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​MOB performance not an excuse for complacency

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/21/16 9:44am

The Thresher applauds the Marching Owl Band’s performance during the halftime show of the Rice University vs. Baylor University football game (see p.1). The MOB forced a nationwide community to acknowledge our society’s rape culture that allows for a survivor’s trauma to be brushed aside in the name of athletics.

As a public relations defense mechanism, Rice’s statement in response to the performance was unwarranted and poorly written. Immediately following the halftime show, students and community members were not particularly in favor of the performance; reactions ranged from a knee-jerk exasperation of “what has the MOB done this time” to an ambivalent, uncomfortable uncertainty. The cowardice of Rice’s statement, accompanied by nationally published opinion pieces defending the MOB and criticizing Rice’s half-hearted “non-apology,” seemed to turn the tide in favor of the MOB.

The hasty edits to the piece following its release are clear evidence that the statement was not well thought out. While the initial release of the statement said the MOB’s effort “went too far,” this was discreetly replaced with a “may have gone too far,” making a statement already tiptoeing around feelings all the more wishy-washy.

Although Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson said the statement was not an apology, the intent was unclear and, given the national attention on the story, frankly irrelevant. Lovett College President Rahul Kothari said he felt the statement was an apology at first glance, but changed his mind after speaking with the administration. If a statement requires clarification from its writers to prove its purpose, then what is the point of releasing a statement at all? When thousands of people have already interpreted the statement as an apology, it is clear that the statement, at the very least, lacks a cohesive and apparent purpose. In this case, although the Rice administration did not denounce the MOB, they should have defended it and supported the message against sexual assault, instead of exhibiting poor judgment in a public relations scramble.

The MOB’s performance has demonstrated that the Rice community must answer pressing questions on what constitutes an appropriate space for addressing sexual assault, and who decides on which spaces meet the criteria. After the release of the Survey of Unwanted Sexual Experiences exactly one year ago, the Rice community agreed that conversations about sexual assault should take place around the dinner table — but now we balk at the idea of discussing sexual assault around the football field.

Above all, in our efforts to shed light on sexual assault at other universities, we must not turn a blind eye to our own campus. A cover-up of sexual assault can be as simple as when peers or friends discourage a survivor from “ruining” a perpetrator’s life by reporting. And Rice is certainly not immune to this kind of cover-up. If we plan to point out the rape culture at other universities, we better be prepared to dismantle the rape culture at Rice.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of the Thresher editorial staff. All other opinion pieces represent solely the opinion of the piece’s author.

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