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Friday, April 19, 2024 — Houston, TX

SA too hasty, did not represent students

11/18/15 9:00am

Last Wednesday, the Student Association passed the Senate Bill #4 for the Critical Thinking in Sexuality class. “What? They voted already? It’s over?” were many students’ reactions. Many still had questions unanswered, concerns unexpressed and misconceptions unclarified. Given this bill’s controversies and implications, why was it voted on so quickly? The bill’s outcome and your stance on it aside, this legislative process reveals a more troubling issue that the student body needs to examine: Whom does the SA represent?

Before I begin, I would like to point out that most college presidents and senators held information sessions to shed light on the bill. I applaud their efforts and commend the presidents and senators who voted in accordance with the majority stance of their college. However, I question whom the SA represents because students were given only two weeks to thoughtfully form and express their opinions on this bill. Moreover, many information sessions were not held until mere days before the vote. As a result, misconceptions ran rampant among the student body because people had little time to process the information. By the time people formed knowledgeable opinions, it was too late to voice them. Ongoing discussions were vibrant and the Thresher posted three op-eds about the bill the night before the vote. But all these voices were cut short by the actual vote. With many in the SA and the task force admitting that there was tremendous misinformation, why didn’t the SA postpone the vote to address the misinformation more attentively? Why was there not a school-wide town hall to address misconceptions and questions? By rushing to vote without hosting a town hall, the SA chose to ignore the problem of misinformation. 

Furthermore, there was little student body input throughout the whole legislative process. The SA president introduced and advocated the bill and later changed the amendment on it. She will also head the task force that already consists of five members she selected. Since this task force will represent the student body, shouldn’t the student body as a whole have more of a say in its member selection? While the SA can now choose task force members (due to a last-minute amendment before the vote), how many members can they add to the six already selected ones before the task force becomes inefficient due to overcrowding?

Lastly, while the student body was divided on the bill, the vote did not reflect this. According to surveys, Duncan was 50 percent yes, 50 percent no; Wiess 66 percent yes, 34 percent no; Martel 60 percent yes, 28 percent no, 12 percent undecided; Sid Richardson 60 percent yes, 40 percent no; and Baker 43.1 percent yes, 49.4 percent no, 7.2 percent undecided. Yet, the vote last Wednesday was an overwhelming 73 percent yes and a meager 27 percent no.

This is a rare time when “apathetic” Rice students are actually passionate and vocal about an SA bill. Unfortunately, the SA cut the debate short with the vote and failed to show us they believe every student’s opinion matters. This whole process started with the “It’s Up to Us” campaign, calling each of us to help solve the sexual assault issue. At this point, however, I am very doubtful that “Us” means the student body. In the end, the student body must consider: Who does the SA represent?

Aaron Huang is a Baker college sophomore.

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