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Editorial: Open discussion needed to improve CTIS

For next year’s class, administrators should take an especially hard look at several factors: the scheduling of weekend sessions, large class sizes, instructors from outside Rice and a curriculum that focused more on definitions than on discussions.

By Thresher Staff     10/18/17 12:35pm

It’s inevitable that an initiative on the scale of the Critical Thinking in Sexuality workshop won’t be flawless in its first iteration. Based on the accounts of some freshmen finishing the class, CTIS certainly has problems: lack of student engagement, scheduling issues and difficulties connecting with instructors. It’s vital to try and resolve these issues to make CTIS a success in future years, but that can’t happen if we don’t first acknowledge that problems exist.

While new student feedback calls into question whether CTIS is effectively serving its purpose, many administrators and student leaders seem to have more optimistic opinions on the course. The disconnect between new students and campus leaders is stark; Dean of Undergraduates John Hutchinson claims that students have been enthusiastic and attentive during CTIS sessions, while some new students say most were disengaged. Campus leadership is correct that CTIS has the potential to have a major impact on campus safety, but this makes it even more important that student feedback is used to improve the course. Rather than trying to enforce an overly positive, unrealistic view of the class’s outcome, both administrators and student leaders should create an open forum for new student feelings, suggestions and complaints about the course. It’s only through such a discussion that CTIS could reach its potential.

For next year’s class, administrators should take an especially hard look at several factors. Both new students and CTIS instructors expressed concerns about the scheduling of weekend sessions, which may have inhibited new student engagement and enthusiasm. Another hurdle to involving more students in the class may have been large class sizes (for many, 25 is too large to comfortably participate) and a curriculum that focused more on definitions than on discussions. Some students also questioned whether instructors from outside of Rice were effective, given their lack of familiarity with Rice resources and culture.

All of these issues and more should be openly raised and considered now, while the memory of the class is still fresh for new students. At present, there is no formal feedback mechanism through which new students can share their opinions about the course. This must change. Failure from the Student Association, Dean Hutch and the Title IX office to recognize these issues and to promote an open and honest discussion of the course will prevent CTIS from effectively educating incoming students about sexual assault prevention.

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