Last semester, college masters submitted a formal recommendation to change their title. As this has become a point of contention, I wanted to respond to two primary objections that people have posed to this change — objections I find shallow and in need of further evaluation.
The “PC-bandwagon” objection: I myself have had reservations about “hopping on the bandwagon” in a number of different contexts. I understand tradition is valuable. However, we cannot ignore the argument that political correctness, based on logic and well-being, creates a more inclusive environment by strengthening the voice of those often silenced, while still doing an excellent job exposing people to necessary truths. Furthermore, might I remind you that it was once “tradition” for Rice University to exclusively serve white men and women, and to say that it always truly served women is generous. If this comparison tugs on your “well hey, that’s a little different” strings, keep in mind that the context in which we live and use this term is an inevitably racialized one, regardless of the term’s origin. The principle for comparison thus holds: Tradition (read: inertia) is not the most effective means of ensuring the maximum well-being of all people. To those who argue that this change will lead to other traditions being changed, like Baker 13, I contend that a platform for discussion doesn’t inevitably lead to change, just critical dialogue.
The “Band-Aid” objection: The basis for this objection is that changing the title would act as a Band-Aid that abdicates our responsibility to address the very real diversity and inclusion problems that exist on our campus. While I certainly agree we must take action to address these issues, the desperately ill still need Band-Aids when they have cuts. Need we leave a wound open to fester just so we can attempt to resolve its underlying cause? As long as we continue to keep this change from making us complacent, as shown by Rice’s dedication to diversification, I cannot see this change doing anything but good for our community.
Still not convinced? Let’s take a net loss versus net gain perspective. The net loss of changing the title is likely minimal, very temporary pain for those that prefer constancy to growth. The net gain of changing the title is the use of a term that may more accurately describe the role in a 21st-century context whilst accommodating for an increasingly diverse Rice University.
Thus, I recommend to the Rice student body that it take a moment to listen to the people who are currently working under this title and see the Rice experience through another set of eyes.