Feb. 17 - Winter Storm Update - Rice University is suspending normal operations and classes both Thursday and Friday (Updated)

Snow at Lovett Hall

Dear colleagues,

Let me start with the main purpose of this communication. Given the difficulties faced by so many in our community, Rice University is suspending normal operations and classes both Thursday and Friday. As you know, the ongoing winter storm has created a cascade of problems and has left many in the Houston area without electrical power, water service, reliable internet or cell phone service. This situation will likely continue for the next few days.

Classes. No classes, in person or online, will be held and no assignments will be due until Monday. The Provost and Speaker of the Faculty Senate will issue further guidance about how the cancellation of all classes this week will impact the rest of the semester.

On-Campus Staffing. Only essential personnel should report to campus on Thursday and Friday.

Other university employees and students who need to come to the campus may visit for short periods of time. Be advised that all campus buildings are now accessible only with entry cards, so be sure to bring your Rice ID card with you. All employees are urged to exercise extreme caution as they travel to and from Rice as the conditions remain hazardous across the Houston area.

Campus Status. Let me give you a brief summary of the storm’s effects on our campus. We’re fortunate that we have many of the municipal services of a small city of 12,000 people. We can generate power, prepare meals for a small army of people, and we have our own water well. In addition, we have maintenance teams, a police force, medical services, transportation services, etc. These capabilities and our amazing staff have served us well during hurricanes Harvey and Ike, and are doing so now. I’m grateful for their tireless efforts for all in our community.

Although power outages have been widespread across Texas, so far we’ve managed to maintain electrical power on the campus throughout the winter storm. We’re currently generating most of our own power here on campus, and we’ve actually been able to supply CenterPoint Energy with our excess capacity. All buildings have power at this time but we are asking everyone on campus to limit their use of electricity.

Houston’s city government has issued a boil water notice, and that’s affecting about one-third of the buildings on the main campus and all buildings off campus. The rest of our buildings are served by Rice’s water well, including all of our on-campus housing and dining facilities, so boiling water in those buildings isn’t necessary. You can see which buildings are served by city’s water supply here, and our staff has been covering up water fountains in those buildings.

We’ve suffered some broken pipes during the hard freeze, so our plumbing staff has been busy making repairs and we’ve had to move some people as a result. But we haven’t sustained any serious water damage.

Unfortunately, the Rice Village Apartments and Rice Graduate Apartments have had water and power problems. The problems have been resolved in RGA, but remain in RVA. Some students in those complexes have been accommodated in alternate housing. Our Housing and Dining staff has been taking food and water to students in the RVA.

Our serveries have had no problems preparing meals for the students and staff on campus. We’ve been receiving regular supplies of food each day, but due to staffing issues, we’re going to revert to a weekend-style schedule of service for the rest of the week through Sunday. The serveries do not have capacity to feed people who have not purchased meal plans, and the other retail food options are closed, so please don’t forget to bring your own food if you visit campus.

Our sidewalks and streets have been icing, so we urge everyone on campus to be very cautious.

COVID-19. We also urge everyone to remain vigilant about following COVID safety protocols. At a time when we’re dealing with a severe winter storm, we need to take extra precautions to prevent the spread of COVID. So please be sure to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently and maintain social distancing.

We will have limited testing capacity on campus this week due to the availability of our testing providers. Testing will generally be limited to those undergrads residing on campus and essential personnel working on campus, as well as testing for symptomatic people. More details will be issued in a separate communication.

If you have an emergency or see anyone who needs help on campus, please contact RUPD at (713) 348-6000.

Kevin E. Kirby
Chair of the Crisis Management Advisory Committee
Vice President for Administration


Addendum to the previous message

Campus Events. All classes are cancelled on Thursday and Friday. All events on campus are cancelled through Saturday.

Shuttle Service. Shuttles will operate on campus between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Thursday and Friday. They will carry passengers to the Rice Village Apartments and the Rice Graduate Apartments. The shopping shuttle from the RGA and RVA will run on Thursday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. On Saturday, the RGA and RVA shopping shuttle will operate from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. and the undergraduate shopping shuttle will operate from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Warming Center. The Fondren Library will be open and available as a warming center for Rice students, faculty and staff on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. On Sunday, the library will be open 12 noon until 6 p.m.

Water. A water filling station will be open until further notice from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the loading dock at Old Sid (the previous Sid Richardson tower) for anyone on campus who needs potable water. Bring your own container.

A boil water notice has been issued by the City of Houston, but it applies to only some of the buildings on campus. Residential colleges are not affected because their water comes from Rice’s own well, but 29 buildings depend upon water supplied by the city. Go to this link to determine which buildings rely on City of Houston water that’s now subject to the boil water notice.