Editorial: Looking back on 2017-18 Student Association
In the spirit of the Student Association’s changeover this week, the Thresher editorial board has filtered through the many resolutions, amendments, task forces and working groups passed this year in search of the most impactful accomplishments and areas that could be improved in the future. Overall, the SA under outgoing President Justin Onwenu has certainly brought up important topics that could set up the incoming executive board to further galvanize the Rice student body.
Amid a particularly vicious flu season, the Senate passed a resolution supporting free year-round flu vaccinations at the health center and additional resources to help buoy student health. If implemented, these would be important steps for increased healthcare accessibility on campus.
Support of DACA
Even before President Donald Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the SA created the Undocumented Student Support Services Working Group to identify existing services and potential ideas to support undocumented students at Rice. The SA later passed a resolution supporting the passage of the DREAM Act, a strong demonstration of support for undocumented students and university values.
Academic freedom of expression statement and resolution
Blurb: The Academic Freedom Working Group dedicated a year to gathering student opinions on freedom of expression. Their letter, which states Rice has the responsibility to refrain from disinvitation while encouraging students to peacefully protest, is a thoughtful framework for the inevitable time when a divisive speaker is invited to campus.
Sexual healthcare accessibility task force
This task force targets another important, and currently expensive, aspect of student health. So far, the task force has found a disparity between the health center’s STI testing prices ($74) and the amount most students are willing to pay. Through its dedicated leadership and clear goals, this task force has the momentum to push for a concrete change.
Onwenu co-introduced a resolution, passed by the Senate, that calls for diversification of the international student population, reducing international student financial barriers and expanding admission of displaced and refugee applicants. These points align with Rice’s professed values regarding its place in a broader global community, and we hope the admissions office takes note.
Onwenu pushed especially hard for his proposed Lifetime Enrichment Achievement Program, and in the process, overlooked student opinions that did not align with his goals. Ultimately, LEAP failed to pass due to strong student backlash.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the SA’s method of using task forces to study issues, but this year featured some especially egregious examples of groups that seem to be motivated mainly by personal interest and/or to check off boxes for election hopefuls. (Pre-grad task force, anyone?)
V2C2 100 ideas
Although Onwenu touted V2C2 as a timely opportunity to collect ideas to improve academics and student life, it remains unclear to what extent those ideas are being implemented or even considered. For all the hype about V2C2 and the 450 ideas generated from the initiative, the ideas were of poor quality to begin with and seem to have fallen off the map in the SA’s list of priorities.
Discussion on CTIS
When campaigning for SA president, Onwenu said he would prioritize bolstering the Critical Thinking in Sexuality course. However, even when students expressed concerns about the effectiveness and logistics of the course, Onwenu refused to acknowledge any of the shortcomings. The SA, as the original impetus of the course, should take the initiative in helping solve the issues that arose in the first iteration of the mandatory workshop.
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As a Students Turning Rice Into a Violence-Free Environment liaison, the organization and its mission are incredibly important to me. I originally joined because, as a survivor myself, I wanted to be a part of facilitating safe spaces on campus through educating my peers and acting as a resource to provide support. STRIVE cares a lot about the student body and puts an extreme number of hours into raising awareness and making themselves accessible, as we have seen with the recent survivor panels, college-specific events throughout the year and their response to an anonymous 2019 Thresher opinion. However, we need to readjust how STRIVE is not only viewed and utilized by the student body but also how it is run. The place the organization holds now oversteps into the lives of liaisons and other students and goes beyond what they set out to do with their mission statement.