Dear Editorial Board,
I write to applaud you for your recent editorial, and the article which preceded it, on the current state of the mechanical engineering department at Rice. I also write to say that, as an alumna, I am appalled by what I have read.
When the French department, which granted me a B.A. and M.A., stopped accepting graduate students and shuttered its graduate program, I understood. After all, by then I had earned a Ph.D. and knew academic jobs were becoming increasingly rare. If anything, I applauded the French department for being responsible, vis-a-vis its students. And when the French department, to whom I owe my career, ceased to exist and was folded into classical and European studies, I understood. After all, I had just joined a French department that had just merged with another Romance language department. I understood that this was the new reality for the humanities and languages in particular. Unfortunately, this did not even upset me, for academics in the humanities have been conditioned to accept our lot as second-class citizens of universities.
But, when I read an article describing the MECH department in terms similar to what I have become accustomed to, describing budget woes worse than most language departments experience, well, for once, I could not and did not understand. As a faithful contributor, in time and money, to Rice since graduating in 2000, I am finally asking the question I have never asked before: Where is the money going? If it is not going to our humanities departments, nor to our engineering departments, then I dare say there is a problem. In fact, there is a very big problem.
Perhaps it is time to put all of these "leadership" endowments on hold for a while and start funding "teaching" at Rice. After all, correct me if I am wrong, but the main purpose of a university is to instruct students, and at Rice this should be done at the highest level possible. This, clearly, is not happening right now. I have never felt disappointed in my alma mater, but today I truly am. The current state of affairs with regards to MECH and countless other departments at Rice is unacceptable and changes must be made immediately.
Felisa Vergara Reynolds, Will Rice College '00 + '02