Rice Business Facilities McNair Hall

Message from Dean Peter Rodriguez to staff:

Dear staff,

I hope you and your families had a chance to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend. I am writing to let you know the progress and preparations for our eventual return to campus this summer and the roll out of the fall term. 

Based on research, along with safety protocols coordinated with Rice and the guidance of medical and epidemiological experts, we are working towards all courses being delivered in a dual modality, with students present in the classroom both physically and via remote connection. This ensures that everyone in our community with a health concern, individual concern or company/employer challenge can safely return to McNair Hall, while we provide students with the top-tier education and experience that defines Rice Business. 

We will have new inputs and changes to our plans throughout the following weeks, but we have teams in place who are working hard to plan, communicate and execute a safe and successful return to campus. 

The single top priority is your safety. 

Soon after the first public reports about coronavirus, Rice launched our pre-existing crisis protocol for serious health events. Within days, all classes moved to remote delivery and all on-campus events were cancelled or moved online. Staff and faculty began working from home. We’re grateful to say this functioned early and well, averting major community spread in our university family.

The Rice University Crisis Management Advisory Council has been meeting consistently since the start of the pandemic. George Andrews is our representative on this team, which sets campus-wide protocols for cleaning, re-entry policy, personal protective equipment (PPE) and more.

Also, at the university level, a faculty group called the Academic Restart Committee (ARC) has been formed, and James Weston is our delegate. They will be responsible for working through issues to assist faculty and providing advice and guidance on critical aspects of the restart in the fall, whether or not that ends up being dual delivery. At this point, the business school intends to be dual delivery, as stated previously. 

At the business school level — and coupled with Kevin Kirby’s new Monday updates about the university’s plans, policies and responses — I enlisted a Summer 2020 Reopening Working Group who have been tasked to reopen the school safely and on time.  

Fabiola Currarino, reporting to Barbara Ostdiek, is the group’s lead, working alongside a few department heads (Kathleen Clark, Adam Herman, Phil Heavilin, Ben Guest, Elaine Brewer and Deanna Golden). On a weekly basis, the group is consulting with the dean’s suite on key issues and decision making. 

To date, the working group has: 

  • Assessed classroom capacity and compliance with distancing guidelines
  • Recommended new technological capabilities for classrooms
  • Begun outlining guidelines for co-curricular and community-building activities for students
  • Addressed cleaning spaces and safe enter-exit strategies for classrooms and offices
  • Discussed potential shift schedules for staff

The working group now will be reaching out to students, faculty and staff to learn about special accommodations, constraints, teaching preferences or other concerns needed for your personal safety and professional and personal situation. Adam Herman will be the lead for students; Fabiola will be the lead for faculty and staff.

More details will follow this email, but for now I want you to know that we are working hard to make everyone feel comfortable about coming back to work and class. In the meantime, I know I can count on your patience and flexibility during this time when we’ll be learning new routines and protocols. 

Thank you for being an integral part of a problem-solving team. Your creativity and determination will be our hallmark. 

P.S. Starting today, my COVID messages to our community will come out biweekly.

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