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Column: Rice blogs reveal university's potency and flaws

By Evan Mintz     5/15/08 7:00pm

I love blogs. News blogs, tech blogs and such, those are nice. But the best blogs are those personal blogs: Livejournal, Xanga, etc., because it is there where you can find real information. Blogs that provide analysis and whatnot just provide a new avenue to information that is already out there. But in these more personal exhibitions, people are willing to spill information they would never, ever reveal in personal conversation. Those blogs provide true insight into peoples' characters, giving little secrets straight from the horse's mouth - or keyboard. Whatever.The best thing about these personal blogs is that people will actively list their personal associations, such as home town, interests or university. With this information, five minutes of clicking can provide an interesting cross-section of campus - Christ-o-philes, coke fiends and other traditional members of the Rice fauna. In these HTML-framed journals, Rice students spill their deepest secrets and personal beliefs. While the entries may be entertaining at times, they also paint a rather distressing picture of the student body.

Cocaine? Cliche. Self-obsession? Who cares? The real worries are with the sort of diary entries that one can find on xanga.com/pjcomposer - the blog of a recent Rice graduate.

Want the see the result of a Rice education? Try the Dec. 27, 2007 entry, which explains how "the NAACP is now more racist than the KKK."

I'm a big a fan as any when it comes to hyper-irony or shock humor, but this is no joke, as he describes the NAACP as a vehicle for "black supremacist socialists."

Browse through all the entries if you want, they do not get much better. And this is not the only diary out there. A few minutes of surfing yields a smorgasbord of racist rants, inane assumptions and people who are but a charismatic leader away from putting gays in camps - all courtesy of a Rice education.

Alberto Gonzales' embarrassing repetition of "I don't recall" has already shown the shame that an alumnus can bring to our university. In an era of increasing saturation of personal information, how long will it take until a Sid door incident appears somewhere where the whole world can see it?

Even ignoring the university's PR concerns, professors should have more academically noble concern - that students are graduating without gaining a full and proper education. According to Rice's mission statement, the university is supposed to be aspiring to "contributions to the betterment of our world," but for the time being too many of its students are simply aspiring to the betterment of their own GPAs, resumes or personal agendas. While the lack of a core curriculum or required courses is one of Rice's attractive qualities, it also lets students graduate without understanding the core sciences of our universe, proper argument or even without having ever written a single paper.

But the faculty has the power to change this.

No, I am not proposing alterations to distribution requirements, which I am sure are just on the horizon anyways, nor am I proposing a senior year graduation test.

Every year, before commencement, the Faculty Senate has a meeting at which they approve the graduation of the senior class - the timing of this meeting threw quite a wrench into the formation of the new academic calendar. Every so often, professors will chime up about a student who had done something that they believe should bring their graduation into question, such violate the Honor Code.

However, faculty should not hesitate to call students in for more subjective reasons. Students should all graduate will some core basis of collegiate education: An understanding of technological science, a conception of our post-Enlightenment world and a healthy respect for capitalism would not be a bad start. Even the ability to make an argument and do proper research would be nice. The fact of the matter is that not all students are getting a full education through their classes, and it falls on the faculty to ensure that a Rice diploma is actually worth something.

If this plan is implemented, perhaps future blog-skimming for Rice University will elicit a sense of pride rather than shame.

Of course, some students may be loath to be forced before the Faculty Senate right before graduation, but I would hope that students, if they actually deserve to be granted a Rice diploma, would have little trouble and may even enjoy proving to professors that Rice has taught them well. After all, on a personal note, after three and a half years of columns, Backpages and many a forum, I would certainly expect such a summoning. But it is too late for me; off to law school I go. But in this Google-able world, I'm sure my e-mail address would not be too difficult to find.

Who knows, I may even start a blog.

Evan Mintz is a Hanszen College senior and Backpage editor.

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