Moshe Vardi 0

Return to the Rice Campus? To What End?

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In a series of email announcements over the summer, President Leebron has made clear that Rice University's plan for the fall of 2020 involves a significant presence on campus of undergraduate students and a significant fraction of courses taught in person. Another significant portion of the of undergraduate population will live off-campus, in the middle of a community where COVID-19 is still spreading uncontained. President Leebron’s justification for his logistically complex "Return-to-Rice" plan is "to provide a robust intellectual and social environment" for the fall semester. For a thorough analysis, see

This is surely one of the most consequential decisions Rice has ever been faced with, and it was made without substantive faculty input. The Administration made references to consultation with faculty experts, but none came forth or was identified. While faculty members did serve on the Academic Restart Committee, that committee dealt with the implementation of a decision already in place. The Rice Faculty Senate has not met since April 22, 2020. In the most recent townhall meeting held on August 3, the Administration provided further details about their plan, but did not answer questions about the fundamental assumptions behind the plan. It was not a forum for a genuine exchange of opinions.

While the final decision on the manner in which Rice will run its Fall semester is a corporate decision, the faculty of Rice University is entitled to debate the science on which this decision was made and express its opinion on the trade-off between risks and benefits of all options available to carry out our educational mission.

The Constitution of the Faculty Senate states:

"A petition signed by fifty voting members of the faculty shall require the Speaker to convene a special meeting of the university faculty in plenary session to discuss a specific matter."

The undersigned are voting members of the Rice faculty and are hereby calling on the Speaker of the Senate to convene such a special plenary meeting during the week of august 10 to discuss the tradeoff between risks and benefits of the return-to-Rice plan. The meeting must be held in a manner that enables full participation by participants, including the ability to make motions, debate them, and vote on them.

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