Cheer Battle cancellation solves nothing
I am not surprised that the administration has decided to remove Cheer Battle from Orientation Week. As any O-Week 2014 Coordinator can tell you, it was clear that there was push back on Cheer Battle from the administration. The time allotted to teaching and performing cheers was shortened and the traditional cheer routes were changed so that fewer colleges met up. The changes to Cheer Battle were simply presented to the O-Week Coordinators, and despite a majority disagreement, the changes remained. Some of our opinions were heard but not taken seriously. I quickly learned that our voices as student leaders are not as strong as they are advertised to be.
The main problem with Cheer Battle is not the event itself. O-Week activities exist to make new students feel welcome, get them excited about their time at Rice and create supportive connections among the student body. During Cheer Battle, alternative activities are available to students who find the event too high-energy, and several advisors stay behind with students who decide not to participate. The issues with Cheer Battle are issues of insensitivity or vulgarity sprouting directly from the cheers, not the fact that students are painting themselves up and shouting. Removing Cheer Battle removes the event, not the problem.
In its current state, Cheer Battle has some issues but it also has great value that we should not willingly give up. Cheer Battle fosters intense college spirit and unity and culminates in university-wide cheers leading up to the Rice Rally. Cheer Battle builds our college pride and then provides an opportunity for students to realize that, despite our differences, we are all part of the same Rice community. In eliminating Cheer Battle we remove risks of discomfort, but we also remove the ability to create that powerful unity. I strongly believe that students can create new cheers and adapt Cheer Battle in such a way that it resolves many issues of insensitivity while maintaining the strong spirit that the event fosters.
The administration is not “banning” cheers — it is removing the time allotted to teaching and executing them during O-Week. Cheers are not officially “banned” to mitigate any major opposition to the change. Banned or not, in four years Cheer Battle will become a myth. Instead of brushing the problem underneath the rug, the administration should task students with thinking of a solution. Putting the solution in the hands of students, rather than imposing a change they expect students to follow, will create a much more meaningful and lasting impact. They should trust the student body to create and uphold the inclusive and nurturing environment we inhabit.
Yes, the current cheers are outdated, and some of them can be insensitive or offensive. I understand the administration’s hesitation in supporting Cheer Battle, but removing Cheer Battle from O-Week is not the right solution for the student body; it is the easiest solution for the administration. At Rice we pride ourselves on the fact that students govern our culture, but the recent decision to remove Cheer Battle has been made by the administration without consulting the general student population or giving us the opportunity to create new cheers and mold new traditions. The removal of Cheer Battle from O-Week is the perfect example of how, for the administration, defending their interest is more important than giving legitimate power to the student voice.
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