Until last Tuesday, I couldn’t say I was genuinely disappointed in a sizable number of Rice students. Sure, there were some basketball and football games I would’ve liked to see with a fuller student section, but I had never been angry at the Rice community or embarrassed to say I was a part of it.
Last Tuesday, multiple students reported an Honor Code violation after a Microeconomics (ECON 200) midterm exam. Once it was rumored that the alleged cheaters were international students, I watched Yik Yak descend into a flurry of xenophobia. The posts ranged from decrying Chinese culture for promoting the pursuance of good grades by whatever means necessary to statements regarding all international students as predisposed to academic dishonesty. While Yik Yak is not a reliable source to make generalizations about the student body, it is valuable as an insight into what people wish they could say. The anonymity provided by the app allows people to post these outlandish statements of bigotry without fear of the associated social backlash.
I often find myself turning conversations to how much I love Rice and am proud to be a student here. Our academics are elite, our professors are passionate and our peers are multitalented. But chief of all is the diversity that gives our campus its vibrant life. This diversity encompasses race, socioeconomic background, religion, political ideology and national origin. All contribute to our identity, our sense of community and our campus life.
Rice is a rigorous institution. Many of us consistently stay up late into the night to get good grades and get everything done. Most of us are also doing it in our native language. Some international students have to learn and adapt to an unfamiliar culture while learning difficult material at one of the country’s best schools in a non-native language. These circumstances do not justify cheating, and there is no justification for violating our Honor Code. However, to lump international students or students from one country together as being predisposed to moral deficiencies is not reflective of the reality of what our international students experience on a daily basis.
While some international students may come from similar backgrounds or have had similar experiences at Rice, to generalize the morality of non-native students is hypocritical and an exercise of homogenizing students from an incredible array of backgrounds. Students from all nationalities cheat, and violations of the Honor Code are by no means confined to international students. Rice as a community must be a welcoming environment that holds its students to the Honor Code and a high standard of morality. This morality, though, is confined not just to not cheating on tests. Being a Rice student must mean that we treat each other with respect and make acceptance and understanding as important a part of our identities as our nationality.
In October, Brown College came under fire for handing out the “Most likely to be a bitch ass n----” award. James Carter, a Brown College junior, declared in the following week’s Thresher that we cannot yet call Rice exceptional, writing, “If we are truly to be an exceptional place, we must be cognizant of how our actions impact our peers and have the audacity to speak out against injustices.” The people spewing xenophobia acted with a total disregard for how their hateful words impacted their peers. I knew James was right back then, that we couldn’t call ourselves exceptional in regards to how we treated students of color, and now I know that we are far from being exceptional in how we treat international students. That is simply unacceptable. Be the person that Rice thought you were when you were admitted. Build up our community; don’t tear it down and ostracize its members.