Rice University’s Student Newspaper — Since 1916

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 — Houston, TX 89°

​SA to vote on resolution rejecting speaker disinvitations

academic_freedom_infographic

By Cameron Wallace     1/30/18 9:45pm

The Student Association Senate will vote on a resolution calling for Rice University to affirm its commitment to diversity of thought by disregarding public opinion and controversy when inviting speakers to campus.

“The reason we’re doing this is because we’re trying to do this preemptively instead of in reaction to some kind of controversy that occurred on campus,” Duncan College Senator Juliette Turner said. “Rice generally is a place where people are very tolerant and have different views and has great diversity of views and we don’t want to lose this.”

The resolution endorses a letter written by the SA Academic Freedom Working Group, based on surveys they conducted. The letter states that according to the data gathered by the working group, students feel that speakers invited to Rice, as well as Rice students and professors themselves, should be free to express any idea or belief so long as it does not fall outside of legal limits. Prohibited forms of speech would include direct attempts to incite violence, threaten or defame.



The report that the letter is based on concludes from data collected on a voluntary Google survey taken by over 250 students that student mental well-being is a low priority for responders and freedom of expression is a high priority. The report concludes that data from a survey attached to the Survey of All Students taken by over 2,700 students is inconclusive regarding student prioritization of mental well-being and freedom of expression.

According to the letter, the results of the survey showed responding students prioritized diversity of thought, freedom of expression, physical safety and the mental well-being of undergraduates when considering inviting speakers to Rice University.

Additionally, the letter states that it is the Rice’s duty to provide students with mental health resources, and to support them. The letter endorses a specific portion of the University of Chicago’s policy on free speech, called the Report of the Committee on Freedom Expression.

According to the letter, even if a majority of the student body finds an idea offensive, speakers, professors or students should be allowed to express and discuss it.

“With regard to campus speakers, we believe that Rice University has the responsibility to refrain from disinvitation, while maintaining the right to condemn the proliferation of ideas destructive to Rice’s community values and to encourage students to respond through peaceful protest,” the letter said.

If speech offends students, however, the letter said that students do have the right to protest peacefully and voice dissent.

The letter also states that responding students generally felt that they could engage in controversial, politically charged discussion in classrooms at Rice without fearing university censorship. In the Google survey portion of the report, 75.4 percent of responders answered “sometimes” to the statement “Should professors share their ideological beliefs in the classroom?” and 13.5 percent more answered “often.”

“[The working group] has done an amazing job gathering student sentiment but this is really important, because this is not only discussed on a national scale, but Rice has actually had speakers that have been fairly controversial and have created some controversy and conversation,” SA President Justin Onwenu said. “This is the time to have that conversation about what our values are.”



More from The Rice Thresher

NEWS 6/14/19 12:15pm
Administration calls for task force to address racial justice, university history

A task force on slavery, segregation and racial injustice has been established by the university, according to an email sent by President David Leebron and Provost Marie Lynn Miranda. In the email, sent out on Tuesday, Leebron said that the task force was created to learn about instances of racial injustice in Rice’s past and examine ways to promote diversity and inclusion in its future.

NEWS 5/28/19 10:14am
Provost Miranda to step down, return to faculty role

 Provost Marie Lynn Miranda announced that she will be stepping down from her role as provost, a position she has held for the last four years, at the end of June, in an email sent last Sunday. Miranda will go on sabbatical for the 2019-2020 academic year, after which she plans on reassuming her faculty position in the department of statistics, according to Miranda’s email. Her decision follows the diagnosis of her youngest child with cancer last year.

NEWS 5/17/19 4:07pm
Bobbled Bubble? Campus reacts to confirmation of dome

“The broader university has a strategic plan — the V2C2 — and then each of the different schools are tasked with coming up with their own strategic plan,” Karlgaard said. “So I think there is a question about, ‘Should the general student body be involved in each of those strategic plans? If you are an English major, should you have input in the engineering strategic plan? If you are a non student-athlete, should you have input into the athletics strategic plan?’“


Comments

Please note All comments are eligible for publication by The Rice Thresher.