This summer, Rice rightfully earned the title of No. 1 in race/class interaction by the Princeton Review. Diversity, respect and integrity are community values embedded in every aspect of our campus life. In the occasion that a student violates one of these core values, the entire community holds them responsible. It should be no surprise that students hold every member of campus administration to this same standard.
The decision to temporarily remove the Taiwanese banner during the campus visit of the Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, violated the core of every campus value that students are taught to uphold.
In the interest of fairness, this decision made by the Office of Public Affairs was a difficult one to make. The history between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China is complex and convoluted. In light of this complexity, a decision was made that was “appropriate as a matter of U.S. diplomatic protocol.” However, this decision was not appropriate as a matter of honoring Rice’s culture. If a U.S. protocol violates the core of our community values, clearly this university should not be following said protocol.
The thought process behind removing the banner is not difficult for students to understand. If the banner had been left hanging, it could have severely insulted the visiting Chinese official. However, the decision to take it down has severely insulted our Taiwanese students and our entire campus community. Having a high-ranking official on our campus certainly increases our prestige and respect as an institution. However, Rice would have no prestige or basic operation without its students and alumni.
If Rice aspires to be a leadership institute, the burden of this cannot rest on the student body. Leaders are taught to make difficult decisions and stick to their morals when it’s easier to do otherwise. In light of this incident, it is not enough to repeatedly say, “Rice is proud of our Taiwanese students.” Actions speak louder than words, and the removal of the banner sent an extremely clear message.
The Student Association has a responsibility to advocate for every student at Rice. Therefore, I personally met with the Office of Public Affairs to express student concern over this issue. After thoroughly explaining the complexity of the issue and the plight of our Taiwanese students, I asked a pointed question. “If this event were to happen again in the future, would the banner still be removed?” The response was “Yes.”
There is no justifiable reason why any faction of campus administration should be so disconnected and out of touch with the values of the student body. We deserve more than an explanation behind why the decision was made. We deserve an apology and a promise to not let this happen again.