For several years, significant concerns have been raised about advising for almost every pre-professional track other than the pre-health one. Several students have walked into meetings with advisors to be told that Rice has no resources to help them find opportunities they want and need. Senate Bill #2, which created a Health Professions Taskforce, serves to garner more support for what is already one of the most supported fields at Rice. Therefore, the Student Association’s support of this initiative has shown that it is out of touch with the more pressing needs of Rice students.
Any taskforce should comprehensively explore the needs of all students, not an individual’s perspective unsupported by any grassroots sentiment outside the SA. We have an entire department dedicated to pre-health advising, and it is within their scope to evaluate their services’ efficacy and address student complaints. However, a sole SA Executive Committee member, Komal Luthra, brought this bill to Senate without having had any conversations with the Office of Academic Advising, Rice Pre-Medical Society, Global Medical Brigades or the Medical Humanities Society. Not only does this action affront the people in those organizations dedicated to serving students, it demonstrates a disregard for existing institutions created to provide pre-health advising. Any effort to improve a perceived deficit in pre-health advising should partner with these organizations. Any other approach creates an unsustainable, top-down initiative that doesn’t engage the people it ought. This initiative is unfortunately similar to the SA’s attempt to create a computer science advisory board last year against the wishes of an existing computer science student organization.
Additionally, this bill targets a very specific demographic of the student body. If you ask the pre-health professions student population if they want additional or improved resources, you can’t really expect anything other than yes — there’s always room for improvement. However, when contextualizing this need within the broader scope of university resources, this information tells us nothing when it is not compared with advising resources for other disciplines.
This task force neglects students who are not pre-health and have been grossly underserved by a lack of pre-professional advising. The pre-health professions section of the OAA website outlines their mission to “expose all interested students to the variety of career opportunities available in the health professions arena, assist students in identification of and participation in appropriate developmental activities in preparation for postgraduate programs, and guide students during the application process.” Most students outside pre-health professions have no access to a comparable caliber of advising as that which the health professions advising department provides.
Those in favor of this resolution often justified voting yes by stating that students should be able to pursue projects they are passionate about. As college presidents, we completely agree. However, the SA, especially the Executive Committee, sends deep cultural messages to the university about students’ priorities when it sponsors task forces. Therefore, it should concern itself with tackling serious, campus-wide issues that give voice to students’ concerns that are already echoing around the university. When the SA Executive Committee expends resources on under-researched bills that do not reflect the student body’s sentiments, it loses the trust of both students and administrators.