Administration should prioritize VADA in fundraising efforts
More than five years ago, the Thresher editorial board wrote about the visual and dramatic arts department’s need for attention from the administration, specifically that it “could greatly benefit from new space and materials.” The editorial was in response to the demolition of the Art Barn, a historically significant building funded by John and Dominique de Menil.
Now, its sister building, the Rice Media Center, faces a similar fate.
The sudden decision comes coupled with uncertainty about relocation. Six VADA faculty will have to be moved to temporary facilities, and VADA students will likely take their fall and spring classes in reformed spaces around campus until the Sewall Hall renovations are complete. The decision to tear it down now, without a clear plan for those who will be displaced, seems hasty and unnecessary.
Throwing VADA into limbo simply because the Media Center faces predictable maintenance issues seems careless at best and shows the administration’s continued disregard for the continuity and effectiveness of the program. It’s difficult to fathom a similar disregard for some of the STEM facilities on campus: if the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen were to face maintenance issues, it is hard to fathom its students and faculty would be expected to relocate to empty classrooms around campus for a year until Duncan Hall made space.
Since that editorial five years ago, the Thresher editorial board has written twice more on the state of student art on campus, noting the inaccessibility of the Moody Center for student art and the tiny spaces on campus allowed to host student art exhibitions. Historically, the administration has not accommodated student and faculty needs in the department.
There is a chance, if slim, of remediation. The administration has promised $35 million in renovations to Sewall Hall that the administration says will fill the void left by the Media Center. But the renovated space must also house the many other departments based in Sewall, and the administration has not explicitly set aside space or funding for VADA projects. For the administration to show a true commitment to the arts on campus, the Sewall Hall renovation must be significant. It must not only host the facilities available in the Media Center (faculty offices, cinema space, digital lab and dark room) but also work towards Dean of Humanities Kathleen Canning’s goal of a unified creative space.
Additionally, the renovations cannot be the end of the road. VADA Chair John Sparagana and Dean Canning detailed what they described as a “dream”: a consolidated building on the Media Center’s ground dedicated as a creative space for artists on campus. Such a space would serve to address many of the concerns raised over the years about Rice’s neglect for the arts. With Kraft Hall steadily growing and the opera house looming over West Lot, it’s long past time that the administration prioritized fundraising for a space dedicated to the visual and dramatic arts.
More from The Rice Thresher
Recently, the Student Association introduced a resolution to structurally address disordered eating at Rice. Although the resolution contains tangible ways to mitigate this issue, we also believe that an important factor to consider is the culture on campus around eating disorders and food in general. Though this culture is not unique to Rice, we have the power to challenge it by being more conscious of how our language surrounding food affects others.
We’re nearing the end of another semester in the COVID-19 pandemic, filled with policy changes requiring flexibility from administration, faculty and students alike. We appreciate the administration’s responsiveness to the evolving pandemic, but the continuous changes are not without consequences. This semester has been hard on many students’ mental health due to insufficient academic accommodations on top of pandemic-related stress. While we understand the necessity in being flexible with COVID policies due to the ever-changing nature of the pandemic, administration and professors should recognize the impact this has on students and their mental health, and be proactive in accounting for this.
Last week, the Board of Trustees announced that Reginald DesRoches, Rice’s current provost, will be the next president of Rice University. DesRoches will be the eighth president in the history of the university, and the first person of color and foreign-born person to hold the position. We applaud the Board’s selection of DesRoches, and wish him great success in his new role. But because there are seven months left before the beginning of his tenure, we would like to pen one of our final editorials to President David Leebron and the Board of Directors. It’s time to talk about everyone’s favorite subject — one that has found itself in our news section repeatedly — the statue of one William Marsh Rice.