The Rice Beyond the Hedges working group proposed creating stampable passports of Houston museums and landmarks and a campus wide service events calendar to increase students’ off-campus engagement at Monday’s Student Association Senate.
The Senate created the working group chaired by SA External Vice President Revathi Ravella in October with the goal of identifying barriers to engagement off campus and promoting ideas to increase engagement. The group began by gathering data through questions which received around 3,000 responses on the fall 2017 Survey of All Students and presented their 13 ideas Monday.
“As students in Houston, we have the responsibility to give back and engage with our community,” sophomore Daniel Koh, Jones College senator and Beyond the Hedges Working Group member, said. “We can help to ameliorate this culture of not engaging outside of the hedges.”
According to the working group report, the main barrier to engaging with Houston, with 31 percent of respondents, is lack of time, followed by lack of awareness about opportunities and lack of transportation, both gathering about 20 percent of responses.
The group reported that 67 percent of students reported they have never engaged in off-site advocacy for social causes, which Ravella said involves advocating for a social issue. About half of students responded they have never engaged in Houston through internships or research and about a quarter responded they had never engaged in off-campus direct service. Only 13 percent of students said they had never engaged in exploration of Houston.
The group concluded that there is a lack of motivation to engage off campus and a lack of social engagement in Rice’s culture.
“For many students, the issues of the wider Houston community seem very distant,” the report said.
When asked on the survey how students would like to engage with Houston, about 43 percent of respondents answered “Internships or Research.” About 24 percent indicated they would like to engage through tourism followed by 20 percent who wished to engage through direct service. About 4 percent responded they did not want to engage.
Other solutions to increase engagement the group proposed at Senate included window stickers for vendors who provide discounts to Rice students, shuttle transportation for city-wide social advocacy events and a “Community Week” where students could volunteer at job sites including food banks and local public high schools.
At Monday’s SA senate meeting, McMurtry College President Walden Pemantle suggested promoting the Houston bus system as a comprehensive and affordable way to travel Houston. In addition, the group proposed making off-campus engagement a greater topic during Orientation Week.
“[O-week] is the first contact with Rice that our undergraduate body has. So if we emphasize engagement beyond the hedges from the beginning, that will help instill a culture of engagement,” Koh said.