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Hutchinson: Pause and reflect upon who you want to be

(08/27/15 11:51am)

Sociology Professor Jenifer Bratter’s Orientation Week faculty address focused on “identity,” how we define ourselves and each other, and how these definitions are flexible. I was inspired by the power of her message, and it seemed to me to resonate with two of the themes I want us to think about and work on this year. In terms of identity, the questions are not “Who are you?” and “Who are we as a community?” but rather “Who do you want to be?” and “Who do we as a community want to be?” And these are not trivial questions.As you begin your year at Rice, if you have not already given considerable thought about the question of who you want to become, now is the perfect time to do so. You are not defined by anything other than your aspirations and your choices and your efforts to achieve both. Your time at Rice is not about demonstrating what you can do; rather, it is about choosing experiences that will help you become the person you want to be and then learning from your experiences, whether they are successes or disappointments or even failures.  Many, perhaps most, of you consider college as simply the next thing to do in your life, another step on the road to wherever it is you are planning to go. Some of you have thought of Rice as a four- or five-year joy ride at someone else’s expense (most likely your parents’). In either case, if these are your narrow goals, I suspect you will succeed. But in doing so, you will have missed the greatest opportunity of your life at the most important time of your life. I strongly encourage you to spend time in reflection, rather than to make assumptions about a fixed identity. And I encourage you to make choices necessary to give yourself the time and space for this reflection. Take fewer courses so that you can get the most from each course. Pursue only a single major enabling you to explore the curriculum with more electives. Engage in the many opportunities for personal and intellectual growth that Rice offers through community engagement, independent study, internships and study abroad. Be an active member of your college and your campus, forming lasting friendships.As for who we want to become as a community, there are too many facets to discuss in this note, so I will focus on a single value we should hold together: honor. Our honor system is one of our longest-standing traditions, if not the single longest-standing. But it is quite easily taken for granted, and as such is quite easily compromised and violated. This year, Faculty Senate in partnership with the Honor Council and the Student Association will undertake an in-depth assessment of the honor system, including policies and processes. This will allow us to reinvest ourselves as a community in this shared value, together answering one of the most important questions of who we want to become. We want to be, now and always, a community where honor is an absolute, with integrity never to be compromised. I encourage every one of you to engage in this conversation so that honor and integrity become a common expectation to which we hold ourselves and one another.It happens that I am writing these words on Aug. 23, the seventh anniversary of the day our family lost Emma Grace Hutchinson. She was 20 and about to begin her junior year at Trinity University, a place that she loved dearly and an opportunity that she cherished. No one I’ve ever known has better understood the importance of experiencing life to its fullest by a willingness to take chances on difficult tasks, on new relationships, on challenging subjects, on once-in-a-lifetime opportunities not to be missed. No one I’ve ever known has more fully embraced her own uncompromising integrity, living her carefully considered values. No one I’ve ever known has more deeply lived life to its fullest with unfailing optimism about what life might bring. My aspiration for each of you while at Rice and in the years to come is that, like the Trinity student whose life I shared, you find your own inspiration to set your sights high and then to use this opportunity to become the person you most want to be.



Letter to the Editor:

(12/03/13 6:00pm)

Dear Rice students:In my meeting with the Student Association senators during the week after Esperanza, I learned that drinks mixed with hard alcohol were served by the caterer at Esperanza. I was told by the senators that some students have complained about this service, given that the alcohol policy specifically prohibits this. This criticism is entirely accurate and completely understandable: We screwed up. My office should not have granted the Rice Program Council permission to allow the caterer to serve mixed drinks. Although RPC should not have requested this on the event approval form, the mistake rests with us for failing to deny the request.My staff and I regret the error. This clarification is important for two reasons. First, when we make a mistake, we admit it, and we take measures to correct the error. That is my responsibility. I have already talked with my staff about this mistake, and we have discussed the necessary corrections. Second, this mistake in no way changes our expectations under the alcohol policy. The serving of hard alcohol, including mixed drinks made from hard alcohol, is banned from all public parties and private gatherings, and private consumption of hard alcohol is banned specifically on the nights of major events such as Esperanza, even for those of age.I would like to thank the Student Association for bringing this problem to my attention, and I appreciate your understanding and cooperation. Sincerely,John HutchinsonDean of Undergraduates



Rice's Culture of Care serves as basis for current alcohol policy

(01/27/11 6:00pm)

Since becoming the dean of undergraduates last summer, I have spoken in many venues, including the pages of the Thresher, about the most impressive aspect of the Rice student body: its long-standing and pervasive caring culture. Rice students individually give of themselves to educate each other, to watch out for each other, to encourage each other. And collectively, the Rice student body works to provide a support network that creates a healthy and caring community. This strength of our university defines a major part of who we are and how we live, so much so that my colleagues and I have begun describing this as a "Culture of Care." This is an initiative that focuses on the responsibility each of us has as a member of the Rice community and on the understanding that individual awareness, decision making and actions can make a vital difference in the lives of our fellow students and in the quality of our community. This initiative also emphasizes that the vitality of our community depends on the nurturing of this Culture of Care through conversation, education and responsible student self-governance. By placing additional attention on this aspect of Rice, we will highlight those areas in which we are successful in supporting one another and also address those areas which need greater support, resources or attention.


Great Expectations await new students

(08/19/10 7:00pm)

In the past two months, I have been repeating one consistent theme to anyone and everyone about my philosophy as your new dean of undergraduates. That philosophy is based on many years of teaching Rice students in the classroom and working with them in the colleges. Succinctly put, it is this: When we have high expectations for our students and when we articulate these expectations, our students will invariably meet or exceed them. This simple theme runs throughout the entire Rice student experience, from the classrooms to the colleges to athletic fields. Over my years at Rice, I have found this to be so consistently true that I am convinced that the single most important thing that we as a university can do for you as a student is to set high expectations.