaccinated so that COVID-19 policies can be relaxed.
For the administration, the road forward is less clear, as they face obstacles planning fall semester until a larger portion of the student body reports their status to Crisis Management via a Veoci form. However, as next semester slowly approaches, we ask the administration to account for international students in their plans, and keep in mind how different areas of the world are adapting to the pandemic.
International students may not have the same access to the vaccines — 87% of vaccines have gone to wealthy countries, and even then, only 14% of the EU population has received their first dose compared to 36% of the U.S. — and travel back to Rice may be restricted for them next semester. For an international student in China, where FDA-approved vaccines are not available, it might make sense for them to wait to receive their shot until they are in the U.S. But if they choose to do that, they will likely be forced to quarantine upon arrival in Houston. Even after they receive their shot, they still won’t be fully vaccinated, at least according to the CDC, until two weeks after their second dose (or first if it’s Johnson & Johnson). Either way, the logistical headaches presented are enough to make your head spin.
This is all relevant to the ongoing debate surrounding whether college campuses can, or should, mandate those living on-campus receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Many of our peer institutions, including Duke, Brown and Cornell, have announced recently that they will mandate students be vaccinated when they return in the fall. It is not outrageous to think that Rice will require the vaccine as well. After all, they already require a host of others — meningitis, measles and mumps, to name just a few, as well as the flu shot last fall. Should the administration choose to require the vaccine, there should be contingencies in place for those students, like international students, who by no fault of their own will be unable to receive an approved vaccine before they arrive on campus for the fall.
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.
More from The Rice Thresher
Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.
This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.
In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.