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Vision's program fails to facilitate diversity

By Ryan Gupta     4/7/11 7:00pm

As prospies flood Rice's campus for Owl Days, current Rice students survey the high-schoolers with keen interest to catch a glimpse of what the Class of 2015 might look like. While Will Ricers are already busy looking for bikers to recruit, everyone else is busy gauging the prospective class' sociability, ability to integrate, and of course attractiveness. However, no matter how hard we seek to assess the class of 2015 through the Owl Day prospies, we will be unsuccessful because Owl Days omits a vital aspect of Rice — diversity.

For all intents and purposes, it seems Rice's over-night prospective student events are racially segregated. While African-Americans, Hispanics, and other "underrepresented" minorities got a preview of Rice last February during Visions, admitted students who do not fit this profile will predominate the prospective student pool during Owl Days. Of course, a minority who wishes to attend Owl Days will not be turned away, but the fact remains that Rice specifically targets minority applicants to come in February, leaving them very little reason to attend the April Owl Days.

This apparent practice of encouraging separation of minorities and non-minorities during prospective student events undermines Rice's mission statement which calls for a "diverse community of learning and discovery." The purpose of these separate but equal events is to show under represented minorities that Rice does care about them; this message is meant to resonate in a minority-heavy environment which provides the added comfort of surrounding students with others just like them.

This practice is simply absurd. A truly, racially accepting community should not attempt to operate under the pretenses of racial uniformity, but instead under a philosophy of racial diversity. If Rice truly seeks integration, a day of separation is simply inexcusable.

The primary problem that stems from having Visions for minorities and Owl Days for everybody else is that Rice's true spirit of cultural richness is misportrayed to Rice students before they arrive. By instituting these racial constraints towards minorities, Rice is sending the message to minorities that their high-school cliques are welcome here. We will then spend these students' first five days at Rice driving diversity facilitation down their throats during O-week. The truly frustrating thing about Visions is that the message portrayed by Rice through its prospective student program is not indicative of its actual beliefs. It's apparent that Rice cares about inclusion above all else during Orientation Week, so why do we cater to the comforts of racial uniformity during Visions? The fact is that no matter how riveting the diversity lectures are during Orientation, the damage is done; first impressions last, and Visions sends the impression that racial separation is acceptable at Rice.

A reasonable solution would be to host two sessions of Owl Days; each group of prospective students should represent cross-sections of the campus. The basic atmosphere of inclusion and interactions among underrepresented minorities, overrepresented minorities and whites would portray the culture of diversity that Rice is attempting to foster in a much more adept way than the current Visions/Owl Days divided system does. In order to emphasize Rice's commitment to racial integration, Owl Days should incorporate Diversity Facilitators who could host some sort of optional seminar for students worried about the status of race divides at Rice.

Rice University truly is one the country's most diverse campuses, and this fact is not a surprise considering its commitment to this virtue of inclusion; however, it is apparent that this system is a flawed one which misportrays our culture to prospective students. Change is an absolute necessity so that new students can fully comprehend what inclusion is at Rice before even stepping through the Sallyport.

Ryan Gupta is a Baker College sophomore and Thresher Opinions editor


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