Editorial: SA bill right for #MeToo era
The Thresher editorial board strongly supports the Student Association’s efforts to prevent violent and sexual abusers from holding elected office in campus-wide organizations, including the SA Senate. We believe this change is one that should be implemented as soon as possible — not only at a campus-wide and SA voting level, but also for certain positions at a residential college level.
The policy introduced at Monday’s SA Senate falls in line with disciplinary actions already taken by Student Judicial Programs against students who are found in violation of Rice’s Student Code of Conduct. Often, these penalties prohibit offending students from serving in leadership positions for at least one semester. It is even more crucial to bar students in violation of the sexual misconduct policy for their college careers, or else survivors will have to watch as students who abused them rise to positions of power.
We also support the proposed mechanism of the legislation, which would allow to SJP to determine who to sanction rather than passing a blanket statement introduced through an amendment to the SA constitution. The cases brought to SJP are complex, and it is best that those determining the sanction against a student are also the ones who know the severity of the violation — which fellow students will never completely understand due to student privacy laws.
It’s important that SJP exercise discretion when deciding what kinds of violations should disqualify a student from running for elected office. The vague wording of the leaves a lot to interpretation — especially “interpersonal violence”. Unlike sexual misconduct, an offense clearly spelled out in Rice policy, there is not a widely used definition for interpersonal violence. This move places trust in the administration, and it’s important that the university not betray that trust.
Because the SA does not have jurisdiction over positions at colleges outside of president and senator, we believe all 11 residential colleges should follow the SA Senate’s lead. One college position where it is critical that students not violate the sexual misconduct policy is chief justice. Chief justices are responsible for ensuring student safety, especially during parties when there is a larger risk of unwanted sexual experiences. To have a chief justice who has violated the sexual misconduct policy runs counter to everything Rice’s culture of care stands for. SJP should evaluate candidates for all elected college positions, but especially chief justice, to determine students who should not be trusted with positions of power at their residential colleges.
In a world where learning yet another leader or celebrity is accused of sexual misconduct feels like a daily occurence, this legislation is an important step towards breaking out of such a cycle. We applaud the authors of this legislation, Grace Wickerson and Maurice Frediere, for working to ensure Rice’s student leaders are fully capable of serving and supporting their peers.
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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.