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We must reframe SB #4 discussion

By Justin Onwenu and Griffin Thomas     11/10/15 3:32pm

In recent days, debate has reached a fever pitch about Senate Bill #4, a bill recommending the creation of a mandatory “Critical Thinking in Sexuality” class to combat sexual assault on Rice’s campus. This debate has grown increasingly personal and centered on process over substance. Recently, many arguments have focused on petty attacks against individuals without substantive discussion of the bill itself. These personal attacks have no place in the arena of public discourse as they cheapen the debate and distract us from the goal of combating sexual assault.

Admittedly, the process has been less than perfect. SB#4 has been more rushed than similar initiatives, but this hurriedness is due to external logistical constraints, not malicious ulterior motives. Yes, in an ideal world there would have been more time for consideration and planning. Yet in an ideal world, we wouldn’t be living in a community where one in four female student is a victim of sexual misconduct. The proposal is bold and swift, but given the prevalence of sexual misconduct on campus, it is in no way rash.  

SB#4 has been the single most comprehensive proposal suggested to combat campus sexual violence at Rice. It fulfills every sexual assault programming guideline laid out by the Center for Disease Control and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. Just as the TAASA recommends, “Critical Thinking in Sexuality” is comprehensive, appropriately timed, theory-driven, socio-culturally relevant and has repeated sessions. Curricularly, it would address societal norms that perpetuate sexual and domestic violence, address healthy relationship skills and dispel myths around sexual violence, as recommended by the CDC. Despite what many think, “Critical Thinking in Sexuality” was not thought up in a vacuum, but was created considering research and experts in the field with buy-in from numerous student groups across campus, including the Graduate Student Association, the Women’s Resource Center, the Queer Resource Center and the Students Transforming Rice Into a Violence-Free Environment coalition. 

Yet this robust reservoir of literature supporting SB#4 is rarely brought up in public debates as we are instead sidetracked by personal and procedural pettiness. For a topic as important as this, such trivialities should not be so central. As we continue our discussions about SB4, let’s not lose track of what is truly important: combating sexual assault.

Griffin Thomas and Justin Onwenu are a junior and the Lovett College president and a sophomore and Sid Richardson College SA senator

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