rice university outdoor classes

Colleges across America are grappling how to figure out how to return to some sense of normalcy in the coming months as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, but Rice University has a solution college officials say will allow students to socially distance from each other while learning in person on campus.

Rice University, one of the city’s most prestigious schools, plans to kick off on-site classes in August across nine large tents and a handful of temporary buildings, according to a statement issued by the university. Students are only being asked to BYOC: Bring your own chair.

“Reducing population density will require us to use spaces in non-traditional ways and increase the number of large venues on campus. That’s why we are now purchasing four temporary structures (50 x 90 ft.) that can hold 50 students and an instructor. They will be located on the open field next to Hanszen College and across the street from Herring Hall. These structures will be lighted, cooled, heated, and ventilated, they will have audiovisual capabilities and they’re designed to withstand hurricane force winds. They can be used not only for instruction, but also for academic lectures in the late afternoon and student meeting and study spaces in the evenings,” the statement reads.

Rice’s student population (6,740 in 2016) pales in comparison to the University of Houston (45,364) and Texas A&M University (68,000), which makes it a little easier to figure out solutions for students to learn in a classroom setting while remaining at least six feet apart.

In addition to their backpacks, books, and laptops, though, students will also have to lug around their own portable chairs.

“In order to make best use of all our outdoor spaces, we will ask students who have portable chairs to bring them when they return to augment those already around the campus. We will also purchase a number of lightweight, portable camping-style chairs for student use,” according to the university statement.

The statement from the university concluded with a reminder that the changes are all about keeping students and faculty safe while ensuring education is disrupted as little as possible.

“The intent guiding all of this is to prioritize our community’s health and safety while we provide the best possible intellectual and social environment in delivering our mission.”