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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 — Houston, TX

Letters to the Editor

9/14/11 7:00pm

To the Editor:

The day after Labor Day, I got a flat tire pulling into the underground parking garage. My first thought was thank goodness this happened at Rice and not somewhere outside of the community that feels like home. Having been a part of multiple Rice communities — undergraduate, graduate student, alum, staff and now faculty — I know Rice to be a place of compassion, humor and immense talent. It is where a faculty member gave a graduate student $100 to get flu medication when he didn't have the cash for it; where an elderly couple was personally escorted by students to the building they were trying to find; where RUPD officers have trained female staff who regularly work late on strategies for staying safe on campus and at home; where students laden with heavy backpacks give up seats on buses for pregnant women without a second thought.

I like to think that members of the Rice community are exceptional on campus as well as outside the hedges; that our students, faculty, and staff are recognizable by our empathy as well as our breadth of knowledge.



I parked underground and got out my spare tire, my tire irons, and my jack and started trying to get things set up, confident that I could quickly find someone strong enough to help me get the lug nuts off and the tire changed. I was surprised that, of the two students who got into the car next to me, the many staff members in the parking office, the RUPD officer I called, the facilities people he directed me to and the standers-by who witnessed my growing desperation, not a single one responded to my request for 10 minutes of time and some arm muscle. A coworker eventually took me to pick up my daughter and take me home, and a friend drove back with me later that evening to put the spare tire on. Everyone that I've mentioned this incident to has been equally surprised and disappointed.

I am fortunate in that this was not a serious problem and I have generous coworkers and friends in Houston willing to help. More importantly, I am grateful to know that this is not typical of Rice. Had I been a visitor to campus or a new student, I would have left thinking that Rice was not a community of which I would want to remain a part. Had the hour been late or the incident during the early winter nightfall, the situation would have been dangerous. Cell phones do not work in the underground garage, and parking lots, especially those isolated from view, are notorious hot-spots for crime. What if I had been pregnant or not been able-bodied (the RUPD on the phone asked nothing about my situation before hanging up)? Is my problem mine alone and your problem yours, or do we have a responsibility towards keeping others safe, productive, and informed? As Rice members, do we just aim to inflict no harm, or do we actively aspire to help those around us?

We all need help with something at some time, whether it's finding a building, deciphering a text or getting up from a fall, and at Rice I thought we cultivated the compassionate sense of community that means people rush to help those in any sort of need. This has made Rice win awards for being a great place to work and a great place to get an education. We need to share our diverse strengths and talents, especially now that our population has grown, we are busier than ever, and we are facing our centennial. Without this congeniality towards others, will parents continue to send their children here; will students feel safe working late in laboratories; will visitors and returning alums leave with positive impressions? Let's all, staff, faculty, and students, work together to keep Rice extraordinary now more than ever.

Melissa Bailar School of Humanities



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