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Student self-governance triumphs at Sid

By Lauren Schmidt     3/23/16 8:47pm

It’s been almost two months since the infamous Sid “Lads in Plaid” party and conversations about sexual assault, the distinction between public and private events and the alcohol policy have all but died. The only thing left on everyone’s mind is the SJP sanctions that seem to inevitably follow such public incidents. Clearly, the administration must be out to make an example of Sid and no longer trusts students to responsibly police themselves.

This mindset is incredibly unsettling. The Rice community isn’t concerned that these seemingly inevitable sanctions might make Sid safer, it’s speculating about the worst that might happen to their own college in a similar situation. This thought process is dangerous to student self-governance at Rice. It implies that the student leaders we elect to represent us cannot be trusted to respond appropriately to dangerous actions in our communities, and that they rely on the looming power of administrators to make examples of individuals to save face. Such attitudes stem from preconceived notions unrepresentative of the residential college system and student self-governance at Rice.

These attitudes aren’t reflective of the way the administration approaches problems of the magnitude of the Sid party. The Sid A-Team and student leadership have not once received a directive from the administration punishing our college for the party. The administration’s role in student governance is not to punish us for our mistakes but to teach us to fix problems for ourselves. This desire to cultivate student leadership and personal growth was apparent in every meeting I’ve had with Associate Dean Ostdiek, as he focused on understanding the current Sid climate rather than rush to judgement. It has been apparent in every interaction I’ve had with Dean Hutch, as he provided me and Sid government guidance in our response to the party. In every check-in from the Wellbeing Office as they supported students through this stressful time, in my interview with SJP and in conversations with so many other administrators — they want to let us lead. However, when it becomes clear that failing systems and student attitudes have put individuals’ safety at risk, they have an obligation to step in and help nudge us in the right direction.

That is why I am proud to say Sid is not being sanctioned by SJP. Instead, we have worked with Associate Dean Ostdiek, our A-Team, our government and our justice system to implement restrictions designed to rebuild our community’s attitude towards alcohol and respect for each other. The agreement focuses on improving those behaviors — if we cannot responsibly have private events, we need to refocus on our public events and what makes them safe. That is why, for the rest of the semester, Sidizens will not be hosting private parties. We have the power to police it ourselves, with justices periodically walking the building on busy social nights to ensure that members of our community remain accountable and responsible. However, we cannot do this alone. We need the support of the administration and our A-Team for the authority we need to push us back on track.

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