Culture

Rice University Students Will Study in Circus Tents This Fall, Camp Chairs Necessary

Social Distancing Arrives in the Rice Owls' Nest As the Pandemic Surges

BY // 07.14.20

Yes, it’s true. You might have heard that if Rice University resumes on-site classes in August, students will be tugging their laptops and portable chairs into circus tents and vast temporary buildings as the university plans for COVID-19. In a memo to students and faculty posted on Rice University’s coronavirus website in June, Kevin Kirby, vice president for administration, advised that open air tents and air conditioned and fully ventilated structures will replace traditional classroom facilities.

“Reducing population density will require us to use spaces in non-traditional ways and increase the number of large venues on campus,” the memo reads.

The concept was first noted by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, whose post on Monday of the inventive measure has sent media scrambling to get on the story. On Tuesday alone, Rice University president David Leebron was scheduled to appear on CNN and MSNBC to further discuss the university’s plan for maximizing physical distancing.

The plan calls for five (40×60 foot) tents, which are on order and yet to arrive on the campus according to Doug Miller, Rice University‘s director of news and media relations. The tents, however, are not like the one pictured in the New York Times post. That photo Miller explains was of a tent that is used as an athletic training center. The temporary buildings are designed to accommodate 50 students and an instructor with the requisite 6 feet of distance maintained.

The memo also noted, “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.”

Kirby told the New York Times, “Students and professors will decorate the spaces with murals and video projections.”

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