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Administration lifts indoor alcohol ban in residential colleges

Illustrated by Ndidi Nwosu

By Bonnie Zhao     10/19/21 10:11pm

Rice is now permitting indoor consumption of alcohol in residential colleges if students abide by the rules and expectations in Rice’s Alcohol Policy, according to an email sent by Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman on Oct. 15. Alcohol restrictions on cross-college events will still remain in effect. 

Gorman said that the administration is concerned that anytime a COVID restriction is lifted, there will be a potential uptick in COVID cases in our community, which is why policies have shifted gradually.

“If that happened, it would be suggestive that the policy change was the cause, although that would require more investigation to confirm,” Gorman said. “This is why we aren’t lifting every restriction all at once. We are gradually shifting our posture, allowing ourselves some time to monitor campus health between each shift to confirm that the change is not associated with an increase in COVID on our campus.”

During the week of Oct. 11, there were eight positive results reported through Rice testing, with a positivity rate of 0.14 percent. In the Greater Houston area, 925 people were reported as testing positive and there was a 4.6 percent average testing positivity rate for Texas Medical Center hospital systems, according to metrics provided by the TMC.

Gorman said that now seems to be the right time to loosen alcohol restrictions after already loosening restrictions such as class format and indoor dining, among others. 

“We had to restrict indoor alcohol use at the start of the school year due to the spread of COVID related to indoor gatherings with alcohol,” Gorman said. “Due to improved conditions surrounding COVID, this seemed like the right time to try again.”

According to Gorman, student leaders have been collaborative in the process of loosening restrictions.

“We’ve had ongoing discussions on the order and pacing for how restrictions are being rolled back,” Gorman said. “Student leadership has been … understanding that if our COVID numbers continued to stay low, that I hoped to ease up on the indoor alcohol ban at some point this semester.”

The new alcohol policy on campus continues to ban large public parties, and cross-college “crawls” are also not allowed. According to the weekly COVID-19 update by Kevin Kirby on Oct. 18, the administration will be removing, or easing, COVID-19 policies related to alcohol this week for undergraduate residential colleges, Willy’s Pub and Valhalla.

Gorman said that the reason for the lift of the indoor alcohol ban is the improved COVID-19 situation in the greater Houston area and on campus.

“We’ve been dialing back restrictions bit by bit, pausing each time to monitor whether a change shifts the COVID situation in our community,” Gorman said.

On Oct. 11, masks became required indoors only in classrooms and for gatherings of more than 10 people.

Gorman wrote in the email that if the improvements in COVID-19 in the Rice community and the greater Houston area continue, the administration is optimistic that few COVID restrictions will remain next semester.

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