This year's SA is strong in pushing student opinion in the Centennial
Last spring, the Centennial was an abstract event overlaid on midterm recess. Besides the fact that the St. Arnold Brewing Company had released two repackaged Rice-inspired CentenniAle bottles that I collected for posterity, the Centennial meant nothing to me. I was not alone in my apathy; my peers revelled in the thought of going home or to Austin City Limits during the recess. The administration's initial plans for incentivizing students to stay for the long weekend included Esperanza and a series of lectures it had yet to announce but promised would be worthwhile. With events geared largely toward alumni, faculty and donors, students were an afterthought, and thus uninvolved and unexcited.
For the bulk of my Rice career I have treated "the administration," from the Office of the President to the Student Association, as a monolithic group. But as the countdown to the Centennial draws to a close, I have realized that while the administration has rested on its laurels, assuming its "happiest students" would undoubtedly stay on campus for a Sadie Hawkins dance, the SA has taken the initiative to make the Centennial relevant to us, and us relevant to the Centennial.
Before the administration takes credit for the panoply of planned Centennial events, I want to commend the SA for making the Centennial matter to us, the students. Those Rice Centennial Student Events Tour pamphlets we received in our mailboxes this week are packed with daily activities because the SA, not the administration, cared to make sure the students were involved. To be sure, the administration and other departments did cooperate and fund some of the events, but not without resistance. SA President Sanjula Jain said in some cases the negotiations for funding a one-hour activity spanned two months. Juxtapose the student Centennial schedule featured on the Rice website homepage with that on the SA's homepage and you will see the stark contrast from blank blocks of time to days packed with overlapping events, which include the North and South block parties, the student finale college dinners and Architectronica.
Of course, the SA did not work alone. Proffered an initial budget of $0, the SA, largely with the help of Student Activities Director Kate Abad, and Student Center Assistant Director Julie Neisler, necessitated the collaboration of student clubs and committees to innovate a student twist to the Centennial. Though I am not the biggest fan of the Rice Program Council, which has a knack for scheduling Screw- Yer-Roommate every year on the Friday of the Rice cross country home meet, it deserves plaudits for having rescheduled and modified its annual events, such as the Mr. Rice Talent Show to fall on Centennial weekend. Jones College junior Clinton Willbanks and the Centennial student involvement committee listened to students' picnic food complaints and commissioned about a dozen food trucks for the Centennial Picnic.
External Vice President Yoonjin Min reached out to the Rice Young Alumni and the Center for Career Development to organize a networking event for students. College presidents have sent save-the-date emails to their colleges' alumni and have encouraged student enthusiasm for the Centennial Cup. No detail has been overlooked, from branding the Centennial as a "four-day birthday party" to arranging the Student Vision for the Second Century Town Hall, in which students have a platform to make noise, and perhaps grab the attention of donors for a Rice Memorial Center upgrade, which unsurprisingly is not near the top of the administration's new projects list.
With Esperanza tickets sold out and students selling their ACL tickets on Facebook, the SA's campaign to make the Centennial matter to students seems to have been successful. Rice students can no longer stand to be an afterthought or ignored in the administration's decisions and in light of the Centennial, the SA has demonstrated it just may have the pluck to represent our student body.
Farrah Madanay is a Duncan College senior and Thresher Arts & Entertainment editor.
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